Making Glitter

Turning wood on the lathe is more than the mechanical forcing a tool through the wood. It is using skill and bringing out the hidden character in the wood. Forming wood is not artistically different than building a pot using a potters wheel. It is the manifestation of the artists mind imposed on the physical medium.

My wife says it is making Man Glitter. That brings a smile, glitter is the one medium that creates the biggest mess. In that perspective man glitter is the best description of me turning chunks of spinning wood into things to hold. Wood is an unforgiving medium of expression. The details have to be coaxed from the material. Very sharp tools and careful speed control make it possible to pull all the unwanted ‘glitter’ off of the wood, leaving the desired image.

I first learned to make metal glitter on a Sherline mini-lathe. I would take chunks of aluminum and make trashcans full of metal ribbons. Inside the piece of metal I could see pistons and boxes, all sorts of wonderful things.

Sharpening tools for turning metal provided the background that I later needed to effectively turn wood. Surprising to me was how quickly some woods could dull the edge on a tool. The difference between a sharp tool and a dull one is the first lets you work with the lathe in smooth artistic motions. The latter makes you force the lathe and wood to cooperate resulting in chattering arm numbing work.