Monday, April 18, 2005

110 Wedding Favors

Much of my work is very repetitive. My business largely revolves around the sale of affordable, quality products. In order to keep the price down, I have to work quickly and efficiently. One way to do that is to work on large batches of the same item. This saves a lot of set-up time in between tasks, and I find that I work faster once I get into the swing of things. Even on larger items like bowls, I might have half a dozen in the works at one time, doing the same step on each bowl before moving on to the next step.

There are many stages involved in making wine bottle stoppers. In preparing the wood and dowels, I often do hundreds at a time. Once I get to start turning the shape of the stopper, I work in batches of twenty, the number that will fit on a rack. I have just finished an order of 110 personalized wine stoppers:

Some of these are completely finished. Others are ready to have the corks fitted, while others are still waiting to be buffed to the nice soft shine which many of my customers are so impressed by.

These are to be used at my customer's wedding in September. They are made from black cherry, a depature from the maple which is the norm for personalized wine stoppers. The bride-to-be asked for a darker wood, and cherry seemed to fit the bill. I must say they look very nice, and although the personalization doesn't have quite so much contrast, it is still perfectly readable. Black cherry does have more color variability than maple, but I think that this only adds interest to these favors. I hope the customer likes them too!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005


After finishing with that beech log on Saturday, I hauled a log of mountain-ash into the workshop and began cutting that up.

Mountain-ash is a really nice wood for turning, being similar to apple wood in as much as the texture is very fine and it cuts easily. It has cream coloured sap wood and light brown heartwood with small dark flecks which add interest. Like the beech, this log had also been outside for a year or two and had developed some spalting which will add to the character of the finished artefacts.

I have cut it up into small pieces ready to make weedpots, inlays, bottle stoppers and bits'n' bobs bowls. The endgrain of each piece has been treated with endseal, a wax emulsion that slows down the drying of the endgrain to minimize cracking as the wood dries. It will be several months before any of this wood is ready to work with, but for anyone who appreciates things made from unique pieces of wood, the wait will be worth it.

There are two native species of mountain-ash in Nova Scotia; American mountain-ash (Sorbus americana) and Showy mountain-ash (Sorbus decora), a.k.a. northern mountain-ash or dog-berry. They are not easy to differentiate without the leaves and berries, so I cannot be sure which I have.

Local weather lore holds that an abundance of berries indicates a mild winter ahead.

The European mountain-ash, Sorbus aucuparia, has been introduced to North America and escaped into the wild, probably by birds feasting on the berries. This species is known as rowan, probably from the Gaelic ruadhan, the red one, because of it's scarlet berries. It was often planted on Highland crofts since superstition has it that rowan will ward off witches. It was also used in the Highlands, where timber is scarce, for making tool handles, household implements and small pieces of furniture. If it weren't for its unpleasant smell I would probably use it to make spurtles.

Mountain-ash is not a true ash, the only similarity being the compound leaves. The Sorbus genus is a member of the Rosaceae family which includes crab apple, cherry and strawberry among its 1,500 species. Its wood is generally considered to have no commercial importance, but I am only too happy to give it a good home. I look forward to being able to start turning some of this beautiful looking material.

(I am sorry, but I do not have any mountain ash for sale)

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Saturday, April 09, 2005

Spalted Beech

I spent the morning working on my books, or more accurately a box full of receipts, so for a bit of light entertainment in the afternoon I cut up a log of beech. It had been in the yard for eighteen months or more, and had a developed a nice amount of spalting.

Spalted Beech

Spalting is a discoloration caused by fungal attack. It is the first stage in decay, and sometimes the wood can become soft or totally rotten. In this case there was one strip of rot running along a wound in the side of the log, but for the most part it was very sound. Beech is a wood that I have always found to spalt very nicely.

This particular piece also has some figuring in the grain, and I think I will end up with some very interesting woodturnings. I have cut this mainly into small pieces for weedpots, and inlays for my inlaid weedpots.

Now I just have to wait for it all to dry before I can start working with it.

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Monday, April 04, 2005

A warped bowl.

A few weeks ago I was telling you I was working with some green wood. I had finished turning a birch bowl and was leaving it to dry slowly, wrapped up in newsprint.

A warped, green-turned bowl
Today I have removed it from the paper. You can see how much it has distorted. No cracks! I will leave it to dry some more in a normal climate, then put it in the dry room to finish the process.

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