How Long Does it Take to Turn a Bowl

There are many facets to answering that question.  One could talk about the physicality of collecting and handling the heavy wet logs.  Because we cannot see beneath the bark, we must use “x-ray” vision (past experiences, successes, and failures) to anticipate what we will find and use that vision to chainsaw a bowl blank that will best exploit the wood’s unique grain, patterns, defects and shapes.  Then there is the rough turning of the “green” (wet) wood.  Sometimes, we get fooled by the tree.  Once on the lathe we may find that the wood reveals other than what we expected, and we must re-evaluate the plan.  Sometimes the tree wins, hence our philosophy, as quoted by John Jordan, “Life’s too short . . . to turn crappy wood!”


Did you know, it takes, according to the wood industry, one year per 1″ of thickness for wood to air dry?  For us, that means at least a year before the 1-1/4″ or 1-1/2″ thick rough turned green wood bowl can be finish turned (thicker/longer for larger bowls).  Another factor is the unpredictability of the tree. One can only exert so much influence on wood.  Wood has a mind of its own; some (sometimes many depending on the wood species) rough turned bowls crack during the drying period.  A cracked bowl for us is a failure.


Okay, now a year has gone by, it’s time to design the final shape, execute the fine tool work that will reduce a 1-1/4″ thick rough bowl to 1/4″ -5/16″ even thickness, and sand (and sand and sand).  Then we could talk about 3 to 4 coats of finish with painstaking hand rubbing between each coat.  The end result is a bowl that is pleasing to hold with a “smooth as a baby’s bottom” finish that you can display with pride for years to come.


Ultimately, the real answer to “how long does it take”, we would suggest, is that It has taken us nearly 10 years to develop the expertise and “x-ray vision” to be able to read the wood and execute the fine turned vessel we envisioned in our minds eye and that we are proud for you to display on your table.  The amount of time is incalculable and perhaps even irrelevant.  It is a function of experience, expertise, and the expression of our creative vision.


Pick up one of our bowls and imagine how it got from the tree to your hands.  We love what we do.  We hope you do too.


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1st Day of OCAG Open Studio Tour at Coon Cat Alley Turned Wood

We had a great first day of the 2012 OCAG Open Studio Tour.  The fall weather was beautiful and we enjoyed showing off for many friends and new acquaintances.  Today promises to be another great day to be out and about.  Come see us at Studio #9!

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Orange County Open Studio Tour November 1-2 and 8-9, 2014

The Orange County Artists Guild Studio Tour takes place every year during the first two (2) weekends in November.  2014 is the 20th Annual event.  More than 70 artists in Orange County open their homes and studios to visitors who are interested in learning more about how artists do what they do.

Coon Cat Alley Turned Wood is Studio #x.  Please consider including us in your tour of studios.

Most people are not familiar with the art of wood turning.  There are so many questions:  where do you get your wood, how do you get it so smooth, what finish do you use,  how long does it take, how do you do “that” (fill in the blank)?  The answers to these questions and more can be found during the Orange County Open Studio Tour.  Throughout the 4 tour dates, my husband, Wayne Peterson, and I will be turning wood and spraying wood shavings while we demonstrate the process of converting a tree into a finished bowl for your dining room table.  In addition we have a gallery that will be filled with the latest crop of finished turnings.

You can download a copy of the 2012 Tour Brochure here.

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Back in the Woodturning Studio

The Orange County Artists Studio Tour is just around the corner:  the first two weekends in November, November 3-4 and 10-11.

It is time to get back into the woodturning studio after a wonderful summer hiatus of travel and adventure.  It’s only fitting that tomorrow is Labor Day.

Last fall we turned dozens of bowls from amazing ambrosia maple and beautiful black walnut.  They have been drying for almost 10 months now and it’s time to see if they are dry enough to finish turn.

We also have that treasure pile of newly acquired osage orange to begin rough turning.

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Osage Orange

Osage Orange wood is amazing.  It is bright yellow when fresh cut and mellows over time to mustard, then a rich brown with a chatoyant flash.

While visiting my mother in western PA, we were fortunate to connect with a neighbor that cuts and sells wood on ebay.  He had recently cut some osage orange trees with the intention of milling 2″ square by 7′ long blocks to be fashioned into archery bows.  Unfortunately, the wood contained too many knots that interfered with the bow integrity.  To our great fortune, he offered this beautiful wood to us.  We came home with a full Explorer load of Woodturners’ “gold”.

Osage OrangeOsage Orange

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