Ayr Mount Sugar Maple Woodturning History
First, you need to know where the wood came from. We were fortunate enough to have received a call from Bill and Schotzy Crowther (caretakers at Ayr Mount) asking us if we would like the wood from a maple tree that died on the grand entrance to the main house.
It was about December 10, 2006. The tree had been cut down by two men the day before. Patty and I went over with our F350 pickup truck and loaded it with almost 7000 pounds of wood. We had a lot of help from Bill Crowther and his tractor.
The tree was almost 40 inches in diameter and, even with an 18” bar on my saw, we had to process some of the wood on site in order to cut the log into sections. The wood turned out to be sugar maple and very, very hard. It had red and pink color and lots of “eyes” which added to its beauty.
The Hand Bowl:
Few pieces of wood have intimidated me like the one I rough-turned for Patty with the intention to create a large, deep salad bowl similar to one I had pictured on a retreat I attended in Hot Springs, NC. We had done some in walnut and they worked OK, but this one was really shaped nice and had beautiful figure and color.
With the rough-turning complete, I took one last pass on the bottom of the bowl with the lathe turning at about 750-800 RPM. The gouge slipped off the end of the tool rest, jammed into the wood, and drove my left hand up into the bottom of the tool rest, tearing the bowl off the lathe.
Fortunately, I was wearing gloves. The force split the skin on the back of my little finger knuckle, permanently creasing, but not tearing the glove. It took 5 or 6 stitches to close that one. The inside of my hand (the entire palm) was black and blue from the force of the blow. On returning from the hospital, we discovered that the wrist band of the gloves (1/8th inch plastic and Velcro) was torn to shreds. Without it, my wrist would have been ground to the bone.
That is the story of how the bowl got to be here. The really nice story is how it got to its new home.
The most spectacular piece of wood from the tree was a 150 pound block I had cut to “almost round” and mounted on the lathe. We rough-turned that piece in late December and while still on the lathe we put our Siamese shop-cat, Boris, up in the piece. His photograph “owning the bowl” is now a signature photo of what we do. Boris passed away from intestinal cancer a few months later, but he will always be our shop cat.
Several months ago we pulled the bowl out of its shavings (we control the drying by packing it in its shavings to slow down the drying) and turned it round again and checked for cracks. There were none. Last month, Patty finish turned it and put it in the Orange County Studio Tour and in the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts.
In late November we got a call from a man who had seen it in the Gallery. He wanted to know the history of the tree — “Who did the saw work?” Patty explained that I had cut the wood to get it prepared for mounting on the lathe. “No,” he said, “who cut the tree down?” We knew that two men had cut it down, one the nephew of a friend and the other (whom we did not know) had died in an auto accident on Christmas day, two weeks after dropping the tree. His immediate response was that the second man was the fiancé of his daughter. He wanted the bowl to give to her this Christmas — the first anniversary of the death of her fiancé.