Committed to Art?

You ever get those phone calls where someone says “a friend of mine says you like wood?” Then they ask you to repair a door, take an old desk and turn it into something else, or take a massive fallen tree stump out of their yard etc…. Well, I got another one of those calls. The caller told me a tree fell in their yard, and she asked me if I wanted any of the wood because an artist friend of theirs told them I was a woodworker.  In my community, most people don’t know one tree from another, so I was at least able to determine it was an oak, and a big one at that. And for some reason, the nice me, agreed to come over and take a look.

It certainly was an oak, but I could not tell for sure what is was at first. It was not White Oak, that much I could tell. The diameter of the tree was about three to four feet. After much effort, I managed to cut the first block off. Crap! Red Oak. Nothing I really want to use for turning, but I wood I like using for furniture making.  So there I stood; hot, it looks like rain, two hours from having a student come over, and feeling guilty about leaving a load of shavings in their yard by only cutting off a twelve by twelve-inch block off the stump. Stupid nice me! My over-reactive guilt gland immediately starts pumping out guilt juice, so now I am committed to cutting off at least one even section of the stump. (If you have ever seen me eat ice cream straight out of the box, you will completely understand my actions. I have a bizarre impulse to eat it in such a way, that when I am finished, I leave it completely smoothed and level.)

One and half hours later, soaked in sweat, covered in saw dust, back aching, I finish the job. Now I have to move about two hundred pounds of blocks into my minivan. I barely make it home in time for my student, I am totally spent, and I have a load of wood that I really don’t want. Sometimes I really hate the nice side of me.

By now, I am sure you are wondering where I am going with all this. I have never turned Red Oak before, but since I cut all that wood, I am going to turn it by jeezies! So what the h%ll am I going to do with it? I guess I will try to make one big salad bowl, and then try to sell it to the people who I got the wood from. Muwhahaha! And I guess I will use the rest for pieces for gilding, texturing, or painting, thus I will be committed to decorative vessels.

All this leads me to the following topic, what do you do with wood that is not very pretty? I have not been able to get my hands on any nice turning wood lately, so as they say, when you get lemons, make lemonade.

I like Japanese rice bowls, so I turned two small bowls about the size that fits into your cupped hands. Since the wood was not really pretty (old pieces of Ash), I gave them a number of coats of shellac to smooth them out. Next, I used Japan paints to paint the outside of one of the bowls red, and the other bowl cobalt blue and then set them aside to dry. Then I put big drops and squiggles of red paint on the blue bowl, and vice versa. Then using plastic wrap, I mashed the paint drops letting them spread out.  This leaves interesting patterns.

Next, I put sizing on both of the bowls, and let it dry to the correct tackiness. Using a ‘fish net’ style of bag for holding oranges, I stretched it over the bowl and then applied, genuine silver leaf, fake silver leaf, and genuine copper leaf over the netting. When the netting is removed, you get a really cool scale-like pattern.  After the sizing was thoroughly dry, I brushed off the skewings, and prepared the bowls for a chemical patination process. I used sodium sulfide for the copper, and potash for the genuine silver. To get a funky effect, I once again used netting and wet tissue paper over the top to get different effects.


These are all techniques I learned from David J. Marks. I don’t want anyone to think I am that clever. I have seen him use this technique on flat boards and hollow vessels, but not on rice bowls.

After all the chemical work was done, I painted the top of the rim with black acrylic paint, then I painted the inside of the bowls red, once again using acrylic paint. The final treatment was five coats of spray lacquer. The bowls are nice and smooth on the inside, and the outside of the bowls has a textured feel. Granted, the two bowls are unusual looking, but I kinda like them. I think I did given them the Asian look I was hoping for. Does anyone know anything about using lacquered bowls for serving food?

Pair of Rice Bowls

Inside of the bowls





Well, it truly looks like I will be committed to artistic bowls for the rest of the year. Art for “it’s the only thing I can do with this crap” sake. Guess it is time to get a beret!

Till next time, think of happy little trees.


About yaakov

Husband, Abba, Furniture Maker, Turner, Bookseller, and all around working stiff.
This entry was posted in In Yaakov's Workshop and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Committed to Art?

  1. bob says:

    They look very nice, someone will want to buy them.

  2. Yaacov Moshe Moses says:

    Yaakov – those bowls really look authentic!! Not sure if you can put food in them, though!! But they’re very pretty!! Your girls can use them to hold jewelry or their “special” things – nice!! Esther Moses

  3. Eric says:

    The bowls look pretty cool. Who knows, you may have found something there. I like the idea of selling them to the people that the tree came from. 😉

  4. Very impressive! I’ve never tried techniques like that, but you just might inspire me to try – get out of the rut of being stuck with the appearance of the wood.

  5. Runningwood says:

    Yaakov, nicely done.
    How about using that woid and that technique and making turned Etrog boxes ? Joinery and hinges / closure is another challenge but i have seen turned ones that are slightly assymetric and the two halves sort of turn into each other to close.

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