From Tree To Gallery
I had an old jeep which I jacked up 4í in the air, got a saw
horse for a tool rest, sharpened a piece of 1/2" rebar,
screwed a chunk of wood to the rear rim, fired up the jeep,
put it in 2nd gear and became a master wood turner!!!! All
BS, but it could be done, other than the "master turner" part.
Actually, I bought an old 12" Delta lathe with some small
gouges, which I still use for spindle turning small stuff.
I obtained some books on turning from the library, and started
I flew quite a few chunks when I first started. One broke
my 3í x 8í garage window! Replaced it and put 2 by 4 wire
over it. Also broke my overhead florescent light, which I
have since screened. After a couple years I obtained the larger
lathe you see in the photo.
I'm basically self-taught.On Molokai there weren't any other
wood turners here that I was aware of. A few years later I
met Robin Baker who is primarily a carver but also turns and
we exchange info frequently.
Danny Derohan from Kauai and John Bergholz (excellent turners)
both have come over and helped me out in years passed.
Via telephone and email, I obtained information from Kelly
Dunn on the Big Island and Bob Hamada on Kauai, mainly on
Turning is quite easy with the right tools that are sharpened
correctly once you get the hang of it. Good finishing is another
From tree to the gallery. When I get a tree, I cut the wood
in the largest chunks I can handle. Having a Bobcat (My baby)
I can pick up close to 1000 pounds.
transporting the wood home, I have two acres on the hillside
in Kawela, Molokai, I paint the ends with semi gloss latex
to help prevent drying and cracking. I then spray it with
insecticide and cover. Powder beetles can do big time damage
Click images to
If Iím going to side turn the timber I split the wood long
ways which also helps prevent checking. Other than Norfolk
pine, I try to turn the wood as soon as I can. If I donít
have time to do so, I sink it in a 10,000 gallon tank I built,
which preserves it until I have time to rough turn it.
When you first cut Norfolk pine the wood is
completely white. To obtain the black you have to let it sit
in log form in the shade or lightly covered for a couple months
as the black is create by a fungus as the wood dries. To check
on how much fungus has formed you have to cut it and check
it.If you cut it to soon there's no black. If you wait to
long it's almost all black and when you turn it thin you get
very little translucentcy. After years of blowing chunks I
finally woke up and now use a core plug tool to check it.
From my tank Iíve turned pieces that have
been sunk for over 5 years and they came out fine. Only problem
is I forget whatís in there! There's probably a few tons.
I currently have about 20 tons of timber sunk and stacked
waiting to be turned.
This diagram will help you understand how I extract the bowls
from the timber. I always end turn Norfolk pine and most of
the time I end turn Kou as well. Photo on the right shows
from log to finished Norfolk Pine.
I side turn all the Milo, Pheasant Wood, Kamani and Koa, because
the centers of the branches or trees of these woods are usually
soft or cracked, which would leave an area in the bottom which
would have to be patched.
The finish I use on a particular piece depends on the kind
of wood. On Hawaiian calabashes I use mineral oil. In early
Hawaii the oil of the Kukui tree was used. I tried it but
it remained a bit tacky. I sink the finished translucent Norfolk
pine [about 3/16" thick] for a couple days in a mixer
Hawaii woodturner Kelly Dunn turned me on to which is basically
a Danish oil.
After soaking, I wipe off all the oil and let it dry for a
few days. I then buff it and it's ready for selling. Aloha