Q: What does “segmented” mean?

A: I get asked this all the time. Most of the bowls and vessels I make are segmented, meaning, rather than cut from one large piece of wood, mine are made from many pieces of wood. These individual segments (wedges) are then glued together to form different diameter rings and the rings are then stacked and glued together to form a segmented turning blank, ready to be mounted on the lathe and finished.

Q: How long does it take to make a segmented bowl?

A: Depending on the complexity of the design and number of segments involved, these vessels can take from a couple of days for a piece with as few 100 to 200 segments, all the way up to five or six days for a piece with 1500 segments and more. A good estimate of my time is that I spend one hour per segmented ring in a vessel; if a piece has 25 segmented rings in it, I spent approximately 25 hours in total time producing it.

Q: What are the advantages of doing segmented bowls over traditional one-piece bowls?

A: Doing segmented work is unique in that I use dimensional hardwood lumber that I buy from any number of sources, and then immediately cut into segments, glue up, and start turning right away. In contrast to segmented turning, wet turning is taking a downed tree (or taking down a tree!) and then chainsawing into blanks, which requires a little more muscle and time. Solid wood from a stump is not kiln dried, therefore it is wet. Wet turning requires turning it to a rough shape and then, if you’re lucky enough to have access to a kiln, kiln-drying it for 30 days or so and then final turning on the lathe and finishing. If you don’t have the pleasure of having a kiln, then you need time…time for the wet rough-turned piece to adequately dry before final turning and finishing. The old rule of thumb is 1 year of drying for every 1 inch of bowl thickness.

Q: What’s my favorite wood?

A: Such a tough question! But without a doubt, my favorite domestic wood is Cherry! It is readily available where I live, soft enough yet stable enough and pretty forgiving, and turns very nicely on the lathe. Like most hardwood, Cherry darkens over time after finishing, giving it a patina that just increases its warmth and beauty! A very common foursome of hardwood I use in a majority of my work is hard Maple, Cherry, Wenge and Padauk.

Q: How do I design my bowls and vessels?

A: For several years I’ve used computer software as an aid in designing the pieces I produce. It’s nice because the math is done for me. Before using the computer and software to design with, I did it the old fashioned way, with grid paper and a ruler, and a little pie…Pi, rather, 3.14159!! To calculate each segment’s edge length, you multiple the diameter of each ring of segments you plan to make times Pi, divided by the number of segments. As an example, for a simple ring of 24 segments with a 12” diameter, the formula to determine the edge length of each of those segments would look like this: 12 (diameter) X 3.14159 (Pi) divided by 24 (number of segments). The segment edge length would be 1.57." I would then head to the shop and begin cutting segments. Time consuming? Yes. I love computers and software, so it was a no-brainer to go digital for bowl construction. If you have questions regarding the specific software programs I use, their availability and cost, feel free to contact me and I'll steer you in the right direction.

Q: What is the best part of segmenting?

A: No question, the best part of segmenting is the ability to use different and contrasting species of wood and coordinate them into a design that makes most people say “WOW, how’d you do that?!” Mixing Wenge (an almost black wood) with Padauk (a dark reddish-orange wood) with Yellow Heart (obviously a yellow toned wood) and Maple (an off-white color) produces a real eye-popping piece!

Q: What types of finish do I use?

A: I make two types of vessels, a decorative style and a food-safe style (salad bowls, pasta, etc.) Each type is finished differently. For the decorative vessels, I use a shellac-based high build friction polish which produces a beautiful, smooth sheen that compliments the natural beauty of the wood. Personally, I'm not a fan of shiny, glossy finishes on bowls and vessels that give the piece a plastic look. For food-safe vessels, after starting out using Walnut oil, I switched to simple mineral oil, which is readily available at any pharmacy and can be reapplied for the life of the bowl. Customers with nut allergies have no worries now!

Q: What are the use-and-care suggestions for decorative and food-safe vessels?

A: Decorative bowls look great as a table centerpiece, on your fireplace mantel or on a bookshelf. Decorative vessels and bowls are suitable to hold dry foods like whole fruits, nuts, or packaged candies, etc. Food-safe bowls are suitable for such things as salad, pasta or popcorn. Avoid wet foods. I have a great story about a friend’s salad bowl in the Blog section. To clean your bowl, wipe out with a damp cloth and dry immediately, FOR ANY WOODEN BOWL/VESSEL, REMEMBER: DO NOT SUBMERGE IN WATER, PLACE IN A DISHWASHER OR MICROWAVE!!!

Q: More questions?

A: Send me a message through the Contact page and I’ll be glad to answer your questions.