Category Archives: Natural edge vessels

Black Forest fire in 2013 = bowls now

A friend brought Dennis part of a Gambel oak tree that was damaged in the Black Forest fire last year.  These oaks are a scrubby style of white oak, which rarely reaches a diameter that interests woodturners.  Natural edge bowls make the most of trees with a small diameter, because the bark creates the rim.  These 3 are exceptional for the clarity of the ‘rays’ in the wood.  The largest bowl is 9″ on the long axis.  The vessel was hollowed through the opening on the top. 

Back in the game!

Dennis is back in the shop with a new group of bowls well before his scheduled recovery in August.  He has already been to Missouri to pick up a new load of fresh logs.  This time, the Paige Lumber Co. secured both cherry and persimmon wood.  Dennis turns natural edge bowls from the persimmon while it is very wet.  Here is a group of bowls drying on the windowsill (on the shady side of the house, of course).

You may remember American persimmon as a substitute for ebony.  It was often used for golf club heads because of the hardness of the wood.  Dennis has found that the wood holds a very clean cut when wet, and stays a beautiful creamy white.  The bark is extremely dark, deep, and appears on the tree in big chunks.  These chunks yield the lovely scallops on the bowls.

The curve of the bowls is an ‘ogee’ curve, which is a type of stretched-out S-curve used by cabinet makers for mouldings, and by woodturners for balusters and other architectural elements.   This lovely curve emphasizes the bark edge, and creates the oval shape where Dennis has been cutting air instead of wood.  It is a fascinating puzzle for everyone who has difficulty picturing the bowl inside the tree.

Freeform – Treeform

Working with green wood has been a new adventure for Dennis.  He turns these natural edge vessels down to less than 1/16th thickness in the first session on the lathe, and then refines them in the final session.  The thin walls ovalize as they dry, but the bark stays on most of the time.  Dennis started out with Richard Raffan’s advice to avoid turning feet on the vessels:

Deep Ash Vessel

Deep Ash Vessel 8" x 8" dia

Natural edge vessels are fascinating because they are often turned sidegrain.  This means that the vessel’s vertical dimension is perpendicular to the trunk.    (Picture the curve of the rim as a circle wrapped around the trunk of the tree.)  As the wood dries, it moves into a more ovalized shape along the vertical dimension of the fibers.

The appeal of the form is evident in the way that the lighter sapwood emphasizes the shape, drawing attention to the graceful curves of the grain.    This one is restrained –almost in-curving at the rim.  It sits quite securely on the base, which allows just enough shadow underneath to lift it slightly off the table.

Dennis turned the deep ash vessel from a freshly cut ash log in January 2009.

Small ash vessel

Small ash vessel 4" x 4" dia

This much smaller vessel, pictured at closer range, has a very rounded base, which made the vase ‘weeble’ back to the upright position when it was tipped to the side.   The good sense of balance of this piece is evident when you hold it in your hand.

Dennis began  turning feet on his vessels in ash and cherry in December and January of 2009.  He went through a whole cherry tree exploring the challenge of fitting the correct foot to the vase.  This one captures something of the gesture of outstretched arms.  Cover the foot, and you lose that sense of lift.

Adding a small foot to the form

Adding a small foot to the form