Carved, Patinaed, Square Bowls

I recently attended a week-long studio at the Appalachian Center for Craft, near Smithville, TN. It’s a beautiful campus tucked into a bend of Center Hill Lake on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau in Middle Tennessee. As the fine arts campus of Tennessee Tech, they offer BFAs in several focus areas including ceramics, glass, wood, metal, fibers, and design. The instructor for the course was Al Stirt, a professional wood artist who has been creating turned objects for forty years.

While the focus of the studio was surface embellishment in the form of carving and coloring techniques, we spent a great deal of time just turning, which was incredibly helpful. Taking a week off of work and doing nothing but your craft is a great experience and I strongly recommend that anyone seek out this opportunity.

Much of the course was about technique and method so while I have a lot of pieces that I started, I only finished a few. Below are some images of some work that I started there and finished at home. Additionally, I’ve done several other similar pieces since I returned. These are a mixture of Cherry, Yellow Poplar, and Sassafras, with milk paint and copper and gold leaf that has been patinaed after application. I really like the removing the lid to find a surprise inside in the way of a different material/look/feel.

Yellow Poplar, approximately 11″ x 7″ with Copper leaf

Cherry, approximately 7″ square with Copper leaf

Cherry, approximately 7″ x 7″ with Gold leaf.

Cherry, approximately 7″ square. I like to call this texture “decay” as it reminds me of the insect tracks that can commonly be found just under the bark of a log rotting in the woods.

Sassafras, approximately 11″ square,with Copper leaf. I really like the combination of textures here – the separation reinforces the roundness of the square piece.

Sassafras, approximately 11″ square, with Copper leaf.

Sassafras, approximately 8″ x 5″ with copper leaf. Again, I really like the way the texture reinforces the elongated nature of this piece.




Side Table

This small table was designed specifically for a spot between two small chairs. While the chair’s arm rests are fully capably of supporting a drink, the client prefers that guests not set them there.

The walnut was felled on my great grandfather’s farm some time in the early 80s. There was a very small stash left in my grandfather’s shop when he died a few years ago, and I was fortunate enough to get a hold of what was left. The rear vertical member has a through tenon penetrating the top, with ebony wedges (it’s a standard tenon into the base). The forward, angled member is through doweled in the top with ebony dowels with a single ebony dowel at the base.

Finish is built up with multiple coast of blonde shellac and then topcoated with a water-borne poly. It’s got a glossy sheen that will get rubbed out with steel wool and then waxed.

Overall dimensions are something like 20” tall with a 18”x9” top. The 8/4 base is around 8”x12”.

Walnut and Steel Coffee Table

This table is made from 6/4 book matched slabs of walnut. The base is steel: 2” angle, 2” square tube, and 3/4” square tube. The table is approximately 54” long, 23” wide, and 18” tall. The slabs are mounted on 1/2” ply that was painted black.

I had to fill one crack and one knot with epoxy. I left it clear, and I think it’s looks kind of cool that way – you can see down through it if you get close enough (the crack is only about 1/4” at its widest).

The steel was patinaed dark and then clear coated with a semi-gloss lacquer. The wood was oiled, then I hit it with a few coats of waterborne poly. After I knocked the shine down with steel wool, I waxed it.

I plan to fill the void with a loose aggregate. Some small, polished stones.

Honey Locust Hollowform

This honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) hollowform is about 7 inches tall. I had a few voids around the bark inclusions that I filled with a mixture of purpleheart, walnut, and honey locust shavings and CA glue. The small bits of purpleheart look really nice.

Honey Locust
Honey Locust

Motorized Lift Television Cabinet in Walnut

The television cabinet is roughly 35” W x 29” H x 17” D (when closed) and is mostly air dried black walnut. There is some walnut veneered ply on the (false) back panel and shelves. I kept some of the sappier wood with some really wild grain, but relegated it to the side panels. It’s finished with a couple of coats of Danish oil, followed by several coats of a super blonde dewaxed shellac, rubbed out, and then waxed.

I used an electric linear actuator from Progressive Automations to raise the television up and down. The screen size is 32” and takes about 25 seconds to raise.

Greene and Greene Inspired Mailbox

The mailbox this replaced was a crappy, 1980’s, shiny, brass piece of junk. It was vertically oriented and had a small top opening, so it was difficult to find anything inside that wasn’t extra long.

The new one is curly big leaf maple with Gaboon ebony accents. The center panel is 12gauge copper wire. It’s finished with a coat of tung oil to pop the grain and then spray on lacquer. The cloud lifts, pegged mortise and tenon joints, and the ebony are all typical of the Greene and Greene style. The curly maple and copper are not, but I think that all of the elements come together nicely in this piece.

Sake Bomb

This hollow vessel is around eight inches tall and five inches at its widest diameter. The body is black walnut (Juglans nigra) and the lid is black cherry (Prunus serotina). The finish is spray can gloss lacquer buffed and waxed on a beale system.

I was originally planning another in my series of suspended hollowforms, but the shape that began to form on the lathe reminded me of a fat sake bottle, so I went with it. The lid is shaped like an old cherry bomb firecracker. This piece now resides in a private collection in Austin, TX.


Rustic Outdoor Beverage Cooler

For quite some time now, I’ve been meaning to make a standing beer cooler that I could park near the smoker and use to top as a work surface when I need to pull big hunks of meat out to glaze/flip/rearrange. Not too long ago, my friend Scott gave me a pile of poplar pallet wood that was full of mineral streaking. Lots of purple and dark greens, but most of it was pure black. This stuff was a full 4/4 thick and 3 7/8” wide. Each piece was 42” long, but almost all of them were cupped and twisted.

The finished piece is about 34” tall, 23” wide, and 13” deep. I built it around an old plastic cooler that I pulled the lid off of. The cast iron Texas was a house warming gift 2 house ago, and the bottle opener is an antique that my wife gave me years ago (for a birthday, I think). It’s finished with teak oil – it will be mostly covered and mostly out of the direct sun, but I expect it to age quickly. Teak oil will be quick and easy to refresh when it’s needed.

Square Bowls – Black Walnut

A series of square bowls in black walnut. I had a bear of a time finding just the right sized piece of black walnut that would allow me to maximize these forms and still get the creamy sap wood in both edges. These are roughly 10″ square and 4 inches tall.

Winged Bowl

Made from a glue-up of Bubinga (Guibourtia demeusei) and Zebrawood (Connarus guianensis), this turning is about 1.5″ tall and 10″ long.

Although it’s difficult to see in this picture, the bottom of the center bowl is suspended by about 1 mm.

Turning these winged bowls is always a challenge: at 2000 RPM, it’s almost completely transparent.