Turning Tagua Nuts into Pearls

Tagua nut ‘pearl’ being turned

I am remaking one of my older boxes – the “Birthing Box” and these two photos show me turning one of the ‘pearls’ from Tagua nut, a vegetable substitute for ivory. The first photo in the gallery linked below shows an older “Birthing” box made for another collector a few years ago. You can click to view enlarged. The interior of the box contains loose tagua nut pearls.

Tagua nut being turned on the lathe
Tagua nut being turned on the lathe
view the full turned boxes collection

Philadelphia Vireo

Philadelphia Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo

This little male Philadelphia Vireo has spent the past two days trying to get into my sitting room through a closed window. (Pretty sure this is what this is, according to my bird app.) I guess he is seeing his reflection in the window and thinks it’s a rival male needing to be driven off.

Beaded Box With Thuya Interior

Spiral textured beaded box with thuya burl interior

This box is distinguished by a newly developed technique producing a spiral texture on the lid and a beautifully even finely woven appearance on the sides with a translucent red ink wash. Made of African Blackwood for the exterior, a smooth bead on top and bottom of the body and lid contain the textured areas. The interior is lined with the wonderfully redolent and warm coloured thuya burl. Full size images on the gallery here.

Spiral textured beaded box with thuya burl interior

This piece is available for purchase. Contact me if interested. African Blackwood, textured exterior with a translucent red ink wash. Height: 2 1/2″ (65mm), Diameter 2 3/8″ (60mm)

Focus on Teardrops

Trio of Teardrops
Trio of Teardrops

See what happens when you leave two teardrops on their own together! 😉

After nearly 40 years of making the teardrop box, which has become one of my signature pieces, I decided to start turning them in various sizes, as they look so nice in a grouping this way. Often, if people have not seen the actual work, but just photographs of them, they don’t realize that these are boxes as the join is almost invisible. For this reason I wanted to show one of them open as you see above. The baby one is only just over 1″ in diameter, just big enough to fit a ring snugly inside. The bigger ones range in size between 2.5″ and 3″ in diameter. These are made in African Blackwood each from a single piece.

Multiple Teardrops
Multiple Teardrops

Retrospective Interview

Craft Nova Scotia has created a series of interviews with the Makers featured in “Life’s Work – Conversations with Makers”, produced and directed by Breakwater Studios. This interview is #2 in the series, broadcast March 1, 2021 and features Crystal Garrett talking to myself about the effect the documentary had on me and the direction my creative life has taken since the film came out. The film is 37 minutes in length and can be played full screen. I hope you enjoy it. – Steven

Beaded Box – Rosewood Inlay

Beaded box with rosewood inlay
Beaded box with rosewood burl inlay

In a time when I was travelling and giving classes and demonstrations around the world, I worked on blackwood boxes to show techniques to my students. There was never enough time to complete a box and so the partly finished pieces would join others in my workshop when I returned from my tours. This year there has been no travelling and no teaching and I decided to work on these originally ‘demo’ boxes, to give them a life and purpose beyond the original. I incorporated new texturing, including a light red ink wash and appropriate inlays and really have enjoyed the creative process in doing this. The colour addition to the texturing gives a warm feeling and added perception of depth to the decorated surface.

Beaded box with rosewood inlay
Beaded box with rosewood inlay

Spinning Top

A new spinning top made for a collector in the UK. This one is African blackwood, thuya root burl (from that huge burl from this post) and tagua nut finial. Further details are in the photos below. Clicking on the images below will open the photo gallery of my Turned Art where you can see them in full screen mode.

Spinning top detail - African blackwood, thuya root burl
Spinning top detail – African blackwood, thuya root burl
Spinning top base detail
Spinning top base detail

From Raw Material to Finished Box

English Box - Thuya Root Burl
English Box – Thuya Root Burl

When you see a beautiful box like the one pictured above, have you ever wondered what the piece of raw wood it was made from first looked like when it arrived in my studio?

The trees that produce these burls are quite small and grow exclusively in the Atlas mountains of Morrocco in almost inaccessible regions. The wood has also been called Thyine (and is mentioned as such in the Bible in Revelation 18:12). It is also known as Citron burl. These burls have to be transported down the mountainsides to the lowlands by donkeys or mules as there are no access roads. They grow, not on the trunk of the tree as we often see in the woods around us, but on the root systems, very much like a potato, underground. Many of the root burls have been hidden there for very long periods of time as the trees disappeared up to 100 years ago and the roots remained buried. As a result of the dry climate and the resinous qualities of the burl, they remain perfectly preserved, to be discovered and excavated many years later. Because the tree has been gone for so long, it can be challenging to know where the roots and the burls might be.

127 lb Thuya Root Burl arrives in Canning all the way from Morocco.
127 lb Thuya Root Burl arrives in Canning all the way from Morocco.

Where to make that first cut?

I’ve been eyeing this burl up for a long time, hoping it wouldn’t sell, so finally I took courage and brought it home! Next comes the scary bit – where do I make that first cut? It’s important to maximise the wood that will be available to work with and it’s not possible to see the intensity of the figuring until the first cut has been made. There also was a hole on the side that penetrated the burl quite deeply and it was impossible to predict the direction and depth of this flaw.

After seeing my original post on social media about this purchase my neighbour, film-maker Kimberly Smith, was extremely curious and offered to record the moment of the first cut to reveal the beauty in the video you see below. Many thanks to Kim!

And here is the burl open for us to see the beauty inside!

Thuya root burl open in my workshop
Thuya root burl open in my workshop

And a closeup of the cut surface of this burl.

Closeup of the cut surface of the burl

From here the hard work begins, to fashion the box you see above from smaller pieces cut out of this block. I also use this wood as accents, inlay and to line the interior of some of my boxes. Because this wood is so rare and precious, I prefer to use it for these, as it pains me to lose so much in the shavings and sawdust that result from a finished box.

Gift Certificates and Tuition Increase

Sample Gift Certificate for woodturning course with Steven Kennard

This is a brief end of year message to let everyone know that I have gift certificates available for one on one wood turning tuition with me, should anyone wish to give the gift of learning! More information on the courses is on the Tuition page on this site. https://stevenkennard.com/blog/tuition

Also, I am letting prospective students know that the price of courses will be increasing starting January 1, 2020, from $325 per day (plus tax) to $350 (plus materials). Any courses booked before the end of December, 2019, to be held during 2020 will qualify for the 2019 price.

If you wish to give a Gift Certificate, contact me by sending a message on my contact page https://stevenkennard.com/blog/contact and I will arrange it!

Saint Joseph’s Oratory

Stars over Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal - Steven Kennard 2012
Stars over Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal – Steven Kennard 2012

In November 2003 I took a trip with Ellie and her brother to Montreal, where they were born and grew up. One cold, clear night Gary and I walked around the streets of the city to where I took this photograph of Saint Joseph’s Oratory with the stars over the dome. I posted the photograph on Google+ in 2012 and was asked yesterday where it had gone. I’m glad I was asked as it’s a favourite of mine and brings back such good memories of our time together.