Experimenting with your turnings


Mark Baker

Friday, July 16, 2010

Have you noticed how much experimentation is going on in turning lately? One only has to look in books, DVDs and online – for example, the work being posted in our gallery section. There is Richard Kennedy’s most recent piece, A River Ran II and Marco’s hornbeam and paduak box. But do take the time and browse a bit more. There are stunning examples of what people are making and working on.

I know that views are polarized in terms of the use of colour on turned work, and this is a matter of taste and viewpoint. Carving is used more and more – turning is, in my mind, only a powered form of carving anyway – and metal, colours insets and resins, the use of routers etc. are being utilised to great effect.

Please carry on, after all, nearly everyone I know has at some stage or other hit that mental block and thought, “Oh no, not another round, brown thing.” Yes, I know that there are myriad things that one can create on the lathe from thousands of different timbers, and each one is unique, but have you ever wondered what else you could do? I have, and also, no matter how much you spend on buying the most beautifully coloured timber, and even if you use the most high-tech UV resistant finish available, all wood changes colour – usually darkening – over time and that gorgeous vibrant natural colour becomes muted or unrecognisable from the fresh cut item.

So Houston, we have a problem. Learn to live with that limitation and inevitable outcome or, experiment and find a way of working out how to maintain the original colours for longer. Box elder (Acer negundo) is fun and fresh cut often has stunning red and purple streaks running through it to contrast with the cream-coloured heart and sapwood. Often, although not always, over time this colour dulls down to a reddish brown so the original impact is lost. Well, some use an airbursh to colour the already red streaks on the fresh bowl so that they remain red, the colour is – as close as can be matched – the same as the original, it’s just been coloured with light-fast dyes, too. You can’t see it, but the colours stay that way and the visual impact remains even after many years.

So please do keep an open mind and do continue to explore options. Not all of them we end up liking, but as we experiment it opens up avenues we would not likely have ventured into had we not started tinkering and changing the way we work.

Have fun


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