Segmented woodturning is a woodworking craft that was introduced to me about 3 1/2 years ago. It was at this time that I came upon a woodworking magazine in a bookstore that made a positive impact on me and my woodworking. On the cover of this magazine was a unique segmented woodturning sculpture by a very talented segmented woodturner, Malcom Tibbets. Immediately, I knew that I was seeing something in the woodworking craft that I had not seen before. This was wood art that was quite extraordinary and it was easy to see that Malcolm was pushing the boundaries of woodturning. If you’d like to learn more about segmented woodturning you owe it to yourself the check out Malcolm’s great instructional book, “The Art of Segmented Wood Turning.”
“The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.”
William Blake…English Romantic Poet (1757-1827)
Now, I like challenges when it comes to woodworking because it is a good test of one’s skills. It is a challenge that allows the craftsman to broaden their abilities. A wood project that provides a challenge like this also requires inspiration and there’s always the risk of failure when learning something new. This was the time that I decided to sharpen my woodturning gouges and prepare myself to tackle segmented woodturning.
My first bowl of segmented woodturning was a fruit bowl made of beautiful black walnut, cherry, and white oak. It measures 12 1/2″ in diameter and 4-1/2″ high. As I started making this wooden bowl I realized the critical importance of getting the angles of the saw blade right for accurate compound miters. There are 12 staves for this wood bowl and the angles have to meet dead-on for the bowl to be made successfully. I created more of a challenge for myself by adding vertical spacers of white oak in between the mitered staves for this wooden bowl. Before long there would be other segmented bowls to follow.
Before I cut the staves for segmented woodturning, I always practiced making the angled cuts on the 10″ compound miter saw. Scrap MDF was used to see if the miter angles were now in fact accurate. This took a little time and patience to get it just right. Eventually, I got six staves to form the walls of half of a bowl. All miters matched up fine, but the two outsides angles were not quite flat when laid on the surface of the table saw. They were close, but just slightly off. However, I figured that I could sand the outside angles to have the remaining joints meet properly. (After this experience, I started using Wixey digital angle gauge and Wixey digital protractor to set the angle of saw blades when cutting compound miters.)
As a wood turner I look back on this segmented woodturning project and remember this moment of learning this woodcraft. Handmade bowls are fun and creative. Moreover, the making of these segmented bowls requires total attention to detail along with a commitment to accuracy from start to finish. As I look back I know that I have gained experience from taking on this challenge of wood lathe work. Between that time and now other woodworking challenges have been created as well to add to my level of skills. However, when you look back at a breakthrough wood project you come to understand who you are as a woodworker just a little bit better. For me, growth can only happen if there is a challenge and the challenge is always easier to take on when there is inspiration.
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