My love and appreciation for wood goes back to my roots growing up in Oregon. My father was a sheet metal worker, but he did a lot of woodworking around the house and I learned much from him. But I never really got serious about woodworking until much later in life when I could afford the power tools that are required to do the precision work I wanted. One day I was reading an Arizona Highways catalog and noticed they were advertising pens made from mesquite. That launched me into buying my first lathe. Actually, a small metal turning lathe. I modified it for making pens, and I was hooked. Making pens led to making wine stoppers which led to making small bowls. And soon I had exceeded the capacity of my little lathe. My next lathe was a mid-sized lathe made by a company in New Zealand. Now I could make all sorts of objects!
Then I got a call from a friend who lives in Tucson. He told me he had a dead ironwood tree on his property and I could have it if I wanted. I had never cut ironwood before. So I showed up with my trusty bow saw and started sawing on a limb. My friend came out, saw what I was doing, and asked, "didn't you bring a chainsaw?" I sheepishly replied that I did not own one. He brought his out and I proceeded to cut down the tree. After I made a few pens out of the wood, I was hooked. This wood was so beautiful. Ironwood displays a reflective property called chatoyance meaning it reflects sunlight just like tiger-eye.
My full-time wood-turning career began when my corporate career ended in 2007. I began doing street fairs around Phoenix and the rest of Arizona. And it was not long before I needed yet a bigger lathe. So now I have a full size lathe and I use it to create everything but pens.
Now I specialize in creating useful and decorative items out of ironwood. This wood only grows in the Sonoran Desert which extends from southern Arizona into northern Mexico. The tree is protected so I rely on private landowners as my source of ironwood. I only cut dead trees and use other woods too. The Sonoran Desert is also home to other attractive wood species, such as mesquite in many varieties, and palo verde and its cousins. And there are many woods imported from Australia: willow acacia and various eucalyptus.
So every time there is a big windstorm here in Phoenix, there are always new species that become available from our urban forest. These are wood species that are imported from other countries for landscape use here, such as weeping acacia from Australia and olive from Europe. Lately I have been creating bowls that retain the natural edge of the wood. This is a bit more difficult to create than a straight-lipped bowl, but the extra effort is worth it. The natural edge gives the bowl a much richer look. So what you end up with is nice undulating, contrasting border along the lip of the bowl. But there are many items that can be created on a lathe that are not circular. In the years to come, I plan to explore those shapes. And I hope you will come along on this journey with me.