Where is wood turning going?

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by hu lowery, Jun 27, 2013.

  1. hu lowery

    hu lowery

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    did a little homework

    Hard to say how significant this is, I just sampled the turnings that people posted pictures of over a fairly long period of time. Obviously this doesn't indicate how many of these turnings sell, if they were even offered for sale, or the sale price. A very small sampling too, only low hundreds of objects total.

    Anyway, from the sample around 2003 roughly two-thirds of the objects posted were the kind of things I would be interested in making.

    Next I sampled around 2010. Not good, only about one-third of the images posted were of things I would be interested in making.

    Sampling current pages though I find no significant change from 2010 levels.

    So, "round and brown" fell fifty percent from 2003 to 2010 but has held steady from 2010 to 2013. This isn't sales figures though so hard to know what it means other than apparently the turning percentage of this type of object has stabilized among turners that post images of their work on the internet site I visited.

    Guess it will come down to what I already suspected, I'll have to test local waters for myself.

    Hu
     
  2. odie

    odie

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    Pure lathe turning VS embellishment....

    Since the 1980's, I've seen a definite evolving of what's in vogue with lathe turning. Back then, more turners were mainly interested in turning with lathe skills as the focus of the effort......but now, things are changing towards embellishment, or "post processing", as Hu has termed it.

    This is not good, nor bad.......but, I've been one who has remained focused on pure turning skills as a primary objective . This should be evident to those who are familiar with my works.

    My appreciation for what others do has evolved with the times, but my own "evolvement", has been with increasing my skill level for using tools......both preparation and techniques.....this, with the goal of the best "tool finish" prior to sanding. Along with that, my sanding techniques and what I consider my "eye" for artistic shape have also evolved in degree of refinement.

    I'm certainly not alone in my "turning philosophy", but I'm distinctly within a smaller group of turners who have remained focused on the basics. It seems to me that nearly all turners start off pursuing pure turning in their beginnings, but most of them evolve with the times, or current vogue, and eventually leave their roots in pursuit of the many alternative ways of completing a turning.

    One other thing I've noticed, is very few turners are still doing basic bowl and platter shapes. This means the most difficult part of these shapes have been eliminated.......the interior. I'm not sure, but this one thing may have contributed to the reasons why so many no longer spend the effort to do bowl and platter shapes......other than those shapes with a very basic minimal and abbreviated curve.

    ooc
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2013
  3. dbonertz

    dbonertz

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    Hu,

    I believe there will always be a market for wood crafted products. There are ,in my mind, two routes to go. One is the art side which is what you see more of on forums and such. Someone mentioned validation as a need and what you see on the forum sites is just that. There are thousands who don't show there work on forums who are artists and plain turners alike. There is a trend in wood turning, maybe other art mediums, of finding their inner voice or that signature piece. Some of these people do OK selling but most make for the sake of making and earn their income in other areas, day job, teaching, tools and etc. The second route is the production route. Find a way to make a few items quickly and made well. I will share with you a couple of true stories. A friend took about 25 bottle stoppers to one liquor store that sells a lot of wine. He showed the owner these stoppers and the owner said he would by them all and wanted 20 more every month. My friend was asking ten dollars each (this was about 10 years ago) and told the owner he was just interested in selling these 25. The owner purchased them but my friend could have had a regular client. The other is another friend who does a few shows a year (very selective of what shows). He makes bowls with inlays and simple bowls, mainly. However for each show he looks for a holiday coming up. One example is Christmas where he made 300 simple ornaments. He told me he could make one in four minutes. When he does this show he sells all of them in the first two days of a three day show for $10 each. This makes his show worth it and every other item he sells is icing on the cake.

    My point is you can earn money doing this but you won't get rich. You may earn enough to pay for the hobby and enough extra to take a nice vacation every year or two. Unless of course you become a Mahoney or Glenn Lucas who production turn forty or more hours a week as a real job.

    There are opportunities to earn some money at this but if you want to keep it as a hobby you must become realistic on what you expect to earn doing this. Set yourself a realistic goal and work to achieve it. Once achieved then re-evaluate where you are and decide do you want more, is this enough or maybe you will decide to cut back.

    As for a market, everyone even the less privileged, like at least one nice thing in their home.
     
  4. hu lowery

    hu lowery

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    trying to break things out, not sure how it will work

    Post processing might not be the best term but I did want to distinguish between embellishments turned into a piece and those added afterwards. Some embellishment during turning is a given, even the curves we put on our shapes are embellishments, not absolutely needed for function. Also, I don't mind doing a certain level of post processing myself. I just don't want post processing to have greater importance than the turning or take a large portion of the time spent on a piece.


    I may find myself post processing more than I care to, I truly hope not. I have had a great deal of exposure to chemicals over the years and a dislike of working with all of the various chemicals is a major thing that turned me away from cue building. Still may have to build a few butterfly cues and segmented hollow forms, I'm not 100% consistent and do get in the mood to try something different sometimes. However my goal is to turn out clean simple designs with just enough added to them in turning to differentiate them from what a person can buy off the shelf.



    Dale,

    Excellent points one and all in your post! Also a very helpful reminder that there is money to be made in short run semi-production items. Not something I want to take up a major portion of my time at the lathe but something I have experience with having ran a very busy one man sheet metal and insulation fab shop and having turned thousands of small components on a metal lathe in batches numbering from a few dozen to a few hundred at a time. I am experienced at setting up a work area and working efficiently to maximize production. Not exactly right to describe it as fun but there is a pleasure in seeing the work stacked up at the end of a session.

    Tough to see the market by secondhand indicators and it was another good reminder when you pointed out that what I see on the internet doesn't necessarily translate directly into the world at large. Much of what is posted is aimed at other wood turners who appreciate the difficulty of turning a certain piece or the skill required for the added embellishments. The average person looks at a shape and never considers the difficulty of turning it, they are surrounded by injection molded shapes as complex or far more complex.



    While I welcome further input It does seem that my questions that I have asked and those that weren't asked originally have been pretty thoroughly covered from multiple perspectives. As seems to always be the case on this forum all posters have added value to this thread for me and all posts are greatly appreciated! The members of this forum offer a wealth of knowledge and experience and this being so freely shared is a huge help to me.

    Thank you all for your responses!

    Hu
     
  5. Brian McInturff

    Brian McInturff

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    Problem is Hue, "plain and simple designs". Thousands of turners out there can produce these every day. So, supply and demand comes into play. You have to distinguish yourself from others to "tap" a true market. If you take the so called easy route then don't expect much for your turnings, not enough to sustain a living anyway.
     
  6. odie

    odie

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    Hello Brian......

    Of course, there is a lot of truth to what you're saying here, but not all "plain and simple shapes are created equally......nor, should they all be lumped together with equal emphasis.

    During the early 1980's when I was first discovering woodturning, there were those considered as "masters", whom were dedicated to excellence in turning, but applied their art to what we would now consider "plain and simple" designs, or shapes. Those I speak of are among many who mastered tool preparation, use, choices, and their own learned techniques were used to best get a clean cut that conformed to an artful and pleasing shape. This, with a minimum of sanding. When a turning requires too much sanding, it ultimately works against that artful shape. Sanding always changes the shape because it will remove more wood according to soft/hard......as well as end grain vs long grain. Excessive sanding will always destroy the clean intersection of surfaces, and the clean look of details, and detail grooves. Added to that, the old masters had a sense of design that was better than others......they didn't get to where they did by luck, or accident! This sense of design is something that can be learned, or improved upon, but an instinctive ability to distinguish pleasing shape is something that's better when it's a natural attribute of the turner......it's a gift from our creator, DNA, or however you want to think of it.

    Some of these masters, like Bob Stocksdale, Rude Osolnik, Dale Nish, among others, came up with turnings that had that special refined look to them. Many turners, as well as some of those who were buying art, and some art dealers/critics could tell there was something special about the turnings of certain turners. They may not have been able to tell just why this simple object had "it", while a great many other examples of turnings by other turners didn't have the same special aura of exceptionalism......but, "it" was there, and obvious to those who have a developed, or natural ability to recognize it!

    ooc
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2013
  7. Brian McInturff

    Brian McInturff

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    Times change and woodturning evolves. More people pushing the envelope. I'm just saying don't expect to be an Ellsworth in today's era by doing plain and simple designs. Most buyers don't really care how you got to the final product. You can tell a good story and sometimes it might help the sale but in the end it's the product they are holding that completes the sale. 3d carvers will put a big damper on this because they will create the "perfect form" every time.m
    Oldie, you turn for your own satisfaction and maybe a sale here or there. Hue is wanting to pay bills and do that while doing the "plain and simple". I'm just stating he needs to be realistic. And on top of that he doesn't't want to put the years in to perfect it. I think most just didn't want to say what the most likely outcome is.
     
  8. hu lowery

    hu lowery

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    thanks Odie, rexactly what I dream of doing

    Brian,

    As Odie said so well, you can put a dozen different turner's plain jane round bowl in a pile and let people sort through them. Even with the wood all plain and featureless like a lot of basswood, one or two bowls would be selected by the vast majority of people, knowledgeable or not. We know what is pleasant to look at even if we don't know why.

    There is a world of variation available without the post processing. Very likely much of what I am considering creating won't be considered just round and brown by most people. I just want to avoid overcomplicating designs or burying the turning under so much other work that people don't even notice the turning.

    Many years ago I did two CAD drawings. 3D CAD was in it's infancy. I spent every spare moment for several weeks creating a virtual 3D model of a proto-type of a self contained backpack air conditioning system we were trying to design. Every component was precisely to size and colored to distinguish them and make it easy to see overlaps. Very possibly saved the company tens of thousands in wasted hand fabrication. This was a small skunkworks and I took the drawing in to the owner of the company. He looked at it, "Oh that is nice" with a total lack of interest, and sent me on my way.

    A week or two later the owner asked if I could draw the exterior of the backpack. I did complete with the harness and such in about forty-five minutes. Then I took maybe another five minutes creating closed areas and inserting a herringbone pattern with a click of a button. The pattern was on a different bias on adjoining panels and gave a nice realistic effect. Brought it to the owner's office and he raved over it. He spent the next three or four hours admiring that beautimus drawing, 99% because of that damned herringbone pattern.

    If I spend long hours designing a piece and many more turning it to perfection I don't want somebody going gaga because I painted it with red spray bomb!

    Hu
     
  9. odie

    odie

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    Hu......

    For purposes of clarity in this thread, I think I should add my own definition of what "embellishment" means to me. You and I have some differences in the meaning of the term.

    To my thinking, anything done on the lathe, utilizing traditional lathe tools, is not embellishment. The general shape, curve in the shape, intersecting edges, turned details, detail grooves.....these things would not fall under the definition of "embellishment", and have been skills recognized for a hundred years.

    It is things like, wood burning, piercing, paint, dye, external shaping off the lathe, carving, texturing, laminating, bleaching, adding media to the wood: metal, stone, etc.......all of these things, I'd call embellishments.

    I would tend to consider hand carving less of an embellishment than power carving, when used to accentuate, rather than become the focus......here, "tradition" has a role in classification.....

    I'd be interested in hearing opinions from others on how the term "embellishment" applies to woodturning.......

    ooc


    I suppose I should add that embellishment, or all of the above things are fine with me. Embellishment isn't against the rules, or anything like that...... and however anyone else pursues their own ways of achieving their goals is part of what separates, or differentiates between individuals.



    .
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2013
  10. hu lowery

    hu lowery

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    As I thought, your meaning of embellishments and mine of post processing are very close. At some point even the traditional methods of adding to a design can become too much or not enough in my view. A simple bead or two might look great on an object. Add a little more and it looks overdone. Add a lot more and it becomes something else and it looks just fine. I hope the vast majority of what I turn never reaches that first "overdone" stage. No doubt I will turn out the occasional elaborate piece just as a change-up and some of the pieces I turn will be quite elaborate but not to the eye that doesn't understand wood turning.

    I am more comfortable with burning or a little bit of inlace filling naturally weak or damaged areas than with things like paint and coatings. The simple burnings while a lathe is spinning using a piece of wire or similar means is very old I believe and only takes minutes to do and clean up around. Then the line gets blurred the more we burn but we haven't really covered up the wood, just changed it. When it comes down to it, I guess the post processing I don't want to do involves covering up the wood or such elaborate carving that it is no longer instantly recognizable as a turning. Also I don't want to do post processing that takes up a great deal of my time. Some people turn to carve. Nothing in the world wrong with that, just not what I want to do. I don't want to turn in order to be able to post process.

    Like you, I have absolutely no issue with other people embellishing their pieces to any extent they choose, a little or a lot. Nothing wrong with using a turning just as the base or armature to support whatever they choose to create. I find much of this stuff quite beautiful. A friend can put fantastic painting on my turnings. A niece can carve them into beautiful objects. Both of these things are likely to happen to some of my turnings. They will no longer be my turnings then though.


    Brian,

    A quick comment regarding your last post, I don't think I can avoid paying the dues everyone else has to pay to learn to turn. The thing is many have already been paid. Anchoring the tool and moving the body? Been doing that since the early eighties. Scraping and shear scraping? Been doing that over forty years. I have smoothed and faired many a piece of wood on a lathe already too, cue shafts. They have to be absolutely perfect for twenty-eight inches or more when finished. The original turning is a machine operation but quite easy to ruin one sanding or even just burnishing. Many of the other things involved in wood turning are very similar to things I have already done. Translating these skills to traditional wood turning takes a little learning and experience but it isn't nearly as time consuming as learning them from scratch. I do expect to have a much shorter learning curve than someone who has never done these things. I think of it as transferring credits for courses I have already taken.

    Hu
     
  11. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    Tongue planted firmly in cheek .....

    I'm glad that you distinguished between "definitions" and "rules". Even so, I am not sure that how useful it is to define the term "embellishment" without making it part of a personal rule such as, "I won't do any power carving, but maybe just a little hand carving". And, I suppose that one could get carried away (figuratively) with wondering if a chatter tool is a traditional lathe tool. If so, can we then allow a sprocket or spur or pinion gear "on a stick" inside that same tent. Or should we even worry about the path we took to get to the end product if identical final results are achieved.

    I think that categorizing things can snowball into never ending legalisms as we try to figure out how an accent differs from a focus. And then we might wind up wondering if we are losing focus on the big picture by focusing on the little picture.

    So what kind of stuff do I turn? Whatever tickles my fancy at the moment. Lately that has meant that both the remaining wood surface and the removed wood is part of a truncated basic geometric shape that results from rotation about an axis of symmetry for two dimensional curves such as parabolas, hyperbolas, ellipses, and circles (spheroid sections). I use a CAD program to create templates so that I can gauge the shape of the turning and fine tune it. I also use dye and metal in my turnings, so I think that if you look up "embellish" in Webster's Dictionary, you might see a picture of what I make. :D
     
  12. odie

    odie

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    I've got my own ideas of what embellishment means, Bill.......Whatever you want to make it mean, is up to you. :D

    I guess what I'm trying to say, here, is I don't think there is any official woodturner's definition of just what embellishment is, but it's a term that is used occasionally with woodturning specifically in the application. If anyone wants to add their own definitions, it might add to the exchange of ideas, and have value for us all to understand what the word means to other woodturners.

    I would be inclined to think a chatter tool would be embellishment, but wood threads might not.......but, then again, I'm giving an opinion, and my statements are subject to however anyone else wants to define any particular specifics of the definition.

    Your thought that trying to nail down a definition is likely to "snowball", is correct. There is no question that the term won't be universal in it's usage, and there is bound to be disagreement on the specifics. With that in mind, it's not my intent to come up with some kind of "rule" that everyone can, or should agree with.......

    Nevertheless, it is possible to bring the parameters in a little closer to some sort of idea as to just how embellishment applies to woodturning......a more confined definition that is more understood among woodturners when the term is used.

    ooc
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2013
  13. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    Odie,
    I will roll the snowball a bit.

    Is chatterwork made with a spindle gouge or skew embellishment?

    Seems to me any surface decoration done on the lathe with a handheld non-motorized tool is pretty equal.
    Beads on bowls, chatter on a box top, or coves on a napkin ring are pretty much on the same level a decorative detail that does not contribute function.

    Now how should we consider a natural edge bowl with its bark removed off the lathe with the aid of a chisel or carving knife.

    It is always difficult to pigeon hole wood turnings but sometimes fun to try.

    Also as to turning laminated pierces. A heck of a lot of turned columns, newel posts, lamp posts, table legs... Are done with glued up blanks.
    Seems like pure turning to me......


    Al
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2013
  14. KellyDunn

    KellyDunn

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    Hu, I have read this with interest. Mark Mandel and others have given you very sound advice. Now this boy is. I am the 1%. I have been making my living turning since 89. I have seen it change a lot. There is one heck of a lot more folks putting turnings for sale so it eats into the available bucks spent on wood that used to be my sales.
    You sound like you need to make money at this and soon. Make things you like and see what happens. Repeat kind of the ones that sell. And alter or drop the ones that sit for years and bark. You wont know except with time. Here is the key. You bend with the breeze and eat some damned crow and make bread and butter items or starve.
    Makers who only make what they want and expect to make a living without bending to what buyers are willing to buy go get day jobs.
    As a name turner I am one lucky dog I have signiture work and there is still a small demand for them. The major collectors already have my work and want no more. New collectors of wood are rare. They are there, but not like in the late 80s till the late 90s.
    I also am lucky I love what I do for a living. But if you expect to put food on the table in any regular manner you will make things that sell. You will know that when they keep selling. And then make work for the soul. Know it may never sell. But you will feel good inside for the making itself.
    If you are lucky you will make items that actually propell you into turnings spotlight. My heyday was 94 to 01. It was sold before I made it. Now I do what it takes as a turner to make sales. Years ago Betty Scarpino gave me the best advise a production turner who was bored can receive. She told to always keep an experimental piece in the works.
    If you have some manner of income to keep you floating then ignore all i have said and make what pleases you.
     
  15. hu lowery

    hu lowery

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    sounds good


    Kelly,

    I'm afraid the wolf is at the door after a few natural disasters did me in. Every danged named storm that hit Louisiana seems to have done me damage one way or another since Katrina. I do have a small monthly fixed income from SSD which explains why my turning is a bit sporadic.

    I think you have called it right, some short run semi-production stuff to have a little income, some nicer stuff but still in the casual buyer market, a little bit to satisfy the soul and appeal to somebody that is willing to pay for it. I have waited a bit late to try to build a name but you never know, stranger things have happened. If my work never gets particularly collectable I'll be pretty content turning out the mix of stuff I'm talking about. I enjoy making things so even if I don't get to spend all my time making what I want to make I won't hate getting up and going to work in the morning like so many people do. If I ever get a waiting list like you mention with people waiting for what I feel like turning, well that would be near nirvana.

    One thing for sure, nobody ever succeeds without getting off the porch and trying something.

    Thanks for your post. I do think every post in this thread has added value and was accurate from each person's perspective. Need I say I favor those like yours that encourage giving it a shot? I have been in tighter spots than this and came back stronger than ever. I think I can do it at least one more time!

    Hu
     
  16. hu lowery

    hu lowery

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    Kinda round, kinda brown, a little green

    Hadn't turned in a few days, got the itch late yesterday evening. This is a piece of a sycamore limb, was horizontal and heavily loaded so as expected it moved around a lot with almost every cut. No hand sanding yet, rough sanded and a little sanding sealer on it.

    10.5"x4.5". Nothing but minimum post processing, no embellishments in turning. Things like this still easily fit my idea of plain and simple. That is why I feel like I have a lot of room to play in, even avoiding much post processing the vast majority of the time.

    Hu
     

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  17. KellyDunn

    KellyDunn

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    Hu, natural edge turnings are hit or miss with buyers. You did a nice job on the upper portion. Nice flow. I dont care for that bottom one tiny bit. Its hard to clean up for one. A tenon you turn or carve away will give a more pleasing feel when the work gets handled. Plus lets you regulate the wall thickness a bit more easy. And gives you options for a foot of some manner or not. You just have to come up with a method to reverse turn the base. Plenty to choose from. Or carve it.
    That said, my wife puts a higher price on my nat edge work cause it takes longer to do.
     
  18. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    Kelly, you took the words right out of my mouth. I thought that the overall shape of the upper part was very well executed. I can't tell from the photo if the two wings have the same height, but that is important, too. The underside seemed OK at the outer parts, but I don't see an obvious recovery from that ugly foot unless the wall thickness isn't as uniform as it appears to be in the image. I assume that you started off between centers. One method of finishing the bottom would be to do it between centers with a jam chuck on the drive side. Without the dimple s a reference it is going to be more problematic, but if you had a vacuum chucking system, you could get fairly close by putting the turning back into the scroll chuck and then putting the chuck on the tailstock side. Once it is secured by the vacuum chuck, the scroll chuck could be removed and a live center point substituted to help hold things securely. The vacuum chuck solution is not quite as accurate as finishing between centers with a jam chuck, but nobody will notice the difference.
     
  19. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    Good start. I don't think there's any reason why you should try to get both sides equal in height. Do what looks good to you. I like to play with deliberate asymmetry in what I call "unnatural edge" work, personally.

    You can finish the bottom prior to scooping the top on these pieces. Means a quick piece of work rather than turning the whole thing twice. In this market, they seem to find great acceptance. I actually charge more for something taking less time, which is almost governmental in its dishonesty!

    Irregular shapes. http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d160/GoodOnesGone/Waitsand-1.jpg

    http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d160/GoodOnesGone/Interrupted-2.jpg

    More regular. http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d160/GoodOnesGone/While-The-Glue-Dries.jpg

    http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d160/GoodOnesGone/Bark-up.jpg

    A turning within. http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d160/GoodOnesGone/Curly-Combo.jpg

    Have some fun. As you've noticed, there are no long, anxious waits involved in warp-and-go stuff, hoping you didn't get it too broad or dry it too fast and crack it. When you attend a few shows and put few turnings on the market, you'll be able to judge the response in your area, among buyers, not turners.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2013
  20. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    Hu,
    I think Kelly and Bill had some good advice.

    Your bowl looks good in the top view. Not good from the bottom and the side view is going to have two curves entering the table 3" apart and not look good to me.
    Fortunately most folks will display this piece on a low surface so they only look at the top which looks nice.

    I suggest you start using a tenon grip on these small bowls. The recess wastes a lot of wood on a small turning.
    Using a tenon grip lets you run the outside curve of the bowl into the bottom of the Tenon if you want to.
    I remove the point from my tail center for natural edge bowls. It make it easier to move the center a tiny bit to adjust the rim heights and I don't have to worry about a point hole showing up in the outside bottom if I use the wood in the tenon as part of my bowl. The cup impression is all I need to recenter to turn off the tenon after hollowing.

    I like to see the outside of the bowl as a continuous curve visually. A small foot the size of a quarter allows the eye to build the curve through the foot.
    I use a round bottom on a lot of my hollow forms and on a lot of natural edge bowls that are wider than tall.

    If you take the time to balance the heights of the end and side rims a round bottom bowl will sit nicely.
    They are much easier to finish than a small foot.

    As far as rim heights
    I think taller than wide natural edge bowls look fine with unbalanced rim heights.
    Wider than tall look bad with with rim heights that are off 1/4" to 1"
    They look great if the rims are off 2 or more inches. Then the wall needs to be relatively thin and foot is needed.

    I re-chuck all my natural edge bowls between centers. I have a vacuum chuck but I can be finished with bowl before I can hook it up.
    And pulling air through a thin wet piece is a recipe for cracking it as it dries too fast.

    You can re-chuck natural edge bowls with a doughnut chuck by putting a piece of PVC pipe of suitable length and diameter in the base of the doughnut chuck and covering it with foam. This provides a standoff for the rims so they don't hit the base of the doughnut chuck.

    Have fun,
    Al
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2013

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