Sunday, August 29, 2010


Many years ago, I was interviewed for a local morning TV show, and the host asked where I came up with my designs. Without really thinking about how it was going to sound, I told him I frequently had visions. I sounded a little crazy, and was teased about that answer for quite a while.

But - it's true. Sometimes an idea just pops into my head, and I can actually visualize the piece entirely completed, without having actually made it. It tends to save me a lot of time, because "seeing" a piece before building it allows me to decide if it's really worth the effort. Weird, but it works for me.

The other day I was working in my shop and one of my students stopped by. He watched me work for a while, building a small platform bed, and asked where I got the plans to build it. I pointed to my head. It's all up there, I explained. After you build for a while, you can visualize it, figuring out the joinery, spacing, details, scale, and measurements before you even pick up a board.

Recently, I was throwing some very small pots on the wheel, and started experimenting with making very small bowls, with wide lips. The design started as a vision, and well... follow my design process....

I've been wanting to combine wood and clay, to make some small sushi serving dishes. Not for the sushi itself, but for the wasabi and pickled ginger. Here are a couple of the small bowls I made, with a nice piece of walnut, which I felt would compliment the glaze on the bowls.

Here I've cleaned up the edges and squared the ends.

And using a plunge router and a Router Buddy, I've cut the first recess.

What's a Router Buddy? How did I do that?

It's a very simple circle cutting attachment that mounts on the bottom of my router. It is easily adjusted, and by varying the depth of cut, I can make a tapered hole that perfectly fits the bowls. There is a limit to how small of a circle you can rout with the Router Buddy, so I rout as much as it will let me, and then finish off the center with a forstner bit in the drill press.

These bowls are two different sizes, so each hole requires a different set-up. I usually cut a circle in a piece of scrap wood first, to make sure I don't rout the hole too big for the ceramic piece. I think wide grout lines are a crime.

Here is the second recess routed into the board. Notice that the hole has to get deeper toward the center.

The bowls fit quite nicely,

so I figured out my margins and trimmed one end on a 30˚ angle.

And then cut the other end, too.

After the ends were cut, I ripped both sides at that same angle.
I had originally planned on making this base tapered, to accentuate the different sizes of the bowls. But the board wasn't wide enough to accommodate the angles I wanted, so I left them parallel.

Here is an example of a tapered version, this one is Maple with my (very purple) Eura-Pansy glaze.

Pun intended.

Sanding with the Festool Rotek made this board very smooth in minutes. Using the Rotek is a like an upper body workout, without the boredom of lifting weights.

I usually adhere the ceramic piece with silicone, so that it can move a little, as the wood changes with seasonal movement.

A few more coats of oil, and these are ready to be listed on Etsy.

This piece turned out exactly how I saw it in my mind. Call me quirky, but I think instead of feeling embarrassed about having visions, we should celebrate the fact that we can.


Anonymous said...

I feel similar when it comes to design, the ideas are just there. It was never really in question it just sort of fits like a moving blue print in yr mind, with that said now, do you write these plans out after designing them? Do you make yr own design book with meaurements and ideas and notes and such? What yr post idea process?

Wood It Is! said...

I keep a log of every piece I build - I can tell you exactly how long it took, what materials I used, and what I would do differently the next time.

I can go into my records and tell you how long it took me to build a dresser 15 years ago, what hardware I used, and how I would streamline it the second time around.

Keeping detailed records has been very beneficial in my bidding process for new work, too. What can I say? I'm a little OCD about the paperwork side of things. :)