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Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Twisted Sisters" Bittersweet Vases

"Let's Twist Again" Bittersweet Vine Weedpot

As a woodturner, I'm always on the hunt for unique and peculiar pieces of wood to make something "different". Here are two very unusual weedpots (ie, vases for dried materials, such as weeds, dried flowers, grasses, feathers, etc) hand-turned on the lathe from a large Bittersweet vine .... actually, two vines that grew twisted around each other, spiraling up into the canopy of a large Cottonwood tree.

Turning a piece of "wood" like this can be dangerous, because, although the two vines had grown tightly wound around each other, they were not fused together, and you must be careful that they don't fly apart when spinning on the lathe (um, a lesson learned the hard way).

"Two As One" Bittersweet Vase

The photo below shows another chunk of the same vines, so you can see what the piece looked like before it was turned. These are fairly old, mature vines; it's difficult to find vines that are old enough and large enough to be turned into a vase. I've been lucky to find some Bittersweet vines up to the 6-inch diameter range, which were approximately 45 years old. As the vines climb into the crown of their host tree, they often kill it, cutting off light and choking off the smaller limbs. The host tree will slowly fall apart, dropping dead limbs; eventually, it will topple, taking the vines down with it. If not for that fact, the vines might live many more years, growing ever larger. 

To make a vase, a suitable length of the vines is cut and mounted on the lathe; the blank is then hand-turned to shape, and a hole is bored down into the neck. After some sanding, several coats of finish are applied to complete the vase.
Twisted Bittersweet Vines

"Let's Twist Again" (top) is available at Timberturner.com.


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