This month, I had the privilege of conducting a demonstration for our local woodturning group, the South Suburban Chiselers and Illiana Wood Turners in South Holland, IL—a community I’ve been part of for over 5 years. Being both a participant and presenter at the monthly meetings is always a joy. The opportunity to showcase my skills arose after I donated a beautiful white oak bowl, complete with a butterfly or bowtie patch, for the annual raffle last November. The interest from fellow members in creating such patches led to this month’s demo.
While many woodturners prefer working with solid, uncracked wood, I’ve learned to value every bit of material, especially when dealing with heritage bowls crafted from significant, fallen trees. A case in point: two autumns ago, during a family camping trip on our Southern Illinois property owned since 1986, I discovered a large branch had fallen from the iconic tire swing tree that generations of grandchildren had played on. It turned out to be Walnut. With my chainsaw in hand, I salvaged the wood, preventing it from becoming firewood near the campfire. Now, those salvaged pieces have transformed into 16 heritage bowls, each with its unique story.
See the YouTube Video
I got lots of help on learning how to add a wood patch from Big Island Engraving. A company in Hawaii that repairs wood bowls and sells almost everything you need, along with helpful videos. If you are interested in repairing a bowl I recommend you visit their website.
Back in the mid 1980s, my father-in-law purchased over 200 acres of untouched rolling hills, nestled between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in southern Illinois directly adjacent to the Shawnee National Forrest. His plan was to host his 6 children, their families and friends for weekends throughout the year to gather around the fire pit and build memories. His little grandchildren grew up to bring their friends and new families to experience ‘The Farm’.
Next to the outhouse was a crude wooden structure originally built in the mid 19th century that we lovingly called the ‘cabin’. We used the cabin to keep out of the rain, sleep, store water and food supplies. I might also add that you could see through the walls to the outdoors and at night could hear the uninvited critters running and chewing. The grandchildren loved playing in the ‘cabin’.
Behind the ‘cabin’ was an old maple tree which lost a limb. I seized on the idea to take the fallen log back to my Chicago home and turn heirloom bowls for the next generation of family members. My ambition got the better of me as there were 15 grandchildren and only a 4 foot log. Once I started to turn the wood on the lathe, I realized, like many fallen limbs, it was rotting. I would not, could not give anyone a punky bowl. But I was enjoying turning the wood so continued til there was nothing left of the log.
I learned a lot about rotting wood that week. With it’s worm holes, spalting, pith, crotch wood, grain, live edge, fungus and more. Guess I’m hooked!
Woodland Bowl Company is honored to supply the wooden bowls that come in contact with each student at Spark Montessori school in Chicago. Spark Montessori, a 2017 start up was eager to use our bowls in the classrooms . They’ve successfully created an environment that supports and fosters the natural spark that exists within all children so they can work to achieve their own unique potential.
Incorporating the Spark Montessori logo was a snap. We used their logo button submerged in clear resin on the bottom of each bowl.
Montessori philosophy relies on natural products to teach young students. It’s self-directed learning through exploration and play. Small hands handling a wooden bowl was a great inspiration.