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The first step, upon bringing in a blank to mount on the lathe, is to decide just what it is you can create from this piece of wood. I tell my students that I strongly believe that the importance of thinking about the wood----- before ever touching a chisel to it---- cannot be overemphasized. Make it your practice to do as the pro's do: study the wood to determine if there are defects? If affirmative, do you want to turn them out of, or incorporate them as part of your design? Will this wood look best as a platter, bowl or vessel? How can I lay out my piece so it best shows off the wood's energy and beauty? And on, and on, and on.

Like many woodturners, I think that the more we turn, the more we understand just how important good planning is. For one thing, it sure reduces the amount of wasted lumber when we think about the possible problems in advance. Secondly, it makes turning a lot more fun. My usual practice is to make one or more rough sketches of pieces I might create from the wood at hand. When one of the ideas strikes me as being 'right on', I mount the wood on the lathe and turn it.

The most successful woodturners I know all plan their work in advance: No serious turner leaves design to chance. A good habit to acquire from the beginning of your woodturning "career" is to begin every project by first sketching your thoughts on paper. You may surprise yourself at how many elements---- in the turning you are contemplating ---- will reveal themselves before you finally take on the wood

Seeing the piece in the turning blank

The Burl

This large blank is one of two similar blanks which had been in the barn for six months but still retained relatively high moisture content—about 16 percent. Knowing that distortion would follow if the wood were turned to the finish with this percentage, I decided to capitalize on that movement by creating a piece with elements of varying thicknesses which would maximize distortion affect.

Rarely do I start a piece without making a sketch or two of what I feel can be brought from the wood. The selected burl was large but, it also had some bad (rotted) sections which would have to come out as the turning proceeded. I decided to go with the design created in this sketch: the bowl portion would have a thicker wall than the thin rim I wanted to create. Thus, these areas would dry at different rates and I would gain distortion where I wanted it---on the rim. This would result in the 'flower-like' feeling I had worked into my sketch.

The Sketch
Finished Work

The finished turning atop the second blank shows how the vessel's shape was dictated by the wood itself. My intent was to create a quiet, yet energy-exuding vessel. Thus, it was important to avoid complexity ---in short, here Less Would Definitely Be More.

The side view clearly displays the varying thicknesses turned into the rim. This was done to maximize the effect of the wood changes which would occur as the wood dried. I.E.; Thick wood loses moisture at a slower rate than does thin wood thereby assuring distortion. Texturing the rim edge heightens the flower petals effect and helps capture the energy from the original hefty blank.

Side View
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