BY RUSSELL NEYMAN.
There’s really nothing — nothing! — more satisfying that taking a piece of wood and making it into something beautiful and/or functional. I have a very complete wood shop on the hillside above my house, and I make everything from pieces of art to cabinets there. Here are a handful of the things I’ve made through the years, offered with the hope that they might be inspirational to other artisans and woodworkers. Many of these pieces are for sale.
BOWLS AND TURNINGS, BY RUSSELL NEYMAN.
While I’ve made everything from a church chancel to jewelry boxes, turning lidded round vessels (aka bowls with tops) has captured my fancy recently. It’s probably the only woodworking form that can be completed in a single day, from lump to the table. I thought I’d share a few.Above is my signature piece, “William Tell,” which is a very large urn that happens to be on display in an Oregon art gallery (top of page). The maple body has a dramatic “tiger stripe” that is unusual. “Pocahontas” is typical of my effort to create dramatic urns and decorative pieces, and it is one of several to feature a feather-like finial made from a banksia seed pod. This urn is quite large, measure 14 inches across and 13 inches high. Another example of this series of urns is this one (above) called “Cowboy.” It’s similar to “Pocahontas” it’s a figured maple with the same type of finial, but each and every one of these turns out differently. Shown below is “Antler,” made from maple burl and featuring a deer antler knob. The base is mahogany. “Turtle,” (bottom) gets its name from the rounded lid made from lacewood. “Chief Colby” (below) is a very tall and striking urn, and is an experiment with higher gloss finishes. The base style is new, too. The project below, “Teapot” was a joint project with my friend, Jack Leininger, who wanted to make this as a Christmas gift for his wife. From a planning and engineering standpoint, this was one of the most difficult turning projects I have ever encountered. I coached and helped Jack when he ran into trouble, but he did the bulk of the actual work. It’s quite large. I suppose it could hold a liquid (the spout actually works) but it is used to store teabags. “Bridelvail Falls” (above) is a wonderful example of the wood speaking for itself. I left a great deal of the distorted bark on the outside of the bowl, and the tree-crotch grain looks like a waterfall on the inside (thumbnail, below). This is on display in an art gallery. For about a year I experimented with all sorts of green-wood turnings, and they were so fresh water sprayed off of them when I put them on the lathe. This one is called “Plaid Shirt” (above) simply because the distortions of curing in a microwave oven created a cross-hatching texture throughout. Another bowl project, this one using one of my favorite local woods, madrone. In this case, the finished vessel is practical and useful, finished with only paste wax. When left alone like this, the madrone gets very hard and turns a reddish color. Madronne can be turned “green” (wet) too, and when this process is done, the wood is prone to dramatic warping and distortions. I made this one for my good friend, Kane Whistler, and dried it one minute at a time in a microwave oven. That process plus the lacquer finish resulted in a very light-colored bow. Much of my work are urns, both for humans and pets. The one above was for my father, Capt Robert L Neyman. My preference is to have these sealed so that the contents cannot be spilled, but in this case it can still be opened with a knife (cutting through thin wood pins in the lid crease) so that the urn can be saved after the ashes are spread at sea. More turned projects, below: A turned taqua nut (sometimes called an ivory nut) with a shark’s tooth lid, only two inches tall; “Rocket,” a missile-shaped container made from bloodwood; Urn-type lidded vessel with ebony and ivory-nut inlays. —————————————————————————– FURNITURE AND CABINETRY, BY RUSSELL NEYMAN.
More and more, I have been commissioned to replica vintage create furniture, often to be used as a bathroom or kitchen cabinet. Typically, they’re Craftsman-style, and they look like they’re free-standing, but because they can be plumbed with faucets and sinks, they’re affixed to the wall.This first series of photos is a bathroom vanity, linen closet, and privacy wall bookshelf, with a matching mirror. The construction is all quartersawn oak, with through-tenons and ebony bungs. The top is an imitation soapstone, and the glass in the linen cabinet base is reeded, typical of the 1920’s Arts & Crafts style. —————————————————————————– GIFT BOXES AND KEEPING CHESTS, BY RUSSELL NEYMAN.
More than anything, I have gotten the most satisfaction out of building various cases and boxes, everything from a large blanket chest to small ornamental keepsake boxes.
Below, top to bottom: A small box with antique ivory carved broach mounted on its lid; A round case, custom made to hold an antique gymbaled compass; A complex folding desk (several views shown here), inspired by one owned by Thomas Jefferson; A bonde oak mantle box with hidden compartment; A 6″ by 8″ by 3″ curio box, with bookmatched redwood burl and splined corners.
More boxes, below: Another mantle chest, this one with a pinecone-like “monkey pod” ornament on the lid and dovetailed corners; A cedar blanket chest, constructed from reclaimed wood from a chest that was destroyed by Hurricane Adam in the 1990’s; Various marble-topped “bill boxes,” intended to sit on a coffee table or counter as a place to hide everyday paper clutter or to hold potpourri.