Frequently Asked Questions
What is segmented woodturning?
Segmented turning is the process of turning an object on a lathe where the initial work piece is composed of multiple glued-together parts or segments. T
he process involves gluing up several pieces of wood to create rings that define the patterns and visual effects in the turned object. Segmented turning is also known as polychromatic turning.
In traditional woodturning, the template (or piece of wood from which you intend to create the object) is a single block of wood. The size, grain orientation and colors in the wood will frame how it can be turned into an object like a bowl, platter, vase or other art form. With segmented turning, the size and patterns are unlimited and parameters of the creation are limited only by your imagination, skill and patience.
While the vast majority of segmented turnings are vessels of one sort or another, any turned object composed of multiple pieces of glued wood could be classified as a segmented turning. One of the foremost wood artists, Malcolm Tibbetts ( http://www.tahoeturner.com ), has done absolutely amazing things with wood.
In addition to artistic design skills, segmented turning demands precision woodworking skills in addition to woodturning skill. Design and construction of a the pieces created though this medium requires angled miter joints cut to precision tolerances as well as joinery skills (gluing and grain direction) in assembling the segments into the patterns and forms that are desired.
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What are the different types of segmented turning?
There are basically two techniques for constructing a segmented piece, ring construction and stave construction. Ring construction is the most common. A ring-constructed piece is composed of rings, made of individual segments that are glued together to form a ring. The rings are then glued together in a cylindrical stack. The height of the finished piece is a function of the number of rings and the height of each ring within the stack. The design in the piece is a function of how you put the various wood segments together in and between rings to get the desired effect.
In the diagrams below (developed by Larry Marley, another highly competent segmented wood artist) you can see how a ring is created, how the rings are stacked and how the bowl emerges. For a two minute overview on segmented turning see Larry Marley’s video at ( http://marleyturned.com/Video_Slider.php?key=21 )
Each ring is comprised of segments cut and glued to form a ring. Some objects can be created with a small number of segments in each ring, but more complex designs usually call for 12 to 30 segments (or more) in each of the rings. The more pieces in a ring, the more challenging for the artist, because there are more opportunities for precision joinery errors—gaps or misalignments in the joints between pieces. Most pieces incorporate one or more feature rings made up of segments that are assembled from smaller pieces of contrasting or complementary colored woods to achieve striking patterns in the finished piece. This also adds to the complexity and challenge for the artist. Native American pottery, baskets, and textile designs, particularly from the American Southwest, often inspire form and design features. These patterns are often geometric in design and lend themselves to being adapted to wood art creations.
Stave construction is the second technique for constructing a segmented piece. These pieces are assembled like barrels—cylinders constructed from multiple long, vertically oriented pieces. As a rule, the grain in a ring-constructed turning runs horizontally in the finished piece, while the grain in a stave-constructed turning runs vertically, from top to bottom.
Another category of segmented turning, called open segmented turning, is similar to ring construction but small gaps are left between the segments. Successive rings are offset so the segments interlock with the ring above and below. This type of segmentation seems very delicate and is somewhat transparent but it is generally quite strong.
A segmented turning can combine ring construction, stave construction, and solid, non-segmented wood in a single piece. However, wood expands and contracts in the direction perpendicular to its grain as a function of its moisture content, itself a function of ambient humidity. In this case, during design and assembly, the turner has to be mindful of the impact the combination of techniques will have on the long-term structural integrity of the piece.
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What are your favorite woods?
I prefer tight grained and dense hardwoods, often called exotic woods. The species I prefer are ebony, rosewoods, curly maple, bloodwood, canary wood, wenge, mesquite, purpleheart, and holly.
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What is a commission piece?
Periodically, a person would like to have a segmented woodturning or a mobile made specifically for them and often a place has been selected for the piece to be located. I have made pieces for a community bank entry, physician’s waiting room, hospital waiting area, personal offices and for people’s homes. Generally I request that you send a picture of the selected location and the surrounding environment. For mobiles I need dimensions of the room including length, width, ceiling height and whether the ceiling slopes, layout of furniture and any other information or measurements that would let me know the appropriate size and swing of the piece. I would then design a piece for that location (after a non-refundable design deposit has been arranged), have it approved by the customer, determine final cost and payment arrangements and proceed to create the piece. This process takes both design time and construction time so the price will have to be negotiated after understanding the scope of the project. Call or e-mail to discuss commission work.
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What is a mobile?
Artist Marcel Duchamp selected the word “mobile” to describe Alexander Calder’s new work, a motorized construction, which he saw while visiting Calder’s studio in the fall of 1931. He had applied the word “mobile” to his own kinetic objects in 1913. In French the adjective “mobile” means movable, but can also connote quick, nimble or even unstable. As a noun it means “motive”. Calder likes the double entendre. In 1942, Calder defined the mobile as “abstract sculpture that moves (motor, wind, etc. driven). From that point forward Calder’s work was referred to as “mobiles” or simply as “objects”.
A classic interpretation of the mobile was written by philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre to preface the Galerie Louis Carre catalogue for an exhibition in Paris in 1946. Excerpts from Sartre’s poetic essay include:
”A mobile, one might say, is a little private celebration, an object defined by its movement and having no other existence. . . . . . . . A mobile does not suttest anything: it captures genuine living movements and shapes them. Mobiles have no meaning, make you think of nothing, but themselves. They are, that is all; they are absolutes. No human brain, not even their creator’s, could possibly foresee all the complex combinations of which they are capable. A general destiny of movement is sketched for them, and then they are left to work it out for themselves. . . . . . . . It is a little jazz tune, evanescent as the sky or the morning: if you miss it, you have lost it forever. ”
Mobiles can be divided into three categories: standing, wall, or hanging. All are, or will be represented in the Mobiles by Lensink portfolio.
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What is a stabile?
The word “stabile” refers to a type of stationary abstract sculpture, developed by the 20th-century American artist Alexander Calder and is usually characterized by simple forms executed in sheet metal. Stabiles do not have motor or wind driven elements like a mobile. The term “stabile” was coined in reference to Calder's work by Jean Arp in 1931 and was later applied to similar works by other artists. It is easy to get the terms “mobile” and “stabile” confused for sometimes they are combined with the stabile being the base for a mobile. When these are combined they are usually referred to as standing mobiles.
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