Handle Design

NickCookbrushWebNick Cook’s brush handle of Brazilian cherry makes the argument that function is a key element of art.  It is well-balanced, pleasant to hold, and warm to the touch.

Richard Raffan’s ultimate spindle work

Pick-upSticksWebDennis loves this set of pick-up sticks for the virtuosity of the turnings.  Made of sandalwood, the sticks fit together snugly into the box.  The box fit is such that it takes several minutes for the lid to settle all the way to the closed position.  Richard learned to make these slow-closing boxes for Japanese tea caddies used in their traditional tea ceremonies.  These  pick-up sticks are the Zen version of the traditional children’s game!

Woodturning camp

The Rider grandchildren–Brad, Brandon, and Hayley–spent a week in Colorado in July with several hours of woodturning instruction in the shop.    They started with just two tools and a practice stick in a session something like ‘How to tame your dragon [lathe].  They advanced to turning a pen from holly (it will double as a weapon against vampires) with Milo Scott.  Milo engraved their designs in the pen body with his magic laser machine, and then the new turners puzzled through the assembly process. 

In the photo, Bradley turns the funnel for the inside of his upside-down salt shaker, while Dennis and Brandon review his work.  The salt shakers were a challenging project.  The wood Dennis selected because cherry is easy to cut turned out to be some very obstinate honey locust.   They showed great effort  in the quest for this very ancient artifact design, which is still common in countries around the Mediterranean Sea.

The ‘smocks’ are recycled from Whole Foods.  We cut off the long sleeves, and sewed the pockets shut for safety.  The kids also traded their stylish Converse sneakers for some leather shoes.


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. 

New Bling for Turnings

Stuart Mortimer was back in the Liggett woodshop in May to teach several area woodturners how to cast and turn pewter elements for their own work.  Stuart has worked with pewter for several years, in addition to silver and gold, creating finials, hinges, and decorative rings for his beautiful eggs.  Inspired by the Faberge tradition, Stuart has developed a wide range of ‘boxes’ in the egg shape, many of which can be viewed on his website, StuartMortimer.com.

Notes for Symposium participants

General Twist Information is available here on the ‘SKILLS’ page.  Click on SKILLS right under the spindle on this page.  Go to section #2 for Twist information.  Use the link for Twistwork in the right sidebar to see all of the posts about Twistwork on the site.   The details for the goblet with the twisted laminated stem are on a separate page –GOBLET.  There are additional photos in the posts indexed for ‘goblets.’

Notes for making the canteen are on the PROJECTS page under PROJECT #2.   Use the link for Canteens (right sidebar)  to see previous posts and photos.  Dennis has modified some steps, and added new decorative possibilities since he last demonstrated the canteen at Southern States in 2009.

‘Tangled Aspen’ is a new demonstration for 2014.  Dennis will have hand-outs for Southern States participants.  The link for Christmas ornaments  (right sidebar) has a photo of the 2013 birdhouse ornament with the tangled aspen roof.

Enjoy the symposium!

Photo:  Honduras Rosewood Burl twisted, laminated Goblet

–Dennis calls these two goblets the Impossible Twins because of the difficulty of cutting the twist in burl wood.



Beginner class kicks off symposium season

Woodturners gather in the spring and early summer to exchange tools, skills, and ‘wow’s.  Before the symposiums begin, however, there is a lot of work to be done.  Dennis is holding a beginner class in early March for very, very inexperienced turners to learn and practice the safety procedures and tool management skills that every turner needs to know.  There will be a day of spindle work learning to turn the practice stick, a day to make a simple bowl with bowl gouges, and a final project of the student’s choice.

For those who are a few steps past the starting line, he will be demonstrating more advanced techniques at the Southern States Symposium in Gainesville, GA, April 4-5-6.   These rotations include making the multi-axis canteen, the goblet with twisted, laminated stem, and turning aspen for decorating (with Kay).

In May, Dennis and Kay will attend the Utah Woodturning Symposium.  Utah is a regional symposium with a focus on skills.   In June, they will go to the national American Association of Woodturners big pow-wow in Phoenix.

University-level training in lathe art is exceedingly rare, so most woodturners learn through a hybrid system of private lessons, video demonstrations, and demonstrations by professionals and serious amateurs.  Dennis provides demonstrations of his specialties, as well as private lessons for beginners, intermediates, and advanced woodturners.   Call Dennis if a good start appeals to you:  719-481-8754

2013 Christmas ornament

This is the first time that Dennis and Kay have worked together to produce one-of-a-kind ornaments.

Dennis turns the four parts of the birdhouse:  roof, body, perch, and bottom finial.   Kay decorates each roof with permanent inks.  The patterns come from Zentangle®  forms and Kay’s own quilting patterns.  They are done spontaneously, so each one is different.  The Zentangle method is a fun way to create images by drawing structured patterns.  It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas.

The roofs are all turned from aspen, which takes the ink like a high quality vellum surface.  The perch and finial are holly.  The bodies are made from either American cherry or walnut.

After each part is completed, Dennis applies finish, and installs the hanging eyelet and hook.   The roof and body are remounted on the lathe for a final polish before the birdhouse is glued together.


Magic Christmas of Making

Dick Jones, Scott Longberry, and Milo Scott helped Dennis create a very magical Christmas for kids at the Boadmoor’s Christmas house over the weekend of Nov 28-December 1st.  Dennis, Milo, and Scott took turns making tops for kids waiting in line to see Santa Claus.  There is a certain magic to seeing something made right before your eyes that stands up well to the hysteria of ‘Black Friday.’   A special thanks goes to Larry Fox for loaning the group of Pikes Peak Woodturners the tent for a stellar display of Christmas ornaments and turned bracelets and bowls.

Birdhouses? Why Birdhouses?

Dennis can make a variety of things on the lathe, but as Christmas approaches, he always returns to the Birdhouse Ornaments.

Of all the ornaments he has created, the simple Birdhouse just looks right on any Christmas tree.  By itself, you might notice the type of wood, the shape of the roof, the lovely curve of the ‘house,’ and the teeny perch in front of the door.   All of these same features show to good advantage among the pine needles of your tree.  This ornament is too small for a bird, but just right to contain a song, or the memory of home.

Dennis will be at the Christmas House at the Broadmoor again this year, with a variety of birdhouse ornaments for sale.  Look for him just outside the white tent, demonstrating on the lathe for kids waiting in line for Santa.   November 29, 30th (Reindeer Day), and December 1st.