October 14, 2020
Many of you know that I frequently must eat my words. Many years ago, I was teasing my wife. She is a quilter, and I asked why does anyone buy a perfectly good piece of fabric, just to cut it up and sew it back together? Well, she asked later, why does anyone buy a perfectly good piece of wood, just to cut it up and glue it back together? Ahh, err, that would be me. Oh well, better not try to insult someone else’s hobby, it might just be you that the shoes fit!
I started my woodworking hobby in flatwork. Unfortunately, the elbow would not handle the vibration. I was afraid I would have to give up woodworking. A friend introduced me to turning, and so the story goes. Two turners in my WBW club were segmenters, and very good at it. They inspired me to try. I fell in love with it, letting me use my flatwork sills and adding turning. The ability to “paint” with wood while minimizing the expense of using exotics really intrigued me. I quickly discovered that I could spend far more time doodling ideas, than a lot of time cutting and prepping the work, before quickly turning and producing a piece I could be proud of. The other side of the coin, is we all know we’ve thrown our rulers away, don’t cry much when we blow a piece up, but just relax and let the creative juices flow, trying to maximize nature's beauty. Segmented beauty is almost exclusively up to us. Every day I am inspired by a direction that someone is taking.
Thinking about giving it a go? Do not be intimidated but realize there are many ways to get it done. Start with planning, planning, planning. I am still a little old school, doing my planning on graph paper and using a spreadsheet. Get the shape right! After you cut the pieces, you do not have a lot of room to change the shape. Once you have a shape, you need to plan how you will “paint” the piece. What woods do you want to use? Next, size the pieces you need to cut. In simple terms, the shape is divided into horizontal “rings”, which are composed of “segments”. Your plan will define the thickness of the rings, and the size of the segments. The flatwork fun begins by preparing the wood stock. Accuracy is critical to having good joints. Bad joints result in gaps or lines. You will see them every time you pick up the piece, others may not, but you will. Next cutting the segments can be accomplished in several ways, table saw/miter saw/bandsaw for instance. Your piece count could easily explode to thousands or be as simple as ~100. Either case, you will spend a lot of time cutting, accurate cutting. Now, to get back to gluing things up, ending up with a blank to turn. The turning is a small portion of the time dedicated to the piece, but very rewarding as you see what you had envisioned coming to life.
When I first started segmented, I focused on southwestern Indian forms and decorations. Over time, it has exploded in many different directions. Tiny holes, mostly air, multi surfaced, multi axis, cut and reassembled, …. If you are so inclined, I am sure you will find a direction this art is going, or that you would like to lead.