Spanish bowl turners

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Spanish bowl turners

Postby Robin Fawcett » Thu Dec 06, 2007 1:19 pm

A kind chap at a show gave me a large photocopied chunk of a book about Spanish rustic woodworkers - "El hombre y la madera" by Ignacio Abella, 1985 ISBN 84-7901-095-9. The pictures of lathes, tools etc are quite interesting but not speaking any Spanish I asked a Spaniard friend to do some translating. Apparently the turners were all from a region called Asturia in NW Spain and 2 interesting facts emerged:-

They only cut their wood (ash, birch, maple, oak) in December and January and then only when the moon is waning !

When making cups and goblets they always ensure that the top is toward the top of the tree and the bottom toward the roots.
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Postby Steve Martin » Fri Dec 07, 2007 7:46 am

Was there any explanation as to why they cut their wood when they do or why they oriented their cups and goblets as they do?

I would guess that cutting in December and January on a waning moon insures that there is as little moisture as possible in the wood and therefore, checking is less of a problem but I have no guess about the orientation of cups and goblets. Does anybody have an explanation or guess?
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Postby Fuzzy » Fri Dec 07, 2007 4:33 pm

I would assume that the orientation of the goblets would trace back to some superstition related to the tree wanting to stay upright even in it's afterlife, so if they were to turn a cup "upside down" it would always spill...just a thought.
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Postby robin wood » Sat Dec 08, 2007 11:56 am

nice one Robin...will you bring your copies to agm? I'd like to see them if I can't get a copy of the book first...£40 in the US is cheapest I can see at the mo
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Re: Spanish bowl turners

Postby forestdesigns » Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:06 pm

I´ve been wanting to mention this book, It´s fantastic! They say here that this is when the tree is the least active, the sap is in the roots & the wood is less likely to split & will preserve longer. Aparently the correct position (roots-down) also had to do with splitting. Turning was seasonal work, so in the winter when there was less work & more hunger, they worked in exchange for food lodging & a small wage. A lathe was set up on residance, & the winter was spent turning away for the household. I´ll have another read through this chapter, but it seems that´s how it worked.

Unfortunately, Spanish have little interest for their old ways. I would love to find a traditional carpenter to learn from, specifically felling trees, squaring them off, & construction! This is gorgeous stuff! A friend has an old cabin here, where we go camping in the summers, here in Cantabria. I´ll say they were a semi nomadic people until very recently, living with cattle. With lots of small plots of land, the easiest way to work it was to cut, dry & store the hay each in it´s cabin that had been constructed when the plots had been cleared & divided ages ago. So in the winter, off they went or go in some places still, to the cabin to feed. When there´s no more hay, it´s off to the next one. So to get on with the story, my friend had the roof changed about 15 years ago, by a local craftsman. He cut the oaks nearby, squared & constructed the roof by axe, or possibly by chainsaw, I´ll have to have a closer look this year. The roof is supporting many tons of stone which is the shingles to keep the rain out. We go up every year to make sure non have moved to far from their position & a large one of them could weigh 50 kilos maybe.

& now, only 15 years later I can´t find anyone who still works with wood they´ve worked by hand. I´m on the lookout, we´ll see if I can find a teacher locally this year!
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Re: Spanish bowl turners

Postby robin wood » Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:36 am

I met the turner in the book last year. http://greenwood-carving.blogspot.com/2 ... er-in.html
http://www.robin-wood.co.uk bowls, books and courses
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Re: Spanish bowl turners

Postby forestdesigns » Thu Mar 25, 2010 6:43 pm

Galicia is truly fantastic!

I suppose you were visiting Luis & Ana? I don´t know them but have seen there websites recently. I´m not so sure if Arturo was the turner in the book "El hombre y La Madera" or at least not in my edition. It was originally published in 1985 although my edition is from ´98, & the turner is older than your Arturo, although it´s totally possible that a new edition could have a new turner as well. The fences & doors are truly fantastic in Galicia, & Asturias is worth seeing if your in the north again.

I´ve been trying to track down the author of this book for awhile but it´s proving difficult, unless I post on other blogs of his that are more related to tree protection & myths & such. I´m not sure how appropriate it would be for me to ask him to contact me regarding old style craftsman & my desire to fell & shape trees in the woods.

This is offtopic but... what´s keeping me from building a lathe at the moment is the lack of turning tools. Do you think it´s worth a go using whatever tools I´ve got at hand?

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1291
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Re: Spanish bowl turners

Postby forestdesigns » Mon Apr 05, 2010 5:58 pm

Ok...
the book says that the wood should be used roots down... to avoid the sweating or oozing of liquids in large quantity, due to osmotic presure.
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Re: Spanish bowl turners

Postby trollwumple » Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:52 am

It is very interesting that they only fell trees in December and January on a waning moon, I have just finished an 8 month course learning traditional French timber framing here in France and the "bucheron", "traditionally a person who fells trees for timber" only cut trees during the last two weeks in January and the first two weeks in february.

My teacher on the course constantly mourned the passing of these traditional ways of harvesting timber as he reckoned the modern way of felling trees and the resulting quality of the wood was greatly inferior to that cut during the January/February period. I have seen the difference for myself and the timber felled in January and February is without a doubt better quality than what is usually on offer.

As for the wood being "the right way up" my teacher insisted that the wood was used right way up and inside to the inside and outside to the outside, if that makes sense.

As spain and France are neighbours I would suggest that techniques for felling and using timber where traditionally very similar.
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Re: Spanish bowl turners

Postby jrccaim » Fri Aug 13, 2010 3:16 am

The subject of when to cut trees for some purpose or the other is really fascinating. In temperate climates, sap rises in the spring and goes down in the fall and is presumably minimum in the winter. This is why maple or birch sap for sugaring or syrup is collected in late winter/early spring; it's "rising" as the old-timers used to say. So it makes sense to cut wood for timber-framing in winter. Sap will be lowest, drying out will be easier and it may check less. Checking is presumably caused by rapid drying. If there isn't much sap to dry, you will get less checking.

That said, there is a lot of superstition in old lore. So one has to be careful. On the other hand, some "scientists" sneer at superstition without going out and measuring. As Sherlock Holmes (A Study in Scarlet, I think) says "It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of your data, Watson. It biases the judgement."

Finally, in tropical climes, as far as I can tell the sap content, much like the climate, is pretty much the same year-round, so it shouldn't matter when you cut. As a practical matter, in the tropics wood is cut in the dry season (if any) because it's easier to haul the stuff out after you cut it.
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Re: Spanish bowl turners

Postby jrccaim » Fri Aug 13, 2010 3:45 am

On the subject of the book that started this thread, Robin Wood said:

nice one Robin...will you bring your copies to agm? I'd like to see them if I can't get a copy of the book first...£40 in the US is cheapest I can see at the mo


Hmmm. I just googled the title and author. You can get it for 28 Euros at http://www.eljardindellibro.com, although to do so 'twere better if you spoke or at least read Spanish. 30 Euros is the going price, surely that is less than 40 quid? Or has the pound sunk so low? These are new. I will take this one on as a project, since the book looks interesting (and I happen to speak Spanish, although with a Venezuelan accent). If I find a bargain, I will post it here.
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