My absence from blogging

I like to think that a few of you have asked, “Hey, what happened to Steve? I wonder why he hasn’t been blogging?” I would love to tell you that I’ve been hanging out with Keith Richards & the boys, working on some new songs, touring and the like but you’d see through that. Right? C’mon, I know my readers are brighter than that!

No, it’s been more a case of, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything. Hey, there has been some really good stuff, don’t get me wrong. It just doesn’t overwhelm my thoughts

I’ve bought myself a guitar & I’m learning to play (kinda). My circle of friends has been expanding and I’ve gained an appreciation for a wider range of cuisines. I’ve even come into some fabulous wood to slowly work through in the shop.

Pennsic has come & gone. My new tent is awesome & the girls love it. They came this year & had a blast! There was even one crazy old man who, during a lapse in cognitive ability, decided to make me one of his Protégés. (what were you thinking Dad?).

So, with all this good stuff, why haven’t I been writing?

The mind is a funny thing. In my case, it doesn’t dwell on the good & positive experiences I have. Instead, I am completely aware of the not so good stuff and that is where my mind is at. It doesn’t help that my heart seems like a black, smouldering ruin of a thing. In fact, it compounds the problem.

It is said that a craftsman creates when his head and his hands work together but art occurs when both are driven by ones heart and soul. Well, despite my dislike of the label, I am an artist. I’ve come to see that and even accept it in a way. I need my heart to be a big part of my creative process. Without it, I feel like I’m manufacturing stuff and I hate that.

Lately when I show my latest works, they are greeted with enthusiasm and love (and often with cash which is always nice). And yet, I have little connection to these pieces. Technically and aesthetically they are good. I know this. So why would I be just as happy to give them to the fire gods and start over?

I think the reason is my heart. It’s not a very good place lately (I have been known to say that 2013 can kiss my ass). I have seen friends and loved ones suffer. I have had to cut my dearest, most cherished friendship ever because, well, let’s just call it unrequited love. THAT relationship has been chewing at me and I know now what an utter disaster I have made of it (if you are reading this and you know who you are, please call).

I’ve seen things in friends that make me question whether they should be in my life. That is a hard pill to swallow because some of these are active, involved parts of my everyday life. Plus, it seems I am pushing a lot of folks away these days. Where do I stop with that? When I am hermit, sitting atop a high ledge, my cave behind me and the winds howling?

So there it is, the reasons I haven’t been writing of terribly active on social media. Getting all of this out is somewhat cathartic and I thank you for enduring my rambling. Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going into the shop now for some woodturning therapy. There’s a chunk of red maple that could use some heart & soul.

Thanks for stopping by, as always.

Mid-life crisis? I think I have earned it.

I am not sure if you would classify this as a mid-life crisis or not. Typically when men go through one, it involves a sports car, motorcycle, or a fling with some co-ed. Me? I got myself a new lathe.

With all of the changes happening in my life, I knew it was time to invest in myself and Green Leaf Wood Studio. I knew that if I was going to increase my production rates that I was going to need to be able to work faster. Sounds reasonable, right? I could have spent a pile of time, effort and money into beefing up my old lathe, add a stable outboard tool rest, figure a way to increase the size capacity and such. I did look into these things but they all added up to the same thing… Compromises and what-ifs. So, I started looking into the “dream” lathe. Here were the things that were important for me…

- 24″ + swing
- solid spindle turning capability for my peppermills
- 2hp or better and enough torque to spin a planet
- so much mass that I wouldn’t need to add ballast
- no need for add-ons

This left me with 3 real choices: a Vicmarc VL300 long bed, a Robust Sweet 16 and a Stubby S-750. Sadly, the VL300 long bed is no longer being made. There is talk that the manufacturer is having a tough time with their castings and the long bed is simply no longer economical to produce. I was concerned about the mass of the Sweet 16. I spoke with the owner of the company and he explained that I could bolt it down or easily add weight via a low shelf. I didn’t want to need to do that but I would. Buuuuut, I would have also needed to replace my bowl coring rig. The Oneway system that I use doesn’t cause me to burst out in song but I like it the best of the available options. So, this leaves the Stubby.

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And there she is. It is around 10 years old and slightly different than newer models. As I understand things, after talking to Bill Rubenstein of Stubby Lathe USA, the electronics are different and not quite as programmable as more recent issues. Also, the remote control on my lathe does not have a potentiometer for speed control, nor does it have a forward/reverse switch. Those are mounted on the body of the lathe itself. This is not quite as convenient but the important thing for me is to have a start button away from the “line of fire” and to have a stop button where I am standing. If I ever feel the need, I can get another controller and install these features on the remote but it certainly isn’t needed.

The biggest difference between this version of the S-750 and more recent ones is the bed itself. It is longer than what the S-750 is offered with nowadays. Bill told me that John Jordan petitioned Omega (the manufacturer in Australia) to shorten the bed so that a woodturner could stand on the end of the lathe while hollowing or working the inside of a bowl. The idea with this is that doing so is easier on your back. This has always confused me because when I am working a bowl, I do not lean over the bed of the lathe. Who does this? Why? Maybe when freehand hollowing but otherwise….?

Anyway, what you see is 600+lbs of Australian, cast-iron love. To this point, I have been working on roughing out some bowls from a 1500lb load of black walnut I recently scored. Some of this wood is HUGE so it will take me some time to get through. Oh yeah, the Stubby allows me to turn up to 30″ diameter so I know I won’t have to worry about milling down bowl blanks to fit the lathe. Here’s a sneak peak at the rough outs. There will be many more and hopefully in time for Christmas.

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Thanks for stopping y.

Finally, a project for me!

The problem with being a woodturner/artist/creative type and operating Green Leaf Wood Studio is that I never seem to do any woodturning for myself. Sure, I make the odd piece that amuses me but I don’t make anything for ME to use. That is about to change!

With my pending separation, I am going to need to furnish an apartment and equip a kitchen/dining area (bedding will be kinda important too).

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These pieces of red elm will become my everyday, use for everything bowls. Cereal, soup, salsa, ice cream, salads…yup, all of it.

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Aaaaand, these logs will be my everyday plates as well as serving bowls . Probably my fruit/salad bowl as well.

The bowls and plates are roughed out and heading into the kiln this week. There will also be a load of ash bowls and a few elm salad bowls as well. Gonna be an exciting couple of months before Christmas! Oh yeah, I said the “C” word. Yup, I went there.

You’re welcome.

Thanks for stopping by.

P.S. Keep your eyes peeled for some Christmas ornaments as well. I am going to offer them for sale on my Etsy store for the first time, this year. Previously I have only carried them at local shows but now, I am spreading the cheer!