Saturday, November 14, 2015

From tree trunks to bowls

A few years ago my friend Tom asked me if I would clear some trees from the field below his house.  I was delighted to discover that there were several cherry trees with trunks ranging from 6 to 8 inches in diameter.  Since I enjoy wood turning, I brought some of the logs back and made bowls from them on my lathe.  Turning fresh, green wood is very enjoyable because it is so soft and cuts easily.  Then, as the finished bowl dries it changes shape and curves up into a boat shape which adds a lot of charm to a handmade bowl.  

some of the bowls I made this year
The bowl on the right is cherry and the three small ones are made from a small plum tree that died on my property last winter.  The large salad bowl came from a piece of maple that my friend Topher gave me from a tree that he had felled on his property this spring.  It is beautiful spalted maple, and took me hours to turn because that wood is so very hard.  

Below is a picture of that bowl, along with the other half of the log that it came from.

I have sold a number of these bowls at a local craft gallery and branded them as "Green Nut Bowls".  This is a play on words since these are typically used as nut bowls and they are made by me, a "green nut" - because they were made entirely using solar power.  I harvested the trees using my cordless and corded electric chain saws that derive their power from my solar power system.  And since my home and workshop are solar powered my lathe is also powered by renewable energy.
turning a small bowl (chainsaws in the background)
My lathe is a "hot rodded" 1950s Rockwell that I have heavily modified to use as a bowl lathe.  I removed the original motor and dropped in a 1HP electronically speed controlled motor that I can also reverse as needed for sanding and finishing.

Recently, some of my Bed & Breakfast guests have seen the bowls and asked me to make one for them and I was able to make one right in front of them since a small bowl only takes 30 to 40 minutes to turn.  I charge $7.00 per inch diameter, so a 5" bowl goes for $35.00.  I use the bowls I have made daily and the people that I have made them for tell me that they cherish them.  

From a sustainability perspective, I feel that I am making optimal use of a local resource in much the same way as Native Americans would have.  In the process of making each bowl, I consciously honor the life of the tree and give thanks for the gift of its wood.