Canadian forests and particularly Ontario provide a rich diverse and abundant supply of wood from many different tree species. Wood is the only major building material that grows naturally and is renewable. In Canada a reasonable percentage of our wood resource is managed in some way to help with sustainability. We can and need to do much better in this regard. Ontario particularly needs to step up it’s forest management particularly in northern areas.
The bowls I make use a diverse number of wood species both soft and hardwoods. Primarily I use hard wood. All the wood used is salvaged from tree removal due to things like storm damage and building development. It is offered free for the work of removal. With chain saw in hand I go and salvage the wood I need. Of course I like to get wood like Walnut for its rich colour but use many species as outlined in this article.
- WHITE PINE: this is primarily the only soft wood I use although I have tried others. White pine trees once covered huge swaths of Ontario but past logging practices have dealt a blow to these majestic trees. It is Ontario’s official tree. It turns easily on the lathe and accepts various decorative finishing techniques quite well. I can turn large bowls with this wood as it is lighter in weight than hardwoods.
- SUGAR MAPLE: This is Canada’s national tree and its leaf is a universal symbol of Canada including on our flag. It is particularly suited for salad bowls and utensils. It is a hard white wood. Bowls made from this wood will provide years of use.
- YELLOW BIRCH: This wood is used for making plywood and furniture. It has a tight grain and bowls made from this wood are very durable. Trees large enough for bowl turning are difficult to find but are removed in urban areas due to the lifespan of this tree so I do get salvaged pieces.
- BLACK WALNUT: This is a prized tree species which has many uses. It is very valuable when the tree is large in size. Walnut is used for furniture and making veneer. I do get pieces that can’t be sent to a sawmill. The colour ranges from dark brown to white in the same bowl. These bowls are particularly beautiful and prized.
- BUTTERNUT: These trees are regularly mistaken for Walnut when standing in the forest. There are subtle differences that tell them apart. The wood is not as hard as Walnut and does not have the rich dark colour. It is fairly easy to turn on the lathe and accepts finishes well.
- WHITE ASH: This tree is now endangered in Canada due to the destruction by the Emerald Ash Borer. The tree removal in towns across some areas of Ontario is devastating parks and residential areas. The wood from infected trees should never be moved to a different location so as not to spread the insects. I have been offered Ash from healthy trees on some occasions. Although hard to turn, when dry, it makes fantastically durable bowls. The grain paterns are pronounced and quite beautiful. This wood is one of my favorites.