Wood Turning Is Not a Winter Sport

Tonight’s post is specifically for my non wood turning readers. It’s mostly a show and tell piece.

The cars were moved in their weekly game of car chess. The garage was open and the wood turning machines had escaped from their cramped weekday storage as the sun belied warm weather beyond the concrete opening. It was time once again to turn, turn a plain, unassuming block of wood

20120305-205340.jpg into a beautifully shaped bowl.

Roughing gouge, fingernail bowl gouge, parting tool, carbide tip scraper, parting tool, and spindle gouge.

20120305-211120.jpg Such strange new words to learn, and this was just the select few for this particular piece. Some needing sharpening and honing a couple of times before the end. Ambrosia maple can be so unforgiving on chisels!

The block was first roughed until it became round. This was accomplished not by brute force alone, the excess wood had to be sliced away skillfully so as to prevent a major tear out, removing more wood in one pass than intended. This was so time consuming, but once round the creative process could truly begin.

“How thick do you want the walls, how tall do you want the sides, what kind of foot do you want?” my husband always asks these kind of questions once the block is round.

“Let’s see what happens,” I tell him and smile. I don’t know what I want, I just want to move with the wood and let it tell me what shape it needs to take. I am inexperienced, but eager to create.

He frowns. He has done this for years. He knows that once the wood comes off it’s too late to change your mind. He doesn’t want me to become disappointed by making a wrong choice that would lead to ruining this bowl, or worse, to losing the desire to continue to turn.

Through much discussion, debate, and pantomime of shapes we finally knew how we wanted the bowl to turn out and were ready to begin.

Six hours and a mound of saw dust and shavings later

20120305-214220.jpg I had a complementary piece to the ambrosia maple bowl I turned a few weeks earlier out of a thicker block of wood.


The temperature never reached more than sixty-two degrees. Wearing a long sleeve shirt with my jeans and donning a thick long sleeve turning jacket to protect me against the flying shavings and clinging dust, you would think I was comfortable, if not too warm. Nope! It took nearly three hours in a heated house to thaw out my limbs!

Wood turning, wood bowl turning specifically, is not an instantly gratifying task, to be sure, but it is always worth the time you put into it.





Being a wood turning novice you would think that I would start out with soft woods and turning pens or pencils only. After all, that is how my husband started years ago as well as countless other people now bitten by the wood turning bug. Not me! No, I have neither done things half way nor eased into anything that is extremely difficult.

If I can visualize myself doing it then, by golly, I can do it. Or so I think. I don’t need to slow down, take baby steps, walk before I run. Oh no! I am out there doing the marathon from day one! Of course this leads to a lot of frustration, and a few temper storms, on my part as I realize that I do not possess the needed skills or talent to accomplish my goal.

This beautiful Ambrosia Maple bowl is clear evidence of my drive and passion, but also, sadly, of my inexperience in wood turning.

“What shape do you want the finished bowl to have?” my husband asked after he set the garage up for a day of wood turning.

“I want it to be hippy,” I said as I snapped the final snap on my wood turning jacket. I knew exactly what I wanted the piece to look like in the end, but, like most novices, was clueless as to how I was actually going to achieve that goal.

“How hippy?” my husband asked again trying to calculate exactly how to mount the six by four inch block of wood onto my lathe.

“Very. Like me,” I quipped, but he was so concentrated on helping me see the practical step that needed to be next completed that the quip passed him by.

He grabbed a pencil and the block of wood and began extolling the different ways of mounting this block and what type of shape the bowl would take due to the way it was mounted.

I tried to pay attention to my instructor, I truly did, but all I could see was the vessel that lay within the uneven block and was itching to bring it out.

We finally mounted the block in such a way that would best facilitate the shape I knew was right for it. Roughing gouge in hand, I eagerly set to the time consuming, exhausting, painstakingly slow task of rounding the square block.

Oh this was just the first step! Once it was round, I then needed to rough shape the outside and bottom of the bowl. I had to make a small foot in the bottom for the chuck to hold onto when I turned to bowl around to smooth out the outside shape and hollow out the inside.

I’d like to say these steps went hummingly along without a single hiccough from either the wood or myself, but I think more than one of you who know me best would have reason to say otherwise.

Talking me through each step, forcing me to see reason and practicality when all I could or would see was the creation, my husband helped me bring into existence this beautiful vessel.

I thought I could make it happen, and I did, with help from a much more experienced, talented and accomplished wood turner than I.

I recently read an article that it is a good idea for writers to find themselves critique partnerships. People who can look at your plot line and help you refine it as you write. It now occurs to me that creative people need partners no matter the medium.

Just having a story to tell isn’t good enough though. Sometimes you need another eye on the mechanics of your story, another person looking at your plots, asking the right questions. Sometimes, most times, you need someone to help get that manuscript to drip with eloquence the way you know it can.

Don’t go at it alone and produce simply ok work. Get help and bring out the published novel you know lies within the pages of your rough manuscript.

The dreaded lacewood bowl!


“That’s beautiful!” I said as I greedily grabbed the block of wood off the store shelf.

“That’s lacewood,” my husband proudly explained, having spotted the label before I did.

I stood in the middle of the aisle turning the block over and over in my hands for several minutes. I had to examine every inch of the block from every angle. I just knew it would make something so magnificent even in my inexperienced hands.

“Did you decide what to make out of that block?” my husband asked as he helped me mount it to the chuck on the lathe the next day.

“A plate,” I said, nodding my head as if confirming the decision.

“A plate. Not a bowl?”

“A plate. A nice wide, shallow plate.”

My husband shook his head disapprovingly but he didn’t say anything. The block was a six by two inch chunk. To make a plate I would be throwing away a lot of wood. A waste, he thought.

I put my turning jacket on and selected my chisel while my husband made the final adjustments to the chuck. I then stood behind him, chisel in hand, biting my lip nervously, waiting for him to move out of the way.

The rounding process didn’t seem to go as smoothly as we expected (pardon the pun fellow wood turners). I started with my recently honed roughing gouge and had to move to my husband’s. This wood was was winning, beating even the best chisel in the garage!

It finally became round, but it took three chisels, about 2 hours, and all my strength, not to mention stamina and patience.

“I think we need to call it a night,” I told my husband as I turned off the lathe one last time to check my minute progress.

“Perhaps you’re right, dear,” he conceded. “I think lacewood needs to be added to the evil wood list.”

I nodded my head heartily in agreement and we went inside for the night.

The block, still attached to the chuck plate sat on top of the shelf for the whole week. It glared a dare at each of us when we got home each night. Each of us glared back, knowing the block was winning.

Finally the weekend came around again. Once again the cars were moved around from the garage and driveway in an automobile sized game of chess, each car needing to be carefully placed so as to make room in the garage for wood turning and not obstruct the flow of traffic in the street. A task my husband so expertly performs each weekend that I leave the job to him.

The garage was now set up, but I was preoccupied with another more pressing project to complete and declined the offer of turning.

No matter. My husband wanted a crack at that lacewood! He would not let a piece of wood win!

My husband is quite a few inches taller than I am and we bought me my own lathe set ideally for my petite stature. Still this was the lathe my husband wanted to use. “I can attack it from all angles on yours, unlike mine,” he said and set about to tame the mocking piece of dead tree.

I sat down in the garage with my iPad to work on my writing project. This was so I could be supportive of either victor in this new battle of wills.

Once again my husband used a variety of chisels, some he had to sharpen and hone right before using, to complete his task.

It was all worth it in the end. Rubbed generously with tung oil, the bowl sits happily belying it’s strong will and the hard work it took to bring out the object we knew lay within.

Notice it’s a bowl, not a plate. There would have been way too much wood wasted to make it into a plate I rightly reasoned.


Hello world!

Welcome to my little corner of the web!

My name is Dawn and I am a


What’s a makergoddess? I’m so glad you asked! A makergoddess can make just about anything from next to nothing. I turn wooden bowls and an occasional pen or pencil. I create jewelry pieces. No, I don’t actually make the beads, well not in a mass quantity, not yet. I’ve dabbled in making clay beads. That hasn’t turned out too bad so far. My husband wants me to branch out and make glass and wooden beads now. Hence the lathe on which I now primarily turn bowls and shallow dishes and the multiple propane torches he leeringly eyeballs at the local hardware store. What I make best, though, is worlds with words. I’m a writer, by hobby for the moment, and I have so many stories to share! Some true, some not so true, some a little mix of both.

Is there anything a makergoddess can’t make? Well, not wanting to speak for the whole of the deities, this particular makergoddess is absolute rubbish at making the dogs in our house behave! It’s very sad, but very true, and lucky for me, stories abound from this misfortune!