Turning wood turns heads

Carl Baker doesn't go against grain

Carl Baker returned to turning wood when he heard about turning turnips into soup bowls and carrots into Christmas trees.

That was in an article he read about Tacoma wood-turner Ted Bartholomew. Baker says Bartholomew is the oldest man in the country still turning wood.

Intrigued, Baker took a wood-turning class and found that, once again, he really enjoyed the activity.

The only thing Baker had enjoyed about junior high shop class was turning wood when he made a fruit bowl for his mother.

During his career as a Navy psychologist, Baker traveled so much he never had time for a shop or hobbies.

Now he does.

Turning or carving?

"Turning" means putting a piece of wood onto a lathe. As the wood turns, the woodworker uses gouges – channeled metal tools with a sharp edge – and other tools to remove the unwanted wood. Different shapes and sizes of gouges give different results.

This differs from carving, where the wood stays still and the carver takes pieces from the outside.

Sometimes a turner will carve the outside of a bowl he has turned. This allows an artist to inlay metal or stone on the bowl.

Baker has turned wood about four years.

He likes the wood’s grain to show to the best advantage. He calls his enterprise Beneath the Bark because that is what he tries to bring out, what’s natural in the wood.

With the bark on

Sometimes he leaves the bark on the outside of a bowl or along its rim but he usually removes it so more wood grain will show.

Baker finishes the wood with oil, generally tung oil that gives the wood a soft, warm glow. This finish can be renewed whenever fingerprints or scratches show. Occasionally he uses polyurethane for a waterproof finish but he thinks it hides some of the beauty of the grain.

Baker says the West is a great place for wood turning because there are many well-known wood-turners. He belongs to two wood-turning groups that have these experts demonstrate or give workshops. He also travels to the Utah Wood Turning Symposium for three days each year. In this way, Baker always is improving his art.

Baker’s wood vessels are shown at the Blue Whole Gallery, 129 W. Washington St., in Sequim. The gallery is open 10 a.m.-

5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.

Baker also does custom work. Contact him at 452-4902 or carlandj@msn.com.

Reach Dana Casey at dcasey@sequimgazette.com.