One of the fun things about studying woodworking at Palomar College is the urban wood recovery program that the campus runs. Instead of destroying trees that have to be removed from urban environments for various reasons (bug infestation, overgrowth and construction are some of the more common ones), Palomar can claim these trees and mill them down in order to provide wood for the students to use. Some of the urban lumber, as we refer to it, is strikingly beautiful, and one particular species is extremely rare: Torrey Pine.
Torrey Pine grows in only two places in the world: San Diego and on one of the Channel Islands. It’s one of the most rare species of pine in the world, and is protected due to this fact. That means, of course, that you can’t stroll down to your local lumber yard and buy a piece. Although the species is protected, trees do have to be removed from time to time, and Palomar has been fortunate enough to be able to mill it into usable lumber.
The final projects in my woodturning class this semester are bowls, and we’ve been turning them out of Torrey Pine. It’s a great wood to turn – though pine is a softwood, Torrey Pine is quite dense and has some strength to it, but not to the point where it makes turning difficult.
The first bowl I turned was an exercise in faceplate turning. To be honest, this bowl was turned without much thought for design or functionality. It had been so long since I’d turned a bowl that I pretty much jumped on the lathe and said to myself “ok, let’s make a bowl.” I’m happy with how it came out, especially considering the lack of planning time that went into it. I didn’t spend much time sanding it, though, as I wanted to move onto my second bowl. So this one’s going to be used to hold random things (in fact, it’s currently home to the pens I have for sale in the shop).
The second bowl was an exercise in 4-jaw chuck turning, and was plagued with little mistakes from the start. For starters, the tenon I turned for the chuck to grab onto wasn’t substantial enough, and the chuck was unable to hold onto the piece as I turned it. This led to re-profiling the tenon, which would come back to bite me later. Second, I forgot to part my surface down before carving in order to give myself an even lip, so I fought unevenness issues for the duration of the project. Despite the headaches, though, I did give this bowl some thought before I began turning it, deciding on a smooth snack bowl design. I was extremely pleased with how it came out once I had it turned to shape – so much so that I nominated it as my second class project to be entered in this year’s San Diego County Fair in Del Mar (the first being my mantel clock from last semester). After spending quite a bit of time sanding the bowl down after I had it turned to shape, I flipped it over and began to shape the bottom. Unfortunately, my wall thickness was a little closer than I expected after having re-profiled the tenon, and after all that hard work, I ended up with this.
I left class that evening disappointed but determined to make my snack bowl for the fair. Luckily, I had an extra Torrey Pine blank, so I got to work on Sunday. As of now, my bowl is turned to shape awaiting scraping and sanding. Having learned from the little mistakes I made with the last one, I won’t be punching through the bottom this time around.
I’m excited to be showcasing some of my projects in the San Diego County Fair this year, and I hope those of you in the San Diego area will be stopping by the Design in Wood exhibit to take a look at some of the amazing projects that are being made by some very talented woodworkers.