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There's Treasure Everywhere

Recycle, up-cycle, repurpose

I remember a Calvin and Hobbs cartoon with that title where the little guy, with Hobbs at his side, is digging for buried treasure. After finding a some worms, rocks, and a weirdly shaped root, he exclaims, "There's treasure everywhere!" And in reality, for someone set on recycling/repurposing, almost everything has the potential to be turned into something useful and there’s truly treasure everywhere you turn.

On that premise, I set out to explore ways to give various, often discarded materials, a second life. This post, intended to be first in a series, is about recycling discarded wood - and no, not pallet recycling. So much has been written on that particular subject that I’d have a hard time coming up with anything remotely new, and besides, pallets have become quite expensive.

A while ago, on a construction site, I picked up a broken concrete form made of ¾ inch waterproof plywood, thinking that I’ll use it for firewood. While taking it apart I realized that a good part of the plywood was still sound and re-usable, it just needed cleaned up a bit. The piece of plywood that I salvaged lay in a corner of the shop and, every once in a while I’d catch a glimpse of it and think what I might use it for. Then I remembered Rude Osolnik, a master woodturner from Kentucky whom I met many, many years ago at a woodturning symposium and who used plywood for many of his turnings, laminating layers of plywood to form a block and then turning it on the lathe. Still, I wasn’t too keen on using so much plywood only to turn most of it into sawdust.

Again, in my memory bank, I remembered an article in a woodworking magazine where the author had made a deep bowl out of a single piece of ¾ inch wood no bigger than the diameter of the finished bowl, and he accomplished that by cutting concentric circles out of that one board. Since I no longer have that magazine, I had to do some figuring before I went ahead with the cutting.

I started out with a 10-inch disk, marking out 6 concentric circles spaced 1/2 inch apart. Setting my scroll saw table at 35 degrees, I cut out the circles, entering each one at a tangent. With all the pieces cut, I glued them on top of each other and used a heavy cinder block to keep them pressed together. The resulting cone had a wall thickness of 3/8 inch, which after finishing on the lathe was left with 3/16 inch.

I should note here, in case somebody wants to attempt making a cone, that when cutting the circles on the scroll saw, the sixth and smallest disk is the bottom of the cone and is what the face-plate is attached to. After I finished turning and took the piece off the face-plate, I had to turn a small cone separately, one that came to a point, and glue it on the bottom of the bowl.

The support is made from 1/4 inch plywood left over from another project, and the two pieces are held together by a half-lap joint cut on the scroll saw.

These I finished with two coats of black lacquer, while the cone has two coats of tung oil. And voila! A fruit bowl is born.

And what do you do with an empty coconut shell? Why, a candy dish, of course!

What I was after in both pieces, aside from using materials that seemingly had no value, was to emphasize their visual qualities. By contrasting the rough texture of the coconut shell with the smooth surface of the Baltic birch stand, and the warm shades and rhythm of the lines in the fruit bowl with the stark black stand, the bowls are visually engaging and make a statement. Both pieces were easy and fun to do, and each one could find a home in any eclectic décor.

Stay tuned for the next treasure hunt, in the realm of textiles!

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Apr 18, 2022

Very creative way of giving discarded material a new life! The fruit bowl looks great especially with the contrasting black stand.

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