Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Interview with Wood Turner Roger Dunn

1. What is your favorite wood to work with and why?

Pacific yew, Taxus Brevifolia, because it is rare to find in a decent size to work with. But once found and turned it produces beautiful pieces with almost no need for a finish. The tree has healing properties as described on the National Forest Service website: “Pacific yew is again being used for medicinal purposes. In the late 1960's, taxol-a complex compound extracted from yew bark-was identified as a possible anticancer agent (18,48). The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has found taxol to be one of the most promising of more than 120,000 plant compounds tested for anticancer properties. Taxol appears to be effective against a wide range of tumors, and good responses have been obtained in the treatment of refractory ovarian cancer (9,38)”.

2. Do you have a favorite tree?

The beauty and mystery of Madrone, Arbutus menziesii, is unique. It has deciduous looking leaves but is an evergreen. Its bark is smooth like it has already been stripped. The bark sheds like a molting animal. The wood is pink when freshly cut. Turning it very thin when green produces wonderfully warped forms. In order to create a, uniform shaped bowl, the rough turning must be boiled to avoid the cracks that usually tear an unboiled rough turning apart.

3. What piece have you created from wood are you most proud of and why?

Spalted translucent Monkey Puzzle, Araucaria araucana, bowls take a lot of work but the end result is gorgeous. The pieces are turned end-grain very thin, sanded thinner and then soaked over and over in a concoction of boiled linseed oil, varnish and mineral spirits.

4. What was the hardest piece you ever made from wood and why?

I turned a tree’s fork in end grain orientation once, and only once. I wanted to make a bowl with a rabbit ears look. The spinning ‘ears’ were like a boring machine trying to bore a hole through me. The finished ‘object’ wasn’t what I thought it would be and I abandoned further attempts.

5. Is there a question we didn't ask that you would like to answer?

The ‘addiction’ of turning includes the thrill at getting a phone call from someone with a downed tree; traveling to see the wood, seeing promising blanks in the log, cutting it up with a chainsaw and harvesting the promising blanks, the journey back to the studio with the new found treasures, the roughing to discover the grain orientation and form, waiting for the rough blank to dry, final turning, sanding and finishing the bowl, the approval from a buyer who appreciates the bowl for the beauty of the wood and what became of the tree after the phone call.

To see more of Roger's work, visit his gallery

Jim also  curated the book
Masters: Woodturning Major Works By Leading Artists

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