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Hidden Beauty of Reclaimed Wood

It was just a bit over a year ago that I added some pieces of recycled/reclaimed Florida Live Oak and Eucalyptus to my wood selection. A lot has happened in that year. From the Oak, I turned some small live edge bowls. With the Eucalyptus, I turned bowls and bowls that are also tea light holders, as well as a few other items like shaving kits and pens. What I thought was just a passing fancy, using what would have been discarded wood, has now turned into a passion.

Reclaimed Eucalyptus wood bowl
Eucalyptus Bowl with tea light candle holder in the center.
Reclaimed Florida Live Oak Natural Edge Bowl
Live edge Florida Live Oak Bowl (Bark retained on the wood)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since those early days, I have expanded my search for reclaimed and recycled wood to work with. I call it Urban Harvesting. Wood that is otherwise headed for the dump or even the burn pile is what I seek out. Even wood that has outlived its purpose in one form or another, I look for and seek ways to transform it on my lathe. Random logs and planks that to most would seem unsightly and even ugly are what I find. The only drawback is that my storage space is limited.

 

Currently around my work area I have a number of different species: Florida Red Maple, Sycamore, Slash Pine, Australian Pine, Florida Live Oak, and Eucalyptus. I even have some Northern Birch from my home state of (upstate) New York that had fallen during the winter. And some of my new wood was gathered from Hurricane Irma this past September.

Recalimed wood wating to be used
Various woods in my shop

Inside each piece of wood is a secret waiting to be revealed. It is hidden away beneath the bark just waiting to be exposed.

What makes this wood even more spectacular is that it isn’t perfect. The hidden beauty that lies beneath has flaws and imperfections which add to the character of the finished piece. Yes I could go to a local lumber yard and buy a perfectly milled piece of wood. And it, too, has beauty in it; from the grain, the color, and the texture of the wood. Just like life isn’t always perfect, neither is this wood. From discolorations, inclusions, crotch wood where several branches met in the trunk, to spalting where bacteria in the wood left unusual patterns and grain in the wood.

All this forms to tell the story of years where the rain fell in plenty. It speaks of years when there was little to no rainfall. Winds that blew and did its best to bend branches as the tree battled the elements. It speaks of lightning, heat, freezing temperatures, and insects and disease.

Reclaimed bowl blanks
Portions of the logs cut and ready for the lathe.

Once I put the wood on my lathe and begin turning it, slowly but surely removing the rough exterior, what lies beneath is exposed to the light of day. All the hidden beauty that lies beneath is brought out. As I work with my chisels and the shavings fly and the wood transforms like a butterfly that was once a caterpillar.
There are times I have a clear vision of what I want the wood to be when I am done. Other times the wood seems to have its own idea of how it wants to look.

Regardless of that, in the end what is born of it, is something unique.

I have found a passion in this wood that others would discard. My limitations are only bound at this point to the amount of wood I can store at a time and the size of the wood I can turn on my midi lathe.

 

In these series of pictures you can see the evolution from a rough log and how a portion of the wood becomes two bowls.
Click on the first image to view a full sized gallery.

 

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In the Shop: Taboti Men’s Shaving Set

The rules of polite blogging probably mean you shouldn’t showcase your own work in the exact same way twice in a row, but I can’t help myself.

I’m really proud of this last project.

While I’ve had some extra time in the shop, I worked on all kinds of things: keychains, pens, bowls, and more but the Tamboti Men’s Shaving Set is my absolute favorite. Every piece comes from one block of wood, which means the grain is the same throughout. I did that on purpose to give the set continuity and because I wondered if I could.

Most of what I do in my shop starts from that point. I think, “I wonder if I can…” and then I go out and see if I really can. Sometimes a bowl cracks or the acrylic chips. Sometimes I can fix it, sometimes I can’t. I’ve had my share of small injuries and mishaps – cuts, scrapes, gouges, and a blister that made Michaela cringe every time she saw it. (Maybe I shouldn’t have shoved my finger in her face and said, “Look!” multiple times.)

Anyway, maybe I can be forgiven for showing off again this month. Maybe if you take a look at it, you’ll agree that it’s beautiful, too. Either way, what I see when I look at it is a continuing improvement in my woodworking abilities as well as the outcome of wondering “What if…”

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Love it and want one for yourself? This set is on Etsy or you can contact me for a custom order.

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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.

 

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5 Things You Do When You Buy from a Woodworker

I almost called this “What happens when you buy from a crafter” and while I might technically be considered that for tax purposes, in my mind I’m a woodworker/woodturner. Yes, I make pens and wine stoppers from acrylic but my first love is wood.

I can’t speak for every small crafter or woodworker out there, but if you ever wondered what difference you’re making when you buy from someone’s Etsy shop or a booth at a craft fair or flea market, let me explain.

We talk about shopping local – which I believe in – and buying American (assuming you’re in America, of course). And those things are very good for local communities and small businesses. But there’s also the benefits when you buy from the small artist, the crafter at her kitchen table, or the woodworker in his (okay, my) one-car garage – even if we’re online and across the country from you.

You help me build my confidence.

I turn wood because I love it. Even if I never sold a single bowl or pen, I’d keep doing it. But it’s easy to wonder if I’m really any good especially when examples of people who do it better or more creatively are all around. When someone buys a pen or a bowl, you’re letting me know you think my work is worth paying for. It’s a huge ego and confidence booster – even if I am always surprised when it happens.

You’re showing approval and appreciation for what I do.

I just said I’d do this even if no one bought a thing. I meant that. But buying from me (or another crafter) means you like what we’re doing. You give me the nod to make more, try new versions, and/or keep cranking out more finished products.

You’re helping build a small business.

Right now, the business side of woodturning is what my fiance tells me is a “side hustle” – okay, if that’s what we call it now. My goal is to one day make this my main source of income, especially when I retire. I have a long way to go (Rome and businesses aren’t built overnight). Each time a sale is made, it’s another baby step toward a bigger dream.

You make it possible to buy supplies.

Going into crazy debt to make pens and bowls isn’t my idea of a good time. Each sale means I can buy a few more supplies. The plan for 2017 is to save up for a bigger lathe so I can do bigger and better projects. To save on buying supplies, you’ll see me using a lot more reclaimed wood and finishing projects that don’t require a lot of purchased hardware.

You’re supporting the little guy (or gal).

At craft shows, especially, people tell me I should let my “manufacturer” know they do good work. People assume I’m a vendor selling for a bigger company. Imagine their surprise when I explain that I made the things they see in front of them. I’m one of the little guys just trying to support my habit and build something. Every purchase makes that possible.

You should buy things because you need them, they’re beautiful, or you love them. You should buy from vendors and businesses you believe in, like, or offer the best price. But if you have a choice, buy from a small crafter. You’ll be doing so much more than buying a product.

Shameless self-promotion time! Check out my Etsy shop where I’m adding more items each month. Click the link below:

The Wood Dom

Looking for other small crafters to peruse through? Here are a couple I recommend:

Cardinal Moon Crochet – Peggy is talented and a personal friend!

Tasha Hussy Body – I love her shaving soap!

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5 Woodworkers I Watch on YouTube

My first lesson in woodturning and woodworking was in a local Woodcraft classroom. After that, once I started practicing and got my own tools, I could pay for more classes or I could do what many people do in today’s digital age – I could learn from YouTube.

YouTube it was. From the beginning, I looked for tips about techniques and tools as well as ideas on what kinds of projects to try. Over time, I’ve found some favorite channels for different reasons.

If you want a little insight into who has taught me some of what I know or you’re interested in woodturning and woodworking yourself, check out these five great YouTubers.

As Wood Turns

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll have seen pictures of my natural edge bowls. Take a look at what Alan from As Wood Turns does with it.

M. Saban Smith Woodturning

Okay, my geek is showing a little here, but the idea of making an ancient shield as a woodturning project is just cool.

RJB Woodturner

Right now, I’m not ready to start making my own pen blanks. (I’m having too much fun taking green wood and making bowls). But this is still very interesting…and something to think about.

Rebel Turner

Repurposed wood and simply beautiful work. Not much more to say. I get great ideas and learn a lot from Rebel Turner. He’s one of my top picks on YouTube.

Mike Waldt

If I’m picking favorite woodworking YouTube channels, Mike Waldt is it. He does great work, and he’s easy to follow and understand. I’m not quite ready for vases yet, but I know where I’ll go for tips and tricks on how to do it.