A Southwestern Turning

When we were visiting in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in February, I got to know Rich Spellenberg, who is a fine woodturner as well as renowned botanist.

Indeed, if I may put in a plug for his latest book, his  Trees of Western North America (Princeton Field Guide), one of two volumes (the other is Trees of Eastern North America, natch) written in collaboration with several colleagues, is a stunning companion for those of us who like to walk in the woods but are embarrassed by our ignorance of the trees we meet. In spite of its compendious coverage and depth, it is easy to find your way around in it, even if all you can see is a winter twig.

But this is about woodturning, once you know the trees. Rich generously gave me two bowl blanks—a small one of honey mesquite, and a large piece of redwood. Needless to say, I can’t find these on a walk in the Smokies! He also set me up with some crushed turquoise and instructions for inlaying it, southwestern style, in the wood.

Sylvia followed his instructions to buy an old coffee grinder ($2 at a resale shop) and loaned me her kitchen sieves to strain it into varying grades of fineness.

So here are the results. With the honey mesquite, I found out once again that you have to respect the weakness radiating from the pith of the tree. So about a half inch came off the rim. This improved the smell of my grill smoke. What was left became a nice little nut bowl.

Honey Mesquite wood Bowl
Honey Mesquite Bowl

With the redwood, I capped it with a piece of walnut for contrast and then set a groove for the inlay where the two woods met. As Rich told me, it was putzy and required considerable care in sanding, but the work was rewarded with a fairly attractive embellishment. It was enough to entice me to future efforts.

Redwood and Walnut Vase with turquoise inlay
Redwood and Walnut Vase

Right now, Sylvia has a place to put the dried flowers of autumn and I have a place for my cashews. Thought I’d share them for your eyes.

1 thought on “A Southwestern Turning”

  1. Bill, the grain in these pieces bespeak a flow and beauty that touch the soul. The simplicity of your wood turning bespeaks your own artistry. Thank you for bringing to life such beautiful creations.

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