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Here on Maui the changing of the seasons is subtle. The weather doesn’t change that much, maybe a little more rain and less wind in the winter, but pretty much perfect. For the surfer, we see a huge change, swells from the north will turn our quiet shorelines into raging playgrounds for the adventurous at heart. For our #offthedeck sunset / sunrise addicts, it means the sun will move south, clearing the mountains and setting in the ocean once again. Sunrise are better and the rainbows more plentiful! I, for one any ready for winter :)
Here are some of the end of summer images as we head into winter.
Koa is the most beautiful wood I have had the pleasure to work with. The color, texture and amazing three dimensional depth, put it in a class of it’s own. A variety of the Acacia tree family, unique to Hawaii. It grows to be eighty plus feet tall, from sea level to near the tops of the mountains. Unfortunately it is also rare, having been cleared for cattle and burned to process sugar in the late 1800′s. There is a movement to restore it, but that’s another story.
The wood that I use for my creations comes from “windfall” trees, downed by the forces of natural. None of the mills I work with cut live trees, so it is often difficult and expensive to come by.
This particular piece of wood is from a tree from the upper slops of East Haleakala on Maui. It had been on the ground for a while, so it had begun to decay. This process called “spalting” can add dramatic color and depth to the wood.
When I’m looking for a piece for a rocker, there are two things I look for, structural integrity and dynamic patterns in the figure and curl. I look for natural curve in the grain for the runners and solid straight grains for the support components, as well as distinctive patterns and curl for the arms, seat and headrest. This can take some time, at $45-$65 a board foot (12″x12″x1″) you don’t want to make a mistake.
After selecting the raw slabs, I lay out the design (each chair is different, as I do not use stock templates) and rough cut the various components. These pieces are stacked in my drying shed to stabilize. After two months they were ready to be shaped and sanded to a near finished point before assembly.
Each component must be hand fitted to ensure tight joints. This process takes weeks, as each section is glued and cured. Each rocker’s wood has a different weight and balance point that must be careful worked out before the final glue up. I use a marine epoxy and waterproof glue, so it needs to be right the first time. I let the glued up chair sit for a few weeks to cure and stabilize before finishing.
The next step is to sand the entire chair over and over, applying thin layers of lacquer sealer until all the grains and joints are baby bottom smooth. A final lacquer finish is sprayed and a hand rubbed wax and oil is applied.
My goal in a rocker is to create a piece of furniture that is both comfortable and aesthetically pleasing, revealing the amazing beauty of the wood.
Turning bowls is one of most satisfying things I do in wood. There is something raw and exciting about taking a chunk of wood and turning it into a useful and beautiful vessel. There alot of inherent risks involved with the process. It takes a commitment to sacrifice an expensive piece of wood.
There is a very real chance that it will have a flaw inside or you make a mistake and it explodes off of the lathe at 1500+ rpms. There is also the flying wood chips and dust created while carving though the wood with a razor sharp gouge or knife. On the other side of the risk is the reward. Creating a graceful shape, revealing the hidden beauty of the wood and aesthetic value of both form and function, keep me on the edge of anticipation. Each calabash or vase is unique, the pattern of the wood, the curve of the shape and history of the piece of wood adds to the sense of satisfaction to each one I make.
I have also been carving intricate patterns into these forms, adding to the sculptural aspect of the turning process.
There are some master turners on Maui, their work is the inspiration that keep following in their path. Check out the links below to see some of their work.
One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of my craft, is taking a clients concepts for a piece and creating it. I love to the see how the “artistic freedom” that is a part of the process plays out. I have to admit, I don’t “see” the finished work in my mind before I start. It’s an adventure for me to see how the process, reveals something special.
This project started with a phone call from the Maui Hands Gallery, Craig and Yvonne were interested in a Curly Koa bench. As we talked on the phone, I felt their ideas were right up my alley. We met at my studio to get some sketches and budget estimates on paper. After seeing my work, shop (humble and messy) and wood types available, it was a go.
The hardest part of making anything in Curly Koa is finding the wood, this bench was to be 5 feet long, so would require a large amount of matching wood. I work with several mills on Maui and the Big Island, but it is still a challenge to find the quality and quantity of dry wood (wet wood adds months to the project) at a price in the budget. On the second visit to a local Maui mill the owner remembered some old wood stashed away in the loft of the machine shop. This required crawling around a dusty loft with a flashlight, moving stacks of wood searching for this hidden treasure. Once it was found, I measured and selected each board to see if the components needed could be made. It was as if this wood was just waiting here all these years just for this project!
Raw slab wood is kind of like raw diamonds, you never really know what you have until your start cutting. As I planned the branches, the amazing quality, we call curly, revealed itself. This was some of the finest wood I had ever worked with! This really inspires me, as I lay out the design and components on each slab of wood, matching the grain and figure to the function and display of the finished bench. After this process, I came up short a couple pieces, so back to the mill/loft to look for more.
Now that I had the wood and the plan shapes drawn out, it’s time to go to the saws and cut them out. At this point the rough cut pieces are usually stacked and let dry for a week to a month. This wood was completely dry, so I was able to get right to the shaping.
Each piece must be hand cut and shaped, mortises and tendons fitted using mechanical and electric tools. Sculptured elements are carefully hand carved, ground and sanded to the desired forms. These raw forms are sealed and sanded to a near finished smoothness. Each joint is dry fitted and prepared for gluing. Every measurement, angle and connection must be right, as I use marine epoxy , very difficult to adjust or remove. Section by section the bench beings to take form. Many adjustment and refinements later it is assembled and ready to sand. Every surface and joint is sanded and sealed over and over until it is one flowing piece. Now it will sit for a week or two to cure and see if there is any movement in the joints and seams.
The final stage is the finish. On this bench we choose a clear lacquer. This is done with many fine layers, hand sanded between coats to reduce build up. When the seal is uniform and velvet to the touch, the final step of hand rubbing it with a blend of oils and waxes to leave a silky natural feel.
After another week of curing the bench was ready to ship to it’s new home in Northern California. The Shotwell’s remodeled the entryway in their home for this custom piece. It is such an honor to work with such great people, to make something special.