By Gavin McCalden
When viewing one of Jerry Wedekind’s unique wood-turnings, it’s hard not to wonder just how he does it. In truth, the process of creating a turned wood bowl has been around for centuries. Jerry’s own lathe is an ancient Oliver, more than 75 years old that came from a collector many years ago. He attributes some qualities of his work to the uniqueness of the lathe:
The process used in turning a hollowed vessel is first to shape the outside profile, then carefully remove the interior shape through a small opening at the top. As Jerry puts it, “The overall goal is to remove as much material as possible without compromising its structural integrity”.
Both processes require over-sized tools, many of which Jerry has designed and developed himself over the years. Typically he uses long-handled chisel-like instruments to achieve the desired results.
All the tools and techniques aside, there would be nothing without the raw material: large burls. A burl is a growth caused by environmental or human-caused stress in which the grain has grown in an abnormal manner. Often times they can be seen as an outgrowth on a tree trunk or branch, but sometimes they grow beneath the ground, attached to the roots of the tree.
Burls yield a very peculiar and figured wood, and are highly valued for their interesting patterns and rich color. The low occurrence rate of burls adds to their value and collectable nature. The highly desirable, irregular patterns of burl wood make it more difficult to work on a lathe, saw, sand and finish.
Some tree species can grow burls of enormous size. It is these large burls that Jerry seeks out, spending hours deep in the backcountry of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Many of his best finds have been accidental as he biked remote mountain trails. Jerry will never cut a living tree, preferring trees that have been standing dead for 3-4 years.
It is this focused and knowledgeable effort that produces these high-quality, Aspen burl woodturnings seen in Sorrel Sky Gallery.