It takes a keen eye, a steady hand and a lot of practice to turn a wooden block into a skillfully crafted artisan bowl.
Wood turner Harvey Brooks is a veteran who has delicately shaped thousands of them over the past 18 years.
In his Fernwood woodworking shop, he’s busy finishing bowls for his display at the July 20 Oak Bay Village Night Market.
He finds wood turning a more artistic form of working with the material than producing flat wood products such as cutting boards.
“It’s like any art – the more you practice the better you get at it,” says Brooks, who is self-taught. I love working with wood because every piece is individual. No two pieces are the same; no two pieces will react the same; and no two pieces will look the same when they are finished. Mother Nature does such a good job (with) the variety of colours.”
Brooks learned his craft watching videos and a lot of trial and error.
Whether he’s using local Garry oak, arbutus, western maple or Pacific yew, the process is a fragile and delicate one.
There is a high failure rate for roughing bowls and many are not able to be finished. Depending on the wood, up to 40 per cent of the bowls may crack as they dry.
Brooks begins the shaping process with a block of wood, preferably still green.
“From the rough wood I use a chainsaw or band saw to get it into a roughly round shape. Then I mount it between centers on the lathe and start the shaping process with the bowl gouges.”
Roughing out the outside shape first, he checks the grain orientation and adjusts the wood so the most appealing aspect of the grain is showing. “Once you have it roughed to a pleasing appeal, the bowl is remounted and the inside is hollowed out.”
The wood then dries for at least six months, if not several years.
The wood can warp as it’s drying, so once completely dry it is turned on the lathe a second time, then sanded and finished with several coats of natural oil wax finish.
“I have been showing my bowls in the Oak Bay Market since it started,” he says. “Because I work in a one-man shop it’s rewarding to talk to people and see their appreciation for the work that I do.”
Approximately 85 other artists, performers and vendors will join Brooks at the second monthly market of the event’s third season in the Village. Opening hours are 4 to 8 p.m. and Oak Bay Avenue will be closed between Monterey Avenue and Yale Street to accommodate pedestrian traffic.
The Morris Dancers, Scottish fiddler Gavin Duncan and magician Paul Kilshaw will provide entertainment, and a fundraising barbecue will be held for Cops for Cancer donations.