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In the Shop: Birch Tealights

As all good things in the shop do, my latest project started with an idea. Could I make candle holders? What would they look like?

For my first few attempts, I’m sticking with tealights, and I’m spending time with the birch I got in December. I love the grain in general, but right now that it’s spalted, I find it more beautiful than before.

With the weather warming up as the Florida summer looms, I’m not sure how much more time I’ll get in the shop to play around with new ideas. For now, I’ll enjoy the outcome of my latest endeavor.

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This set has a natural edge to it and is meant to look like a couple of mushrooms. Tell me you see it. The other set I’ve done reminds me of upside down flower pots. I’ve got video of me making them – actually, stripping the bark from the birch – but no real pictures yet. I may have to fix that.

I’ve enjoyed making them, but (for now) it’s labor intensive and a set can take me most of the day out in the shop. Of course, that’s a part I enjoy so I’m definitely not complaining.

So that’s what I’m doing in the shop right now. In case you’re curious, yes, a tealight really does fit in the holder.

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3 Types of Reclaimed Wood I Use

I get teased around here for looking for reasons to buy a new tool. (That might be true.) But my last purchase – a chainsaw – was necessary. I’d found a local tree company who hated getting rid of the wood when they cut down trees and were too happy for an eager woodworker to take some off their hands.

Every so often, I load the chainsaw in the back of my RAV 4, grab a tarp, and go find out what they have. So far, I’ve gotten oak and eucalyptus wood with birch brought to me from out of state. I don’t think these are the only reclaimed woods I’ll work with, but they’re a good start.

Florida Oak

Often called Florida Live Oak by the locals, I’ve got a big stack of oak in the shop that I really enjoy using. It’s a nice, solid hardwood that can be difficult to work with because of how hard it is. When you get it going, turned oak makes beautiful pieces. I’ve used it in everything from pens to bowls. By far the most interesting thing about oak, to me, is the interesting bark patterns that show up when I turn natural edge pieces like some of the bowls I’ve made.

Birch Wood

My dad lives in upstate New York and at Christmas time I asked him to bring me any wood he had and couldn’t use. What I received was a huge stack of birch. It’s a cool wood to work with because the color is different from piece to piece, from white to a light tan. Sometimes, you can see the color change in a single piece of wood. Birch is a wet wood which means that when it spalts, new colors are added to the grain which changes the appearance of the wood and adds an extra dimension to it. So far, I’ve made a box and tea lights.

Eucalyptus

Okay, to be honest, I haven’t actually had a chance to use my stash of eucalyptus yet, but I’m looking forward to it. What I find fascinating is that eucalyptus is so diverse. The oil can be used for respiratory problems, in aromatherapy, and as an essential oil that I use in my homemade pre-shave oil (yes, I make that, too). All that makes me wonder, what kind of wood have I got here? I’m really excited to try it because the pieces in my shop have really interesting branching patterns which should translate into unique grain patterns.

I’ve always felt better when I re-use something or find a new use for an old thing rather then throwing it away. Using reclaimed wood lets me take something unwanted, forgotten, and destined for a wood chipper, and turn it into something useful and beautiful. I still love the exotic woods and the acrylics I use, but using reclaimed wood makes me feel good.

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A Story in Pictures: Making My First Box

I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself a creative person. Certainly not an artist. Ever since I began turning wood and making the things that pop into my head, I’ve had to rethink that assessment.

This week I’m off of work and in the shop. An idea came to me, and since I had the time and the wood, I gave it a go.

I started with beautiful birch wood brought down from New York – my dad came at Christmas and loaded his truck for me…

 

I had this picture in my head of what I wanted the finished product to look like. Since it’s a new project, though, there’s no way to really know. But you have to start somewhere…

 

I started with one piece of wood but ended up with two parts. Making sure it matched up was the first step. Then it was time to make the picture in my head match the reality of the wood…

 

For a first try, it’s not bad. But I’m not satisfied. Oh, my fiance tells me its beautiful. Even the kids were impressed that I made a box. The oldest asked if he could have it. I told him no, not this one. Maybe I’ll make him one for his own.

Maybe I’m a “typical” artist (whatever that means) or maybe I just need more practice. I’m proud of it, but it’s not what I saw in my head. Which is plenty of incentive to keep making more…

What do you think? I think I’ll make more and maybe one day I’ll make it exactly as I envision it. But until then, this is a good start.