The Process

[This is a short description about the process of producing a turned object and is intended for those who have no idea about the process or what is involved.]

After someone has examined one of my turnings, the first question I am usually asked is, “How long did it take you to make this?” This is a very difficult question to answer correctly.

The actual production process starts with acquisition of a piece of wood. This may be a blank that I purchase, a log that I harvest, or a piece of wood that I pick up from someone’s trash pile. Each piece of wood must then be cut to an appropriately-sized blank with a chainsaw and/or a bandsaw and then stored until I am ready to use it.

The blank is mounted on the lathe which spins it horizontally. Various chisels, gouges and scrapers are used to remove bits of wood to get it to the approximate shape of what I intend to make. This initial rough shaping is much thicker than the anticipated finished piece.

Since a thick piece of wood is never dry and since wood will shrink unevenly as it dries, I will allow the roughed turning to dry for several months. During this time it will often distort significantly. Hopefully during the drying process, it will not split or crack. Wood is not a static medium. In spite of how it is finished, how thin it is, or how long it was dried, it will forever continue to expand and contract with changing humidity.

After drying, the rough turning is remounted on the lathe and turned to its finished dimensions using the same chisels and gouges that were used to rough it. The piece is then sanded with progressively finer grits of sandpaper to remove any remaining tool marks and to remove the scratches from the courser abrasives.

There are many finishing processes that require different amounts of time and yield different appearances. I finish most of my turnings with multiple coats of lacquer. After the last coat of lacquer has dried for two to three weeks, I then sand it with 400-grit sandpaper (very fine) to remove any surface irregularities and then repeat the sanding with 600-grit, 800-grit, 1000 grit, 1500-grit and 3000-grit (ultra-ultra fine). The piece is then buffed and waxed.

In the final analysis, many months generally elapse between the acquisition of a hunk of wood and the finished product that may come from it.