18 May 2005

Weed Pots and Walnut

I sometimes describe weed pots as vases on a budget, but they are in fact a distinct category of woodturned item. Turned vases tend to be medium to large sized pieces which are usually hollowed out and often relatively thin-walled. They may be classically shaped or free-form and sculptural. Finish treatments range from simple oiled-and-buffed to intricately colored, pierced, painted, sandblasted, charred, or whatever the turner wishes. They are admirably suited to display the turner's creativity and skill.

Weed pots are quieter, more reminiscent of a delicate woodcut print than a grand oil landscape. They are small enough to be picked up, so that the details of form and finish can be felt as well as seen. This also means that flaws in proportion, shape, and execution are readily apparent, so they are a good object on which to hone one's skills in these areas.

But weed pots have a charm all their own, which makes them more than just practice pieces. They are a perfect way to display small chunks of burl or other highly figured or spalted wood. Tropical hardwoods with their vivid hues make lovely accent pieces in this form. You can place several together on a corner shelf, and they are perfect for adding a personal touch to a cubicle or office.

Besides being decorative, weed pots are also functional. They are designed to hold miniature arrangements of dried flowers, grasses, and, well, dried weeds. A slender weedpot containing a carefully chosen assortment of grasses two to three times its own height can be rather elegant. I often include tiny teasel heads in the bouquet, when I've been able to gather and dry them myself.

Weed pots normally just have a hole drilled in them, rather than being hollowed out. This is much easier on the turner, and besides, the weight of the remaining wood is needed so the piece won't tip over when a bouquet is added. Form and finish are usually more restrained than with the big display vases, but this is of course not mandatory! With the field of woodturning in general pushing the envelope in all directions, even the humble weed pot is fair game for experimentation.

One variation occasionally seen in larger weedpots is the inclusion of a glass tube that slips into the drilled hole, either sitting flush with the edge, or deliberately extending upward. Filling this tube with water allows the weed pot to be used as a bud vase.

Walnut Weedpot

Here is a weed pot I recently completed. This piece of black walnut is quite straight-grained and lends itself perfectly to the round shape. It also displays chatoyance, evident by a slight difference in color on the upper and lower curved areas and in the neck. (This difference is not obvious in the picture.) When you stand the pot upside down, the light and dark areas are still below and above the belly, respectively. Walnut is lovely wood to work with!

I finished this piece with three coats of Watco Natural Danish Oil, applied over three days, and then gently buffed it. The day after it was finished, I took this picture. That same afternoon, a friend came to visit, saw the weedpot, and bought it. *sigh* Back to the lathe.



At 5/19/2005 09:16:00 PM, Blogger jesusyazzie said...

I don't know whether I enjoyed the article that you wrote or the picture of the weed pot more. With your description of the item, one can follow every step of the way, almost as doing it yourself. Most interesting! The vase itself turned out so beautifully, only enhanced by the perfect lighting. Keep working and show us more!!!

At 5/28/2005 11:23:00 PM, Blogger Tom Billings said...

Nice weedpots! Also, nice turner!

When can we meet?


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