Woodworker Nick Stagg lives in rural Oregon, where he operates Moonraker Turning from his farm-based studio. Using reclaimed wood whenever possible, Nick shapes rough pieces of wood into beautiful, turned wood bowls, vessels, and vases. I recently had the chance to ask Nick about the craft of woodturning, and he explained the ins and outs of the craft. Also, check out his shop to order some of his beautiful turned wood pieces.
CasaSugar: When did you start woodturning?
Nick Stagg: I started woodturning in 2003 after seeing some turned tool handles in someone's shop and I thought that I could do that! I had an old, inferior lathe and poor tools, but was able to make some small oil-filled lamps for family members. Shortly after that I upgraded my lathe and slowly purchased better tools and continued to turn. I joined a woodturning club and checked out all the books and videos I could from the library and spent my spare time trying to improve. As time passed, I've hosted instructors from Engalnd and Australia in my shop to give classes to other turners. I'm now confident enough that I can offer help to beginning turners and, perhaps, make their journey into the woodturning arena less painful than mine!
To hear about how Nick makes his turned wood vessels,
CasaSugar: How long does it take you to make a bowl? Nick Stagg: The time involved with a bowl varies on several things. Most of the time I twice turn my bowls. This means I turn them to a thickness greater than the one I need and coat them with a wax to minimize cracking as excess moisture evaporates. They are then left to air dry, in our climate that's about 13 percent moisture. Different woods take longer to dry and can distort and crack. Oregon white oak is very difficult to dry without some degradation, Pacific madrone needs to be boiled to stabilize it. Big leaf maple is in abundance in Oregon and dries quickly and has more character than oak. I like to turn maple. The rough turning of a 12-x-5 inch shouldn't take more than 30 minutes. The finish turning and sanding, depending on the style of the bowl, should be accomplished in 45 minutes. I don't apply any finish to the bowl on the lathe. I sign the piece and give it several coats of Danish oil over a period of days, depending on how porous the wood is. The oil is left to thoroughly cure and it then goes through a three-stage buffing process.
CasaSugar: What type of wood do you use? Nick Stagg: Most of the wood I use is reclaimed. I gather wood from power line trimmings, trees cut down for safety reasons, or as a result of building/ housing developments. Other turners hear of trees coming down in their neighborhood and the homeowner wants it cleaned up in a day, so we gather a group of people and clear the area. None of my bowl or vessel pieces have ever originated from a tree that's been cut down for the sole purpose of turning. Wood turners are generous and are always willing to share.