Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cat Castle-plans and discussion

Hi Everyone,

I hope you all had a safe and happy holiday. Our holiday was enlivened by the arrival of two very cute orange tabby kittens that we adopted on Saturday and here is a photo of our new princes:

These guys have rough history between them: they and their mom and litter mates were abandoned on a farm in Farmington, Minnesota shortly after birth and these two guys had very, very bad eye infections. They recovered from the infections and a veterinary ophthalmologist examined them and certified that they are both healthy and their eyes are normal except for a small amount of vision loss. The infections also left their eyes a little cloudy and while their mom and litter mates were adopted out, no one wanted these guys because of the cloudiness. So they've been in a foster home for several months.

We had been wanting to adopt a cat or cats as we missed our old cat who passed away several years ago and we especially wanted a cat that was either older or had special needs and who would have difficulty being placed. We saw these guys on line, discussed it for several days and contacted the shelter and officially adopted them on Saturday. So our tribe has increased by two.

Cat Castle-Plans and Discussion

As these guys are going to be inside cats, they need something to play on so they can get daily exercise so I decided to build them a cat castle. We have a small deck with several bird feeders and a large window to watch the birds from so we thought a tall cat castle that is high enough for the cats to perch on would be just the thing that they need. So here we go:

I am going to use some plans from Cat Tree Plans. com and you can see the castle I'm planning on making here at: As the plans are copyrighted I can't share the details with you but you can see some of the steps involved. Here are two photographs of the parts that I've cut out:

The plywood panels will be the shelves where they get to sit and the 2x4's will be the supports. I started screwing the supports together when the battery in my drill fizzled out so I had to stop but I will have more photos tomorrow for you to see. And we have to find a 9'x7' carpet remanent some where to cover it with.

So more tomorrow.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays

Hi Everyone,

Well, it has been cold and snowy here in the upper Midwest and we're going to have a white Christmas with friends and family.

I would like to take a moment to wish everyone a very Happy Holiday Season and a terrific New Year.
It's been a difficult year here in the US and I hope we all have a better year in 2013. And thank you for looking at the blog this year. As always, we have more adventures ahead.

Here for your listening enjoyment is the Nutcracker Suite with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, a great holiday favorite here in the US:

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See you all soon,

Best Always,


Friday, December 14, 2012

In Memory

In memory of the students and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Photograph by Douglas D'Urso

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Finishing up some projects

Hi Everyone,

Well, it's cold in Minnesota but we've had basically no snow since the beginning of November. It looks like we're going to have a brown Christmas this year. I love the snow and the cold and the change of seasons, but ice is something I can live without so I'm not terribly upset about this.

Here are a couple of updates for you all:

First of all the Blue House bowl was one by a colleague of a friend of mine. I'm not sure of her name and I don't have a photo as of yet but I'm assured we'll have one later this week so stay tuned.

Red Maple bowl

I absolutely love red maple wood. It is got a nice closed grain, lovely figure, it holds small detail well, the colors is pretty, and it finishes beautifully. I had a chance to purchase two red maple bowl blanks in October and I'm currently making them into bowls for a couple of friends of mine. I began turning this large bowl this morning and I've finished the underside of it:

I've rubbed oil into the surface and it looks great. I've brought it in to help the finish set as it's too cold outside right now for that. I'll send photos of the inside of the bowl later this weekend.

I've also finished the basswood fruit platter:

It's a lovely ivory color and the surface is wonderfully smooth. This goes to it's new owner this weekend.

I also have another bowl but my camera batteries have died so I couldn't get a photo. I'll get more batteries and send one along later this week.

Just a reminder: I will be closing for my annual shop cleanup and time off beginning right after Christmas and ending at the end of January. If you have a question about any of the postings send me an email.

I'm going to go and make some bread and have some hot cocoa. See you this weekend.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Annual Blue House Christmas Boutique this Weekend!!!!!!

Hi Everyone,

Just a reminder for those of you in the Twin Cities: The Annual Blue House Christmas Boutique is coming up this coming Saturday and Sunday at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in St. Paul. There are all kinds of terrific gifts available from home made foods to hand knitted clothing, and of course wood ware from your's truly. They have an amazing selection to choose from and it's a great place to do your Christmas shopping. 

AND the drawing for the rosewood salad bowl takes place at the same event at 12 noon on Sunday! 

The doors open at 9 am and the address is: 2136 Carter Avenue, St. Paul, MN.


Friday, November 23, 2012

The wood turning artistry of Denise De Rose

Hi Everyone,

I love to see and the study the work of other wood turners but there are only a few turners whose work really goes way beyond salad bowls and pens. One of these is a fellow female wood turner from California named Denise De Rose. She is the daughter of a wood worker who grew up around wood and craftsmanship and it sure rubbed off. She makes amazing, fine handbags and clutch purses out of turned wood. I can't think of another wood turner who has taken wood turning in such an unusual direction.

See her website at: Pay really close attention to the clutch bags. Really cool!!!


Turned forms, continued

Hi Everyone,

For most of it's history, wood turning was basically an industrial process. Wood turners made all sorts of household goods, chair and furniture parts, and other functional items. About 40 years ago a number of artists began to adapt it for artistic purposes. Steven Hogbin, Mark Lindquist, David Ellsworth, Bob Stockdale, to name a few, really took turning to artistic heights and have produced a number of beautiful and important works.

One of these artists, David Ellsworth, turns what he calls "spirit forms." This are round, sometimes spherical, other times more flattened or cylindrical shapes that are not functional pieces per se but instead are turned to emphasize the grain patterns and thus the natural beauty of the wood. The pieces he turns vary in size from very small, fit-in-your-hand sizes to pieces made from trunks of trees. And his pieces are hollow-he uses special tools to hollow them out.

I've been studying the forms that he has made and I've decided to try turning some myself. I love river stones. I've loved the shape and the surfaces of these kinds of stones all my life and I decided to see if I could combine some of Ellsworth's techniques (see his book Ellsworth on Woodturning) along with my own skills and turn some wood into shapes resembling river stones.

So I've been practicing lately with branches and other small pieces have collected over the past year and I'd like to share with you the piece I made today out of some scrap, laminated pine.

Here we go:

On one of my wood hunting expeditions I acquired a large laminated block of pine. I've since cut the block into more useable shapes and I had several small pieces left over. I've taken one of them and drilled a hole in the bottom so as to mount it on the Nova chuck on the lathe:

Pine is a soft wood and softwoods do require extra care. Your tools have to be very sharp and you have to turn at very high speeds. This is an example of a dull tool and a slow speed. You can see the tear out in the photograph:

Using the right tool is critical too. I started with a roughing gouge and ended up with my skew chisel. I sharpened it to razor sharp and turned the blank very slowly and gently for a minute. Note the difference in the results:

This photo shows the form with all the sides turned off and the ends rounded a bit. As this is pine and it's spinning very fast here, it's easy to turn off too much wood. Also note that the piece is still between centers to stabilize it and to dampen any vibration:

This photo shows the form with the bottom completed. I've removed the tailstock and now I'm turning just the top and shoulders of the piece. I proceeded very slowly at this stage as turning a piece of wood results in a lot of physical stress on the surface of the form. It can easily flip off the chuck and go flying across the wood shop! Again, tools have to be very sharp and the form is spinning at 900 rpm:

This is piece with all the cutting completed. I'll sand it to 800 grit:

Here are several photographs of the finished piece. It was finished with just wax and polished:

I oriented the top with the laminated end of the form and this produced concentric circles and the hole is in the "eye" of the wood.

Here is one last photo of this form with several other pieces:

I have a small block of bocote wood that I'm going to turn next. Stay tuned.


Bass Wood Platter

Hi Everyone,

It's absolutely freezing cold here today-18 degrees this morning with a west wind and snow flurries. But this isn't going to keep us out of the wood shop today!

As I'm planning on giving the bass wood platter away as a Christmas present, I needed to finish it so I've flipped it over and placed it back on the lathe and got it ready to go.

Bass wood is a very soft wood. It's better known as a carving wood than a turning wood. Because of the softness of the wood, we're going to have to be careful how we approach this piece. The tools have to be super sharp to avoid tearing the wood fibers and we have to turn this piece at about 900 rpm. This type of wood also requires a very easy hand with regards to using turning gouges-this has to be done very gently or you risk tearing out a big chunk out of the surface and ruining it.

Here's the process photos:

This shows the blank on the lathe. I've mounted on my Nova chuck and moved up the tailstock so I can turn it between centers. This is a wide piece and I want to avoid excess vibration at the edges. You can see in the photo that the edge is beginning to form. I've turned the edge first rather than the center in order to keep the blank solid. This also helps to dampen any vibration and possibly ruining the edge:

Here is the blank about 2 minutes later. This wood cuts fast:

And here is the blank almost hollowed out. You can see the beveled edge in the photo. There is also a small button shaped area in the center. Because the center of the piece turns more slowly than the edges we have to take special care with this area or risk tearing a hole right in the center of the piece:

Here is the blank with the center removed. I used both a roughing gouge and a 3/8" bowl gouge on the center and I spun the piece at 900 rpm. And I did this very slowly, just gently shaving away at the surface:

Here is the platter that has been hollowed out and cut as smooth as I can. Because the wood is soft and not very heavy, I left this platter a little thicker than I usually to do to make it bottom heavy and to prevent tipping:

This is the finished platter on the lathe. I've sanded it to 600 grit paper and then polished it with shavings. I couldn't see this to begin with but this piece of wood came from the crotch area of the tree:

This is the finished platter off the lathe on sitting on a table. There is no finish on it at this time:

Finish: I'm going to have to think about the finish on this platter. It is a lovely ivory color and I would like to preserve that. Most varnishes, oils, etc, have a gold color to them and that would stain this piece a light gold color. I'm going to have to find a water or colorless finish for it. I'll post photos when it's done.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Hi All,

It's Thanksgiving morning and we don't have any snow. It's clear and sunny outside and people are walking their dogs in sweat shirts and blue jeans. Usually there's lots of snow on the ground and I'm out walking in St. Paul up and down Summit avenue, all the way to St. Thomas U.

Well, snow or not, I'm going to have a happy Thanksgiving and I very much hope that you and your friends and family do too.

Best, VW

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Box elder-preliminary turn

Hi Everyone,

Today is just a lovely day here in Minnesota. There's no snow and it's sunny outside. Perfect for wood turning.

I decided to turn the smaller of the two bowl-shaped pieces of box elder today just so see what it's turning qualities are and to shape it some. Since it is an irregularly shaped piece of wood, I placed it firmly between centers and I also had to move the tool rest behind the tailstock to get it out of the way. I also turned it very slowly for safety's sake and to cut it gently.

Here we go:

Here you can see the initial set up I used. I cut away the sharp corners and edges that were protruding out from the rest of the blank:

This photo shows some initial shaping. You can see I've moved the tool rest in front of the tailstock where it usually is:

This is the blank about after about 10 minutes of turning. It's beginning to be rounded a little. Time to turn it over and begin cutting out the the inside of the piece:

Here you can see the same set up as before:

And again here we are about 10 minutes into the turning. My objective here is just to cut the piece down into a useable piece of wood:

This is a side view of the piece at present:

Notice the red-tinged shavings:

 Here we are at the moment:

This piece of wood is very wet and it needs to dry out some and stabilize so I'm going to soak it in Pentacryl for the next several days and then place it in several paper shopping bags and let it dry for 30 days. We'll return to it at Christmas time and make some decisions about how to turn it to take advantage of the lovely red streaks. The pieces I turned last night are going to join it.

And of course the wood shop is drowning in wood shavings. Time to sweep up and put some of the equipment away.

I have to work on the basswood platter next and I'll get to that late this week.

More later,


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Still more about the box elder

Hi Everyone,

I've roughed out the two long pieces of the box elder wood:

Isn't that red grain amazing?


Box elder, continued

Hi Everyone,

Well I decided to split and prepare the rest of the box elder tree for turning. Take a look at the color in the wood:

The center of the tree was water logged and rotten and it fell out the when we separated the two halves. You can see how the center is gone in the last two photos.

I'm going to turn the bottom section and the two top pieces tomorrow so stay tuned for more photos.


Saturday wrap up

Hi Everyone,

I've been working on some smaller wood turnings of late and I'm going to go a head and show you a couple of photos so you can see what I'm writing about:

I've been turning some small box elder branches I collected last month when a tree blew down in a wind storm in St. Paul along with some other small pieces of wood I've collected over the last year. I've wanted to just do some turning and some experimenting with various shapes and kinds of wood that are different from the lumber I use for bowls and platters. I'm going to continue working on this and I'll be posting an essay soon on artist wood turners whose work I've been studying.

Basswood platter

The priest at our church has been a wonderful friend over the years and I've wanted to make her a platter as a present. I've searched for just the right piece of wood and earlier this year I found an unusual piece of basswood. Basswood is a soft cream colored wood that is better known as a carving wood than a turning wood. The following blank has a lot of character to it and I turned the underside and smoothed it until it looked like ivory. Here's a photo of it on the lathe:

I'll send photos when I'm finished turning it.

Maple Bowls

I've been working on some maple bowls for both a friend who is retiring and another friend who is beginning a new life by buying a home for herself in St. Paul. Here is a photo of the turning blanks to date:

The white oak-Brazilian cherry platter

This is the platter that started me off on turning forms and objects that are not especially for kitchen ware:

No matter what I do this platter always winds up looking flat in photos. It actually is about 1 1/2 inches deep and is a lovely piece.

I'll be posting more photos through the end of the year so stay tuned and be sure and drop by the wood shop. It's an absolute mess right now which means it's been a particularly fruitful time for turning. As always there are more adventures ahead!

If I don't get a chance to post more in the next several days, I'd like to take a moment to say Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends here in the US. I hope everyone has a great day that day.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Look for the Blog

Hi Everyone,

I've decided to update the look of the blog a little and so I've adopted a darker background. It's a little easier on the eyes and the photos look a little sharper against the darker background.

Take a look around. It has the same content and the same arrangement so you won't get lost.

More later,


Monday, November 12, 2012

EEK! MICE! and other activities

Hi Everyone,

We have been invaded by mice! My husband and son saw them scampering about early this morning inside of our home. They got into some bread and some chips and the little bastards also helped themselves to a plate of brownies. That last one got me steamed so I've got rodent repellent stuff all over the place and I've set some traps for them. We'll see whose boss around here.

I've been wanting to go beyond kitchen ware for some time now and I've begun experimenting with smaller pieces of wood. I've always loved river stones for their shape and colors and I'm beginning to do some small vessels with those kinds of smooth, flattened shapes. I'll post photos when I've got something to show.

And it's beginning to snow. We had snow last night and by this morning we had a light dusting of snow. It's going to be cold at night from now on and we're probably going to get more as the week goes by. Photos on that shortly.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Veterans Day-USA

Hi Everyone,

I just want to tell you all about my husband Jim. He is a 42-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He joined the service in 1968 during the Vietnam War right out of high school and he served our county with distinction in many capacities. He's a good man and has been a great husband and friend.

He is now retired and he is teaching computer science to a new generation of learners at a community college with the same dedication and attention that he had as a Marine.  Those students are lucky to have him.

You're the best Jim and I'll always love you.



Odds and Ends, Experiments, and no ants...

Hi Everyone,

Well it's a lovely Saturday afternoon here. It's sunny and warm-tomorrow it's going to cool down and we may get snow so we need to get outside to the wood shop for some turning and carving while we can.

Ok first turning: I have a good friend who will be retiring next year and I'm going to make her a small salad bowl that will be just a right size for her and her husband (he's retiring too, on the same day). I've acquired a block of maple and I have some left over Goncalo Alves wood from another project and I've laminated them together to make a turning blank. By laminating the two pieces together I'll be able to make a bowl that uses the entire block of maple for the volume and leave the foot to the Goncalo Alves wood. Here's a photo:

This second photo shows the bowl's rim. I've been interested in reproducing some pie crust and ribbon platters. These platters were popular here in 18th century America. I don't currently have the tools or the skill to reproduce one by carving it so I decided to add a ribbon rim to the turned bowl and this is what it looks like at present:

Maple is a great turning wood. It holds fine details very well and it cuts very smoothly and cleanly. It's my favorite turning wood and this particular piece of wood holds this detailed rim very well. More on this project as I turn it.

I also finished my election night spoon out of red birch:

Actually this came out really well. It's a big, long spoon and I'm going to keep it on my mantel here at home.

I've also made some long promised tasting spoons for a friend of mine out of cherry, black walnut, and Goncalo Alves wood:

I've never heard of a tasting spoon before but apparently they are a spoon with a small bowl and a long handle. I don't know why anyone would design a spoon like that.

And I'm working on a round ribbon platter out of white oak at the moment and I'll show you photos of this in a day or two.

More later,