How some wood turned into a lovely flower

A few truths are beginning to emerge on this Shopsmith news blog. First, you don’t have to be a master craftsman to produce a masterpiece. It mostly takes the combination of these four things:

  • a spirit of exploration and experimentation
  • the willingness to research a technique and a couple quick tests
  • effort, carefully executed work and a generous amount of time
  • a versatile multitasking tool as the centerpiece of your shop

It doesn’t hurt if you’re a fairly smart guy with both a flair for good design and attention to detail. The creator of this lovely turned bowl has a physics degree and is an engineer. Brendan Rebo, BedHedNed in the forum, admits that he isn’t very experienced with wood working. He wanted to make a turned bowl project using his Shopsmith Mark V.

This project brought together two woodworking concepts. Brendan did prior research and experiments in both leading up to this project. He took wood shop in high school. He explained that he only had about two years of woodworking experience as a serious hobby. As for turning projects on a lathe, he’s only been at that six months!

The main concept for the bowl was the practice of creating economy bowls. To the 1-19-2016 1-29-54 PMuninitiated, when looking at a wooden bowl that was made by turning on a lathe, it is easy to assume that it was just shaped out of a thick block of wood. This is sometimes done starting with a bowl blank, but it wastes a lot of wood. By using some clever angled, concentric cuts made in advance of the turning, you use far less material. The resulting slices are then stacked like a pyramid and glued together. This also helps you begin your lathe work with a rough bowl shape, which is a lot closer starting point than trying to turn from a solid block. In the one video link above, he even points out that you can begin the fine tuning on the base before all the layers are glued together.

The above is one way to make an economy bowl. The flower bowl was not made using the bandsaw method. Brendan suggested this video that demonstrates the lathe and separating tool technique he used. He first practiced the procedure on a simpler block before risking his intricate flower blank.

The artistic flair that made this piece extra special was the artist’s interest of intarsia which I would describe as painting with assembled pieces of wood. It can take the form of geometric patterns or, by using organic and irregular shapes, even illustrations can be crafted out of wood.

The combination of these two disciplines elevate this from a simple woodworking project to a visually striking masterpiece.

Brendan walked me through his process. The majority of the project was planning and 1-19-2016 1-30-31 PMpreparing the blank. He described for me how he worked out a strategy for layering the purple-heart wood with the light yellow veneer to create the petals with the thin stripes. Once the layers were glued together, that pattern was added in as what appears to be an impossibly complex portion of the pattern.

Still he emphasizes that this was the hard part taking a few months planning and shaping the pieces to fit. He used a bandsaw, jigsaw and sander to create the many small shapes. They were cut from 1” thick stock. It is hard to tell the scale, but the diameter of the whole flower worked out to be 12 ½”. He said if the time was combined, it would have totaled a couple weeks of full-time, 8hr days!

1-19-2016 1-30-47 PM For turning a piece this size, he explained that he uses the speed reducer. The Mark V’s slowest turning speed is 700 rpm. With the reducer, he can lower it to 100 rpm.

The results of this technique produced a stunning result. To further enhance the design, he hand applied a dye to the bird’s eye maple sections. In his words…

…the dye was applied after final turning. I applied it with a small brush carefully staying inside the lines. The dye, of course, spread out slightly from where it was applied, however it stopped at the veneer line. The double glue line with the black veneer in between was enough to prevent bleed over. I used three different colors of dye; first black which was then sanded back to enhance the contrast of the figure, then red which was sanded lightly, then yellow. I was going for this effect here:

Then the final finish is a wipe on polyurethane.

He initially planned for the bowl to be the whole piece, but when he saw how it turned out, 1-19-2016 1-31-05 PMhe decided that a matching stem base would be a nice addition. He used the yellow-heart wood and dark veneer. By keeping to the same 60° angle, it appeared to be a perfect match to the main flower.

Even though it took a lot of work, he was following what he learned from the guide book “Power Tool Woodworking for Everyone” by R. J. DeCristoforo that came with his Shopsmith Mark V. He used the lesson plan in the lathe section.

If you want to read more of his process and also enjoy a lively debate of the merits of the Shopsmith Mark V’s table saw capabilities against dedicated saw models, you should explore the thread.

Thank you to Brendan, BedHedNed, for sharing the project photos and taking the time to talk us through how you made the magic happen!

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How some wood turned into a lovely flower