Mark, can you please take us through the tools that you use in your creative process?
The most important tool is sketching. I do tons of sketching. Then I completely leave the sketch behind and go to the freedom of the shop. The above sketch is one of the rare sketches I tape up on the shop wall. This one is here because I have started doing Christmas ornaments. I have done six ornaments and I only see two of them on this piece of paper. So it is really just a loose guide or a subliminal suggestion.
Chainsaw is used to get the wood from the log to the lathe. I have two. I discovered it was much easier to use an electric chainsaw for one cut rather than spending a day's worth of energy pull starting the gas powered one. With a natural edge bowl, the chainsaw can become the most creative tool I use. My patio is now one big pile of wood.
Band saw is vital in trimming the chunk of wood down to get it balanced for turning. If the piece of wood is not balanced when it is attached to the lathe, the lathe will vibrate, walk across the shop floor then throw the chunk of wood at you. I laughed when I read that somewhere. Then as I progressed into larger more experimental pieces it all came true.
Lathe is where all the time is spent and all the creativity comes to fruition. The lathe turns the wood. I cut away leaving the final product. The piece is shaped, sanded and finished right on the lathe. The lathe tools become the artist brushes. In the background you can see my high tech ventilation system. Just blow the dust away from me.
Grinder is vital because the tools have to be sharp and it is an ongoing, continuous process.
Lathe tools are really just a variety of sharp edges to put against the turning wood. Did I say sharp? I bought 3 sets and modify them to my liking.
What sort of monetary outlay have you had in setting yourself up with the equipment that you have?
My shop was set up for the occasional saturday woodworking project. The tools were accumulated over years of birthdays, Christmases and tax returns. So basically everything I start out to do immediately exceeds the limits of my equipment. I would like to thank my equipment at this point for putting up with me and the abuse I put you through. Total expenditure would be under $2000. I recommend not eating for 4 years or selling your first born and spending about 4 times that amount. That way all the equipment can be the all important, same color.
Other than the occasional cleaning from all the dust, most of the equipment requires little maintenance. Special care has to be taken in keeping the lathe tool cutting blades sharp. In the beginning I developed what I call "Turner's Elbow". This is agonizing, continuous pain, caused by bizarre angles with the arm, undue pressure and unnatural vibration. Then I did a little research and found this elbow ailment was common among wood turners. What do you do to fix it? Sharpen your tools. I do that. No, sharpen them all the time. I do that. No, I mean all the time. So I moved the grinder (sharpener) even closer and started doing it subconsciously, almost constantly and the elbow pain, eventually, miraculously went away.
What sort of safety equipment do you need to wear when you are creating your items?
With all the shop equipment, eye protection is very important. Here is where I am lucky. I got glasses when I was in the 5th grade. All that ridicule at an early age has finally paid off. My eye protection is always on. The helmet and full body armor is no longer needed. It has been replaced by experience, common sense and a stand to one side approach. I just told someone recently that I can actually hear bad things approaching. When hollowing out the inside of a bowl it will sometimes crack or I will be carving too deep, there will actually be a different sound in the cutting.
If you could own any kind of tools that aren't related to your own craft what would they be?
There are times when I wish I was a potter, with a wheel and a kiln. Like when a large bowl cracks or loses a side and the bowl immediately becomes a very small plate. I would love to be able to just add more material back on and continue working. Then of course I realize most of the beauty in my work comes from the wood telling me what to do. I don't have this kind of relationship with clay. Exhaulted Spalted II Decorative Vessel