The Fall Bowls

Cherry can be a very perverse wood when not adequately dried or acclimated to its environment. That’s why two of the three bowls shown here, which are cherry, are resting after rough shaping. I bought the cherry plank in late September and it sat in the woodshed until about two weeks ago. I then took part of it and cut it into bowl blanks. Two of the blanks are rough-carved and are now waiting. What are they waiting for? Movement, mainly cracking.
While purchased from my local sawyer, he neither sawed, dimensioned, nor kiln-dried it. Being that thick, wide cherry is expensive; I wait to see what happens before investing more time in the bowls. I lack faith in the kilning. Drying cherry properly is as much an art as a science, whether you air dry it or dry it in a kiln. Improperly prepared cherry wood can become expensive to kiln dry. So you practice patience, threat the wood with a bit of courtesy and gentleness. In another week, I’ll proceed with the final shaping and sanding.

The third bowl with the charred finish? That’s ash. I designed the bowl to look just like the rough hunk of log it started as. It’s a busy piece. It has some minor but stable cracking, some old insect damage, and a lot of character. It is not resting. It’s just waiting for me to complete my thought process on what I will do with its finish – go with the char, or sand it out and go with a natural ash color.

Eventually, I plan on a batch of about twelve bowls of various dimensions and finishes in cherry, ash, and birch It’s a sort of curated assemblage in cherry that I’ve been waiting for the right plank to do. A lot of my smaller bowls are made with air dried wood. Made of native New England cherry, they look much different than this Allegheny cherry. But it’s the growth environment that makes the difference. I tend to do projects like bowls and spoons this time of year to give me a creative break from other types of carving. The rhythm, intensity, and lack of detail orientation are very appealing.

You can lose yourself in the shaping and be surprised and hopefully pleased with the result. But it takes some trust in your instincts to time the when of those indulgences. That means learning from carvings that split and bowels that cracked. If it’s one thing I’ve learned it is that it’s best to wait.l