Wednesday, March 4, 2009

From the Lathe: You Win Some, You Lose Some

I’m more than a little irritated at the moment, for a number of reasons that I won’t go into.

Suffice it to say that if I post anything topical today, I may regret it later.

Therefore I won’t.

Instead I’ll leave with you with a couple of pictures of my latest work.

This bowl is made from green turned Alaskan Birch heartwood. It was green turned to final form, allowed to dry very slowly under controlled conditions over a period of several months until the wood was at roughly 8% moisture and stabilized. Then it was sculpted along the heartwood grain lines, and shaped to create the filigree. The sides are decorated with carved reliefs of an Alaskan musher and a team of sled dogs, which are also wood burned to enhance their look.

This piece is Alaskan Birch Bowl #102 and is part of an ongoing series of Alaskan images, and a continuation of my own unique style of bowl turning and carving. The idea here is to invoke the image of a Yukon musher chasing the trail through a swirling arctic snow storm – whether or not he (or she) is delivering the mail to Rainy Pass or carrying diphtheria serum to Nome I’ll leave as an exercise in imagination to the observer.

This piece is not for sale, it’s a gift for friends whom I will be having dinner with tonight. This weekend they both will be mushing 1100 miles from here to Nome in the 2009 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Their names are Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore, wish them luck.

Iditarod 4

Iditarod 1Iditarod 3 Iditarod 2

As the post title says, you win some, you lose some. This last picture shows what happens in the later case.

Despite the fact that this morning I was turning at low speed and had left the bowl walls very thick (intending to pare them down later), the piece flew apart on the lathe. Fortunately I was working off the face (to the right in the image, hollowing the inside, for you non-turners) when it let go, which is a good thing considering that the flying chunk probably weighs several pounds. Where the missing piece is, I have no idea. ShopKat and I looked for it for fifteen minutes. It remains lost, somewhere on the far side of the shop, probably under the garden tractor or one of the ATV’s. Maybe it’s up in the canoe, which hangs from the ceiling 20ft in the air. It wouldn’t be the first time part of an exploding bowl has ended up there.

It happens, and breaking stuff is therapeutic – or so I’m told.

Exploder 1

I’ll be off-line until further notice. Enjoy your day.


  1. I sneaked a look at the photos before I read your post and instantly thought of dog sled races. Good luck to your friends.

    When we were growing up in Western New York, the town we lived in was divided by the Erie Canal. They drain the canal in the winter. Then about this time of year they had dog sled races the length of the canal, and more often then not during a raging snow storm. And we'd always troop down an watch.

    Sorry about your other bowl and glad you weren't in the line of fire when it let go!


  2. My God, Jim, that's gorgeous. You get better and better at this.

  3. Beautiful work, Jim! That flame in the grain gets me every time.

    Bummer about the missing part, but damned glad it didn't whomp you! Personally, I'd rather have a dent in the sheetrock than in a body part. I've been almost hit exactly once, even after close inspection for cracks and such - it just flew apart on me and left a nice dent in the wall - it's a good reminder for me. Hope you find the missing parts...

  4. Glad the bowl breaking didn't take out any important parts of your anatomy--like your fingers for photography and typing blog posts.


    Hey! Jim is gone! Everyone jump on the furniture! Just take your shoes off first!

    (ties a pillow to head in lieu of helmet and proceeds to jump on furniture)

  5. I love the sled and dogs, Jim. Nice.

  6. Aily! Aily is the best. Please tell her hi from John and I, and that we try to keep an eye on Kris.

    When she used to bartend at the Lodge she'd give me a free drink on my birthday. That's customer service. :)

  7. And yes, I know her name is Aliy. I'm excitable.

    The woodwork is gorgeous. So is Aliy, inside and out.

  8. That is one incredible bowl. They are very lucky people to receive it.

  9. Is it the structure of the wood that holds together during lathing?

    How does the porous structure does not get chipped or destroyed while you are turning that thing?

  10. That bowl looks great.

    Too bad about the other one.

  11. So if the sofa is only a metaphor, then what am I jumping on?

    (falls down)

  12. oooh, Jim's still off at the start of the race.

    Is there any chocolate left that needs a good home? I'm really craving some about now!


  13. What a pretty wooden bowl.

    That latter photo: ouch. Been there, spilled an entire bottle o' ink on that.


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