“The first piece of wood work I ever made was a tv stand with my father when I was about 6. The first piece of furniture I made on my own was a coffee table, It didn’t turn out very well; that was what inspired me to dive in with mind, body, and wallet, and learn how to make beautiful furniture and turnings that will last.” -Duane Rice
Olson House (OH): Was carpentry something you grew up familiar with and interested in?
Duane Rice (DR): I have always been interested in carpentry. I didn’t have any carpenters or cabinetmakers in my family, however, my parents and most of my relatives were very hands on do it yourself-ers.
OH: What was the very first piece of woodwork you ever made?
DR: The first piece of wood work I ever made was a tv stand with my father when I was about 6. The first piece of furniture I made on my own was a coffee table, It didn’t turn out very well, that was what inspired me to dive in with mind, body, and wallet, and learn how to make beautiful furniture and turnings that will last.
OH: Where do you source your wood?
DR: I source my wood from fallen trees in southeastern Wisconsin. I recently acquired several van loads of ash from Brookfield. Ash is really taking a beating due to the Emerald Ash Borer. Occasionally, craigslist is a great source, people have trees taken down and need the wood removed. The only time I ever use store bought lumber is when i use scraps or off cuts from a furniture project to make a segmented turning.
OH: What is the easiest wood species to work with and what is the most challenging?
DR: It’s hard to pick a favorite wood to work with. Some of the benefits of certain wood species can also be their drawback. Ash is rock solid, beautiful, and finishes nicely. However, its heavy in its raw form, hard on the tools, and takes a little more time to shape. Willow however, it’s light weight, durable but soft, cuts like butter, but getting a finished product withouit torn grain takes sharp tools and a steady hand. Walnut, maple, and cherry turn well. I avoid using soft woods in turning. I’ve made furniture legs from softwoods, I don’t feel that they have the strength or appearance that works well for bowls and vases.
OH: What is the general process of crafting a wood bowl? What tools are needed? Do you work out of your home?
DR: Bowl making for me starts with my van, a dolly, and a chainsaw to process a log into a bowl blank. The blank is taken to the bandsaw to cut a circle. From there it goes onto the Lathe. There are several tools that can be used to mount the bowl blank. The outside is turned to rough shape with several bowl gouges and a tenon is formed on what will be the bottom of the bowl. This tenon is used to hold the bowl with a chuck to hollow out the inside of the bowl. From here, the bowl has a wall thickness of approximately 10% of the overall diameter. The bowl is sealed to slow the drying process, since I’m starting with a raw log, the wood is soaking wet. If this dried too fast the stress of shrinkage would crack the bowl and create a round piece of firewood. Once the bowl has reached about 8% moisture content, it will be re-mounted on the lathe to remove warping and achieve the final shape and finish. After thorough sanding and oiling, the tenon on the bottom of the bowl is removed, my logo is burned into the bottom, and the bowl is ready for salad, chips, sea glass, fruit, or just display on a shelf.
OH: What is your favorite or most memorable piece you have made?
DR: My favorite piece that I’ve made so far is an urn for the ashes from our dearly departed cat “atticus” The top has a photo of him sealed in art resin. Otherwise, the process of making the pieces is meditative, the wood always rewards my efforts by showing its natural beauty.
OH: Why bowls versus other items?
DR: I’ve done and still do furniture, custom cabinetry, finish carpentry, and remodeling. Bowl making requires the same understanding of wood grain and tool control as the other woodworking disciplines, however, it feels more free form like a pottery wheel for wood. The feeling of gliding a bowl gouge smoothly across a spinning piece of wood, shavings flying across the room, seeing the form take shape, Its my happy time.
OH: Anything new you would like to try this year related to your craft
DR: I’ve recently upgraded my equipment. Going bigger. I’m always searching for new and interesting wood species to work with. Nested bowl sets are another thing I hope to incorporate into my collection.