Local craftsman enjoys ‘wood-turning’
Three years ago while spending the winter in Texas, local retired letter carrier Ken Noble was introduced to the art of segmented wood-turning by a friend from Bemidji, Mn.—and he’s never looked back.
“It’s relaxing but challenging,” Noble said of his hobby.
“It can change with just one slip of the chisel.”
Noble spends much of the spring and fall in his workshop behind his Sixth Street West home, making bowls, platters, vases—basically any circular item he can think of.
“Segmented wood-turning is made up of multiple pieces of different types of wood glued together,” he explained.
“The different woods create the different colours.”
The woods he uses to create the patterns and designs on his pieces are ash, birch, cedar, pine, hard and soft maple, cherry, walnut, red oak, butternut, and blood wood.
While some of the wood is local, others he’s brought back with him from Texas.
“The sizes and patterns are limited only by your imagination, skill, and patience,” Noble remarked.
“The more width of the wood pieces, the more room there is to manoeuvre and design.”
Segmented wood-turning is said to have been around for a long time, but only recently has it become more popular.
Now there are many resources available to teach segmented wood-turning, as well as offer ideas and suggestions.
Noble said he starts with an idea for a piece then, after calculating what he needs, begins cutting the small wood pieces that he’ll glue together in a ring.
Sometimes an item will require hundreds of pieces, depending on the size and pattern.
When dry, the rings are glued together to form the height of the item. Noble then attaches the base of the item to the lathe, where it will be turned into its desired shape.
“It’s the quickest part,” he noted. “Once I get it on there, things start to happen in a hurry.”
Then it is sanded with 100-600 grits until smooth and a friction polish is added.
“You have to have a lot of patience,” Noble stressed, noting you have to cut, glue, sand, and then glue again.
Not taking into account drying time, Noble estimated he spends roughly three hours on each piece. And he’s made hundreds of items over the past three years.
He polishes the inside of his items with beeswax for safety.
“I never know what it is going to be used for,” he reasoned. “So if someone wants to use it for nuts, cookies, candy, then it will be safe to eat from.”
Noble said he finds solace in his wood-turning; often spending hours at a time in his workshop.
“I plan to go out for an hour and then before I know it, it’s been three hours!” he exclaimed.
Despite the joy his hobby brings him, Noble admitted the start-up didn’t come cheap.
He had to purchase several large pieces of equipment, such as a wood lathe, sander, and bench saw, plus all the tools and safety items like chisels, dust masks, and face shields.
“You need it all,” he stressed.
But Noble has no interest in turning his hobby into a business. He simply makes the beautifully-crafted pieces for the joy it brings him.
“I’m as busy as I want to be,” he smiled, adding much of what he makes is given away as gifts.
“At Christmas time when I first started, we had people over and I told them if you see a piece you like, take it home,” he recalled.
He added he’s received some inquiries, but hopes to keep it minimal.
One item Noble has begun to make are pet urns. He is able to make different sizes, depending on the size of the animal, and easily can have the top engraved with a name or date.
“Every piece is unique,” he noted.
“No two pieces are ever the same—even when I try,” he chuckled. “I’ve come close but they are always slightly different.”
And Noble continually is trying to come up with different patterns and designs to keep things new and exciting.
“I always have ideas that I want to try,” he remarked.
For instance, Noble is planning to experiment with “sparkles” by cutting out a groove and filling it with sparkles.
“We’ll see how it looks,” he said, adding he also has in mind some scroll techniques and ideas for decorative trims he wants to try out.
“Your imagination is your guide,” he reiterated.