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.


Recently, I’ve been working on hollowforms. For the non-turners out there, I suppose a hollowform is best described like this: there is an opening in the top of the vessel which is smaller (sometimes significantly so) than the maximum exterior diameter, through which the bulk of the interior has been removed.

These are challenging; you cannot see what the cutting edge of your tool is doing. Instead, one must rely on the feel and sounds of the tool on the wood. One goal is a thin, consistent wall thickness – I’m getting better at that. Below are three of my first hollowforms – Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Spalted Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum), and Pecan (Carya illinionensis). They vary in size from five to seven inches tall and three-and-a-half to five inches in diameter.



Secret Locking Mechanism

I have not been doing a lot of flat work lately – instead, I’ve been focusing on turning. However, an officemate recently asked me to make a box for his nephew. The only requirement: some sort of secret locking mechanism.

This is what I cam up with. It’s primarily rock maple, with a bubinga inlay in lid and used for miter keys. Overall dimensions are around nine inches wide, seven inches deep, and five inches tall. The locking mechanism is fairly standard – a catch in the front base rotates and engages a bar in the front lid. Generally, the catch is operated by a key that is inserted into the top. In this case, there is no key hole. And the key itself is integrated into the box.

Notice the catch is in the locked position in the third picture (the lid would typically be closed when the catch is in the locked position, but that would make it awfully difficult to photograph). How does it operate, you ask? Magnets.

The bottom of the catch has a magnet attached. The inside of the mortise has two tiny magnets at both the open and locked positions – these are attracted to the catch’s magnet and hold the lock in one of those two positions. By using a more powerful magnet to overcome the positioning magnet, the catch can be moved between the two positions. Where might we find a more powerful magnet? It happens that the necessary magnet is holding the handle on to the lid. Once removed, it acts as the magnetic key.

I tried describing this mechanism on one of the woodworking forums I frequent, and there was a bit of confusion. I threw together a quick cutaway diagram of the mechanism, which helped most figure out how it worked. For those who still had problems, I shot a quick video with my phone. Both are shown below.


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.


When my grandfather returned from World War II, he became very active in local Veteran’s groups.  For more than sixty years, he participated in the honor guard at the funeral services of Veterans in his rural, Nebraska town.  There was a twenty-one gun salute at his funeral this past spring, performed by the men whom he had the honor to command for many of those sixty years.

Local tradition dictates that the flag that draped his casket be given to the VFW, who displays the burial flags of the local Veterans on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day each year.  After it was presented to my Grandmother at his funeral, she entrusted it to them.  I requested that a flag be flown over the US Capitol Building in his memory on November 11th this year – although I visited my Grandmother for Thanksgiving this year, the flag arrived too late for me to build the memorial display for it and give it to her.

Since all of her grandchildren were present at Thanksgiving, my Grandmother asked us to go through his workshop to select any tools or mementos that we would like to keep.  I was fortunate to get many of his older handtools – I’m the only woodworker amongst my cousins – the eggbeater drill about which I have previously written, some chisels and auger bits, a folding carpenter’s rule, a marking gauge, several handplanes, and an old yankee screwdriver set amongst others.

In the box with the yankee screwdriver, I found two small letter punches; the letters C and Y.  I knew that some of these tools had probably belonged to my Great-Grandfather, Clark Yates.  Finding these punches – along with several tools stamped with his initials – appears to confirm that belief.

I plan to restore and use many of the tools that are only a small part of the woodworking legacy that has been passed down to me.  I never knew this Great-Grandfather, but I’m sure his son would feel honored that I’m continuing his avocation.

My Great-Grandfather's Try-Square

Unidentified Flaming Object

With the upstairs of the workshop nearly complete, I’ve found a bit of time to turn again.  This object is made of Salix babylonica (weeping willow) and is approximately ten inches in diameter and five inches high. It was originally meant to be a bowl, but this is how it turned out.

My Workshop

Recently, I added a few more bowls to the collection at the Art and Invention Gallery.  I haven’t been producing much work in the last few months, as I’ve been trying to finish out the upstairs of the workshop.

Last summer, with the help of a few friends, I built a new workshop in the backyard.  The upstairs was left unfinished and I’m just now trying to complete that portion of the project.  On the weekends, I’ve managed to finish the framing, insulation, run all of the electrical and plumbing, install drywall, and I’m currently painting.  I’ll install new bamboo floors this weekend.

In my mind, the new space will be part studio, part lounge, and part media room.  I’m pretty motivated to get the flooring and HVAC done – once that’s out of the downstairs workshop, I’ll have room for woodturning again.  Look for some small pieces made from leftover bamboo…

Work in Progess :

Black Walnut Bowl Series

A friend of mine works for a tree trimming and custom furniture shop.  Although most of their trees end up in the chipper, some of it gets milled into lumber.  The Black Walnut (Jugulans nigra) that this series of bowls was created from came from him.

They are all about three inches high and range in diameter from six to ten inches.  There were a couple of crotch pieces, which resulted in very nice feathers in the finished pieces.

The wood was fairly rotten in places and had several large checks, which made turning a challenge.  I lost one of the pieces when I caught a crack and it exploded on the lathe.

This series is characterized by simple forms.  Instead of a foot, they have just a slight depression for the base.  The walls are a bit thicker than usual, as it seemed like the pieces wanted a beefier feel to them.  The smallest has a hint of lighter sapwood as a highlight.  The second one pictured has a very simple grain so I gave it a slight concavity on the rim.  The remaining two have both simple rims and feet; the amazing grain structure is their showcase.