Listening to the wood

I had not intended to make a fruit bowl when I started working with this piece of honey locust crotch. But viewed from the top, this one looks to me like a slice through an apple, so I’m calling it a fruit bowl.

When the wood tells you what it wants to be, you should listen.

12 inches tip to tip, 4 1/2 inches high. Teak oil finish.

Prairie Skies I

This was an ugly looking offcut of boxelder that I knew had some real potential, and now that it’s finished, I can’t pick my favorite side. The wood came from the North Dakota farmstead established by my grandparents, Anton and Petrea Jacobsen.

5 inches x 5 inches. Homemade friction polish finish (50/50 shellac and boiled linseed oil blend).

Figured green ash sphere

This is my first attempt at sphere turning. The basic concept is simple: Turn a rough sphere between centers, then rotate it 90 degrees and turn off the high spots, then rotate it 90 degrees again and turn off the high spots. But it does take a bit of finesse to make sure you get it properly centered each time.

IMG_5805 (2)

I’m pretty happy with this one; the way the figuring in this green ash shifts in the light is fascinating.

3 1/2″ diameter, friction polish finish.

Oak burl bowls

A friend of mine is the director of a Bible camp in west-central Minnesota, and I volunteered to help out with their spring cleanup this year. Since I own a chainsaw, you can guess what duty I was assigned to: clearing brush and cutting down some dead and diseased trees. Which ended up being a good thing, when I found three burls on a mostly dead oak tree. This was going to be fun!

Bowl #145 (18)

When my daughter saw the first bowl I made from these burls, her immediate comment was “I am Groot.” I hadn’t actually seen those two voids and the horizontal line below them as a face, but now I can’t help but see it. 8 inches at the widest point, 5 inches high.

The next two came from a single, larger burl that also had a few large suckers growing out of it, which ended up becoming part of the rim on both bowls.

Bowl #157 (12)

This one is about 8 1/2 inches in diameter at its widest point, and about 5 3/4 inches high.

Bowl #158 (11)

This one is smaller, at 7 inches at the widest point, and 4 3/4 inches high.

I left them all fairly thick to show of the texture and character of the bark, and they are finished with teak oil.

Mountain ash bowl

Bowl #134 (15)

The tree I got this wood from was a larger mountain ash in our neighborhood that had started declining last spring, and my wife “volunteered” me to help the homeowners take it down. I guess I can’t complain too much; the wood that was still sound has some fine spalting.

9″ diameter, 2 3/4″ high. Teak oil finish.

Go Bison!

My workplace holds an annual basket raffle to raise funds for the United Way, and my boss and I are collaborating on a “Game Day” basket. Our “basket” is actually a cooler, filled with a bunch of snacks, some swag from North Dakota State University–Go Bison!–and this chip bowl decorated in Bison green and gold.


It’s silver maple, with some eye-catching chatoyancy and crotch figuring on the interior.


The stripes were added with marker and the finish is a durable carnauba/beeswax blend. 10 1/2″ diameter, 1 7/8″ high.

Just a little bowl

I was doing a bit of housecleaning in the corner of my basement that I call my shop when I ran across a small ash bowl I had turned back in January during an open house held by my woodturning club, MinnDak Woodturners. I didn’t sand it during the demo because who wants to watch someone sand?

So here’s the (finally) finished product. Sanded to 400 grit and finished with a carnauba/beeswax blend and buffed on the lathe.


Nothing fancy about it, just a clean, simple little bowl. 5 1/2″ diameter, 1 5/8″ high.

Poplar bowl

During midsummer this year, I heard that a friend was removing a few poplar trees from his property–a couple were dead or dying, and one was in the way of a shed he was planning to build. Being the wood scrounger that I am, I asked if I could come and take a few chunks.

This wood was very wet (you could see and feel the dampness of it when I was sawing the logs into blanks), so it had to be rough turned, coated with sealer to slow the drying and prevent cracking, and then set aside for a good while. But it was worth the wait. This is the first one I finish turned.


You can see a bit of curl figuring on the rim in this photo, and there are more patches of that on the inside. 9 1/2″ diameter, 3″ high. Walnut oil finish.

Something to do while waiting

One of my kids’ favorites when they were growing up was the PBS show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” And one of his songs that we adopted for our own started with the line “Let’s think of something to do while we’re waiting.”

Monday was our oldest daughter’s due date, and from a phone call earlier in the day, we had a feeling that things were going to start happening. So to keep my mind occupied, I mounted a large chunk of green ash (rescued from the curbside in our neighborhood) on the lathe.


The grain and color is everything I could have hoped for, and when you look inside…


…there’s some subtle curl.

11 1/2″ diameter by 3 3/8″ high. Walnut oil finish.