Most people who turn bowls and vessels work with a single blank of wood. But a large group of turners make a blank by gluing up dozens – sometimes thousands – of pieces that are often no bigger than a Scrabble tile.
There’s method in this compulsiveness. The selection of woods and their arrangement in rings allows a segmented turner to design in the round, creating a range of patterns. Many segmented turnings resemble Native American pottery; others are wildly original, with the individual pieces arranged to swirl like a tornado.
(Segmented turners have an online-only chapter of the American Association of Woodturners.)
I’ve done enough segmented turning to appreciate the importance of precision in cutting and gluing the individual pieces. You have to begin with sharp, square pieces and you must take the time to eliminate small gaps between segments. Glue joints must be strong to withstand the pressure of turning. And the joints have to hold throughout the turning process, which makes the vessel wall thinner and reduces the surface of the glued areas.
Here are a few techniques I’ve learned, using a simple red oak bowl made from four, 12-segment rings.
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