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Old Ant Eaten White Oak Burl

The burl was provided by a customer who found it in her father’s wood working shop after he died. She asked me to make an artistic bowl to save a memory of her dad. He must have had a plan for the burl, but as you can see from the photos below, the burl is mostly hollowed-out by carpenter ants (many ant carcasses were present) and of course this presented a challenge. Was there enough solid burl remaining to turn a bowl? A few holes in the side of the bowl would be OK since this will be an artistic bowl. I added some epoxy resin to the very bottom of the hole since there must be stability there for the base of the bowl (an image below shows this). A tenon will be made in this area for reverse mounting the piece in a chuck for hollowing the inside of the bowl. The large ant eaten hole in the burl was capped with a board to provide a platform for a faceplate. This is shown in the images below. The outer profile of the bowl was turned without major issues. Only one tiny hole into the ant nest void occurred. A tenon was turned at the bottom of the bowl and it was stable. The hollowing of the bowl was interesting since the ants had done most of the work and chunks of wood (rather than nice turnings) flew in the air. I kept the side thickness at about 3/8” to eliminate most of the ant holes, but a few remained. This added a rustic character to the bowl. The wood in this area is also darker and some of the clear epoxy used to stabilize the base is visible in this area. The burl had a nicely textured outer surface that can be seen in the rim of the bowl. The wood shows wavy growth rings that are darker brown and contrast with the golden-brown color of the wood. These wavy lines are circular around theta of the bowl. There are also tiny perpendicular (radial) rays (typical of oak) running up the sides of the bowl near the rim. There are beautiful colorful patterns in the wood, some due to spalting. These patterns are filled with a tiny wiggly texture typical of oak burl. Overall, this is mesmerizing and difficult to put into words. The bowl was turned using handheld tools on a lathe from old dry wood and sanded to 400 grit. The bowl was sealed with two coats of pure tung oil. The photos show the turning process and the sanded/finished bowl. The dimensions of the completed bowl are: 18 - 15” diam at top, 4.5” ht, 3/8” wall thickness or less in the ant eaten areas.


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