little miss messy hair


from the ashes

last year i got it into my head that i would like to make an urn for R's ashes. i have the container from the funeral home, a lovely mdf box with a contact-paper-esque veneer, but i wanted something a bit different. since r loved the smell of cherry blossoms, and since it also echoed his interest in japan, i decided to make an urn out of cherry wood.

first, i went to arborcare, a local tree care and removal company, and found several cherry stumps. i picked up 5 for $5, but keep in mind this wood is not dried so you have some risk.

wait, actually, first i went to sop and asked if he could help me do this. you see, sop knows wood. he is a woodworker by trade and if it can be done, well, he probably can do it.

so, now we are already at number three, where i chose a stump to start out on and took it to the woodshop up at school (the university where i work). then sop helped me put it on the lathe.

next came ripping off the bark and starting to get it in the general shape that i wanted it. the wood was very wet and smelled of spiced honey as i turned the wood. every so often i would just stop and hold my face up to its surface.

the ends of the wood were checked and started cracking more and more as we went along. i became worried that this might not work; that it might fall apart. i just kept reminding myself that i had 4 more stumps in the basement and i could try again if this didn't work out.

the design in my mind was a sphere, slightly wider than tall. the lid would join evenly with the sphere, looking almost a part of it. sop didn't tell me until the end how tricky this would be: he just thought of ways to make it work.

the very last night of turning was tortuous. i had the sphere where i wanted it, the surface was sanded and smooth, i was just going to cut off the lid and then reshape the base to accont for the material lost in that cut, but as we cut off the lid (sop in charge on this bit), the saw blade caught and broke and edge on the lid, meaning the entire piece would have to be reshaped. i about gave up at this point, thinking that the lid was going to be some dorky-looking thing sitting on top of a larger bottom, but sop helped me out and i got the piece where i wanted it and it was time to hollow it out.

hollowing was a blast. i could apply pressure and just get into a groove. the smell of honey came up again as the wet center wood came out. and then it was done. sanded. oiled. beautiful. i took it home and filled it with oil to help catch any more cracking and hoped that it would hold.

uh oh, the lid...

yes, the lid is still cracking. i don't know yet what i am going to do. i need to talk to sop. i think it might need to be redone, but that's okay, i can do it.


At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a lovely urn, crack and all.

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful thing to do. And I think it looks lovely even with the crack. Actually, I think the crack adds character.


At 9:12 AM, Blogger PJ said...

Oh, my! What a significant post and what a wonderful sharing of the process! I could almost smell it :) I tend to agree about the crack, but that is a very personal thing. I love the idea, also, where the wood has come from.


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