Red Oak Hollow

Woodturning, a joyful hobby making round things out of wood

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Occasionally the Unusual: part 1

Some short stories about uncommon requests for turnings

Balusters, newels, and so forth are the lifeblood of my woodturning business. I do a LOT of those. But from time to time, something out of the ordinary comes along and makes this business very interesting! Here are a few examples...

Dr. Bonicelli carries the school's academic mace for the first time for graduation.
Of course, I make academic maces, also known as college maces or university maces. While I have now done about fifty of these maces, I still consider them to be unusual. Frankly, it is a huge honor to be chosen by a college or university, a high school, or even a foundation or incorporated city to make a mace for them. Those have all been my customers. A mace should last a hundred years, or well beyond, so there is MY work going on for years after I have passed back into dust. It's an honor. Read more about maces from articles in both columns on the home page.

12" diameter hard maple plates -- set of eight -- $440
One day I got an e-mail from a fellow woodturner about a lady in Texas who had contacted him about making two sets of wood steak plates. He passed the job to me and I called her. She explained that when she was growing up, they always ate steak from wood plates because they didn't draw the heat from the steak. She wanted two sets of eight plates for her two sons for Christmas that year. These are the plates I made for her. I made 19 since that is how much wood I had and I wanted to be sure I had a couple extras in case something went wrong. Well, when I sent them to her, she called to tell me that she loved them so much she just couldn't give them to her sons for Christmas but they would have to wait until they got married to get their respective sets of wood steak plates. I certainly appreciated her compliment but wondered what she did for Christmas gifts that year!

Twenty-nine of fifty gavels made from tree on new court house site
When they decided to build a new courthouse, the City of Alexandria, VA, had to cut down a number of trees. A year and a half later, someone decided they should make something from those trees to commemorate the occasion of building the new courthouse. They decided on gavels and I was their man. They delivered several pieces of the tree to me to use and I started cutting it up into smaller pieces so it would have a chance to dry out better. Having laid on the ground for about 18 months resulted in the maple tree they provided spalting quite severely. For a woodturner, that can be a good thing. Spalting is the process of decomposition where the molds and mildews start to break this tree back down to dirt. Well, parts of this tree had spalted so much that it had become a bit pithy, or two soft to use. However, I was able to get enough good wood out of the pieces I had to make their fifty presentation gavels, and they were pleased. It was a fun project, especially knowing the origin of the wood and the reason the gavels were made.

Wood rocket models about six feet tall -- the non-flying type
These rockets were pretty cool. A rocket company approached DeSantis Designs about making rocket models for display. Jerry and Tim DeSantis, brothers, have been my customers for several years so called on my to turn the rocket bodies and "fuel tanks" for the models. They cut rocket fins to hold everything together and applied the paint. These are what they produced. I highly recommend DeSantis Designs for custom furniture and interiors which are absolutely of outstanding quality in both design and construction.

Barely able to lift the block when glued up, this shield weighed 14 pounds when done
A customer approached me to ask about making a Greek shield as he is a Greek reenactor and wanted a wood shield to use as the core. He would clad the outside in brass or bronze and the inside with leather, adding grips on the inside so he could wield it in reenactments. My son and I could barely lift the 7" x 36" x 36" red oak block which I glued up for the shield. It was too heavy and unwieldy to cut round on my Tannewitz 30" bandsaw so I set it up on blocks and roughly rounded it out with my chain saw. By the time I had gotten it mounted on the lathe and turned, it was down to five inches deep, about 33" across, and 3/8" thick. I made two for him. One was 13 pounds and one was 14 pounds. I hope he will send pictures some day. I have asked and he keeps saying he will...