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Q. Where do you get the wood you use? ^ Top
A. Most of the wood I use is from the Cowichan Valley on southern Vancouver Island, where I live. Some is from trees that were taken down because they were dangerous, some is from trees blown over in windstorms, and some is even rescued from people's woodpiles! I will either pay the owner for the wood and/or I will trade it for some of my finished products.

Q. What kind of wood do you use? ^ Top
A. I use mostly Big-Leaf Maple and Arbutus (Madrone), both of which grow abundantly in this area. I especially like to use maple that is decorated with spalting (see explanation below) or figured with birdseye or curly grain. Arbutus, which makes the best kitchen implements, often shows a variety of attractive colours. Other woods I enjoy working with are cherry, plum, apple, and dogwood, although it's harder to find large-diameter trees out of these woods.

Q. What does "spalted" mean? ^ Top
A. Spalting is the initial phase of the natural decay process that occurs in some species of tree after they die and the right temperature and moisture conditions exist. Minerals already in the tree combine with moisture to begin the decomposition process. This enhances the colour and often produces fine black lines in the grain. Different species react differently to this phenomenon and the striking results are much prized by woodturners, who try to cut and dry spalted wood while it is still hard and useable. Whereas spalting is a process, "birdseye" and "curly grain" are types of figure that are inherent in some wood species or in burls. They, too, are prized by woodworkers and collectors of wooden products.

Q. What finish do you use on your wood? ^ Top
A. I use Walnut oil because it is food-safe, because it is easy and safe for me to apply, and because it is easy to re-apply if needed. I often top-dress this finish with a beeswax/mineral oil combination to give the wood an extra sheen. It is also food-safe.

Q. Where can I buy Walnut oil? ^ Top
A. Walnut oil is available from Lee Valley Tools and also from grocery stores.

Q. Where can I buy Clapham's Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish? ^ Top
A. The Clapham's Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish that I use can be purchased at a nominal price when you visit Heartwood Studio, and also when you buy my products at Imagine That! Artisans' Designs, Eclectic Gallery and Oh! Brothers.

Q. How should I care for my bowl? ^ Top
A. Care of your bowl is easy if you remember that wood is a living thing and doesn't like extreme temperatures or dampness. Keep it out of your fridge, oven, microwave and dishwasher, and clean by simply wiping the inside with a damp cloth. Towel it dry right away and also allow it to air-dry before storing it. The finish used is Walnut oil, which is food-safe and may easily be reapplied if needed. Mineral oil can also be used, and a bit of rubbed-in beeswax makes a perfect top dressing for the wood. It is best to avoid using regular cooking or salad oils as a finish, as these may go rancid in time. Scratches can often be taken out with some fine steel wool and walnut oil. Proper care of your bowl will make it a lifetime friend.

Q. Can I really use your bowls for salad? ^ Top
A. My specialty in woodturning is making functional bowls and kitchen utensils at an affordable price so that people will really USE them. That is why I only use food-safe finishes on my products. However, I also enjoy making more artistic bowls that are meant more for display only.

Q. What wood stands up the best? ^ Top
A. Woods that are dense and have a hard, smooth surface often last the longest in the kitchen. Of the local woods I use, Arbutus and Maple, including hard-spalted maple, are the most popular, although Dogwood and fruit-tree woods also stand up well.

Q. Is wood safe to use for cutting boards? ^ Top
A. Yes. Although the common (unfounded) belief was that plastic was safer in terms of not soaking up bacteria, after testing, the reverse was found to be true. Read articles about this issue here and here.

Q. How long does it take to make a bowl? ^ Top
A. Creating a wooden bowl is a lengthy process with several different steps occurring over an approximate eight-month time frame. Please refer to The Process section of this website for more details.

Q. Do you take special orders? ^ Top
A. The short answer is "no". Although I like to please people, I tend to make what the wood I have allows me to make. Every piece of wood is different, with its own unique properties, and there are only certain things I can do with it. This means it's difficult to find wood that might be suitable (right size, grain, colour, etc.) for a special order, so to avoid frustration on my part and disappointment on the customer's part, I prefer just to offer what I have and hope that people will like it.

Q. Where can I find your products? ^ Top
A. See Finding Us elsewhere on this website.

Q. What's the story behind your Birdseye Arbutus creations? ^ Top
A. Birdseye arbutus is found mainly in the root balls of some arbutus trees. Cutting up the stumps often causes damage to power saw chains from the rocks and dirt embedded in the roots. Stumps weighing 200 - 500 pounds are loaded by excavator into the back of a pickup, then trucked home and cut into workable sizes. Selected chunks are rough-turned on the lathe and put into plastic bags to slow the drying process. As they dry, they change shape. They must be final-turned and sanded before they dry completely, as they move out-of-round and become impossible to re-work on the lathe. Even after an item is final-turned, sanded and treated with oil, it will continue to change shape for awhile and will often acquire a textured surface. The bottom will have to be reflattened once or twice more so the object sits flat. Although there is more effort and patience required than when working with other woods, each birdseye arbutus creation is a one-of-a-kind piece of Nature's artwork, with very satisfying results for the woodturner.

Q. I have a 14" diameter tree and was wondering if you could make me a 14" diameter bowl from it? ^ Top
A. No, but if the wood is maple, I might be able to make you a 12"-13" diameter bowl about 5"-7" deep. If the wood is a fruit-wood, say, apple or cherry, I would first have to remove the sapwood (prone to splitting), which might then yield an 8"-10" diameter bowl about 4"-5" deep. If the wood is Arbutus, a bowl the same size as the fruit-wood might result, due to removal of sapwood and change of shape during drying. These measurements are based on there being no drying cracks and no serious blemishes in the wood that might send it to the firewood pile! (See "The Process" for more detailed information.)

Q. I would like to try wood-turning. What tools do I need? ^ Top
A. Make sure you enjoy turning before buying too many tools. Get a good turning book or two. Buy or borrow a small, simple lathe - I started with a used ShopMate with only a 5/8" spindle! I do all my work using only four chisels (1/2" bowl gouge, 1/4" bowl gouge, dove-tail scraper to make chuck-holder recesses and, occasionally, a parting chisel). Start by obtaining some small bowl blanks from a local turner to practise on. You will get "frequent flyers" (bowls that fly off the lathe while being turned) but gradually you will learn what you can and can't get away with. You will learn where not to stand and why. Start with small bowls - they hurt less when they hit you! Don't give up too early - it takes some patience. Work gloves, a good face-shield and a respirator are important pieces of safety equipment. Centre-turning is a good way to learn how cutting edges work. Once you find that you really enjoy the work, you can invest in a chainsaw and start hunting for wood! (See The Process for more information on finding and preparing the wood for turning.)

Copyright © 2008-2012 Ken Broadland