Swirling patterns by cutting and reassembling a single board
Synopsis: Michael Shuler wanted to segment a single kind of wood in a bowl. He figured out a way to create a striking look in a turned vessel that didn’t require the use of several colored woods to achieve pattern and contrast. When finished, his bowls looks like they’ve been tediously glued up from hundreds of separate pieces. His process involves cutting thinly tapered wedged that are glued into discs. The wedges are glued into half-discs and then bandsawn apart into concentric half rings. Then matching pairs of half rings are glued together, stacked and glued into a cone-shaped bowl blank. Then he turns the vessel to final form and finish it on the lathe.
I’ve always been fascinated with turned forms, even before I knew what a lathe was. When I was 14 years old, I made miniatures on a makeshift lathe from birch dowels. A pocketknife was my only tool, but I was turning wood, and that was all that mattered. Later, in high school, I turned candlesticks, then chair legs, lamps and other creations, searching for a way to make the lathe a tool for artistic expression. Then one winter, sick in bed with a cold. I read some back issues of a woodworking magazine a friend had given me and discovered the work of turning greats like Frank Knox and Ed Moulthrop, as well as the wealth of different things the lathe could do, including segmented turning.
Segmented work and the design possibilities it offered met my needs for artistic expression, but most segmented vessels tended toward strong contrasts, with some makers using half a dozen or more different woods in a single piece to achieve a colorful effect. I wanted to see what could be done by segmenting a single kind of wood…