Why did it take me 2 years to turn this simple bowl on a lathe? Here’s the back story so it all makes sense.

My son, Isaac, turned me on to turning wood a few years ago when he brought a lathe to my shop and the tools I needed to turn a pen. I argued with him, told him I didn’t need another hobby or tool. Furthermore, I told him that I had tried it when he was just a little kid and the lathe grabbed my tool and threw it through a window so I sold the lathe.

I turned my first pen and was hooked. Of 40 years of working with wood, I’ve never enjoyed an art form more.

But back to the story; as I put a few photos of my turnings on Facebook, a farmer, Bruce Regier, about an hour’s drive away asked me if I wanted a Siberian Elm he had cut down and had stashed in his barn. It was chocked full of burls which is the most exquisite collection of wood patterns on a tree. I was like a kid on Christmas morning.

As I continued to gaze at these beautiful logs in the trailer, I wondered what I would do with all of that glorious wood. Then I remembered what I often tell college students when I talk to them about using whatever talents/gifts/professions they have to help feed the hungry. It dawned on me; I would make things out of the Burly Tree and offer them for sale with ALL of the money going to feed the hungry with:

The Outreach Program

I first turned a set of pens that went for $500+ dollars, enough to feed more than 2,000 hungry kids!

Then, after all that excitement, I did nothing with the log until now. Nothing. Not one thing for more than two years. Or so it seems.

Actually, I was quite busy doing two things:

  1. Acquiring the skills to properly turn the log into bowls and other forms
  2. Acquiring the equipment I needed to do it justice

You see, I wasn’t good enough for the tree. If you’ve ever been a woodworker and are given a rare piece of wood, you’ll understand the agony of deciding what to do with it; you can’t just go to WalMart and get a replacement.

So I’ve been practicing, practicing, practicing.

My first lathe is a good one, but just a little feller. I can not turn big bowls – which I really want to do with the Burly Tree – on it for it just doesn’t have enough rocks in it pockets. You can’t see it, but there is a thick rubber matt in front of this lathe. I say that is there for two reasons: one, something soft to stand on; two, something me for to lay down on and cry when the piece I’m working on falls apart. I’ve shed a lot of tears on that mat. You just wouldn’t believe how many mistakes I’ve made.

So I found a much bigger one.

Here’s a video of me turning a green piece of wood. Now, mind you, green wood is MUCH easier to turn than dried, hardened wood so turning those was practice for me to finally turn this fine piece.

Wood turning a green bowl

So now it begins. This first bowl goes back to the farmer who gave me the log. Over time, I will turn more bowls and offer them on Ebay for auction and ALL, and I mean, ALL of the purchase price will go to the Outreach Program to help feed the hungry.

There is a psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who came up with the idea of the Flow. He said that we reach our flow, when our skills meet our challenges. If our skills exceed our challenges, we become easily bored. If our challenges exceed our skills, we become frustrated. However, when we match up our skills and challenges, then we find our flow and can work for ours on something with pure pleasure, becoming lost in the love of creation.

I found the flow. Check out the photos below to see the process of turning this bowl.

A burl
Backside of the burl

Bowl roughed out to shape with my chainsaw
bowl turned a bit more before I turn it for the live edge

turned down to shape, ready to finish
finished bowl

The first bowl from the Burly Tree!

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Oh, yeah, one more thing; there’s another story that is being written, and illustrated, about The Burly Tree. More to come…