What is Custom Turning?

Custom Turning is the process of taking wood from a tree that has special meaning to someone and making a keepsake from that wood on the lathe. Items that can be made include bowls, ornaments, platters, and candle sticks and candle holders of different sorts. Add to that wands, bats, decorative trees and more. If it is round, it can be made.

Personal Keepsakes of a Favorite Place

I’ve had a number of folks ask for custom turnings from a tree on their property to preserve the memory of the location or of their memory of the person for whom it was planted.

Good Stewardship

Many folks are sensitive to preserving our environment and making the most of what we have before us. When a tree needs to come down or when a tree has fallen, the family may want to preserve their memory of the tree by having something special made from the wood. I’ll go out and collect some of the wood, bring it back to the shop and make the best of it. I’ve also pulled a few pieces out of the firewood pile to make small bowls and ornaments when the wood is in good condition.

Of the things in our environment that are important to us, the trees that surround us are right at the top of the list. I admire trees for their beauty and strength. I will often (daily) spot a tree that makes me think “Wow, that could be made into some great bowls!” My immediate next thought is “But there are so many trees that are already down, I can focus on those.” I believe the more trees that we can keep standing, the better off we will be. So I focus on what is already down or those that must come down.
Note that I do not cut trees just so I can turn their wood – I use trees that had to come down or that have fallen down. I find that wood sources are plentiful.

Using a Downed Tree in Wood Turning

The tree pictured here is a Red Oak taken down in Herndon, Virginia in the spring of 2019. The family had it removed because it was a risk for their home. Once cut, we found it had signs of it heading into its final years including early stages of rot. The base of the tree was over 3.5 foot in diameter. Pictured below are 2 bowls rough-turned from this red oak.