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Decorative wooden bowls create a stir at Linden Ponds

Created date

October 26th, 2010

When Norman Carlson moved to Linden Ponds, he decided to leave behind his furniture-making talent, along with much of his furniture. Instead, he picked up a new skill, one that has gained him acclaim throughout the community. Carlson s decorative wooden bowls, made from layers of different types of wood smoothed into a mosaic of rich color, have been a popular item at the annual Arts and Crafts Fair at Linden Ponds. This month s fair will be the fifth to feature Carlson s craftsmanship. It just kind of developed, he says of his new craft.

Learning from experience

Carlson had done a good deal of woodworking, including building his own kitchen cabinets, before moving to Linden Ponds from Norwell, Mass., around the time of the 2005 craft fair. Carlson had made a wooden bowl from one piece of wood, but taught himself the laborious, detailed process of the bowls he now creates in the on-site woodshop. The process begins with various pieces of wood which may include tiger, maple, birch, and purple heart, precisely cut and glued to create a wheel. One of Carlson s favorite bowls is made of spalted maple wood, which has been discolored by fungi that gives the illusion of designs in the wood. The wood of this particular bowl has the outline of what looks like a face on its base. Once he has created the base of the bowl, Carlson cuts an additional eight pieces of wood for each of the four or five rings that he stacks to form the sides of the bowl, and then rounds the sides on a lathe. The last step involves adding finish to the wood to bring out its color. Each of Carlson s bowls requires about a week of work, putting in four- to five-hour days. His larger bowls are 12 inches in diameter, but last year he added smaller bowls to his repertoire.

Woodworking for good

In the last five years, Carlson has made about 40 to 50 large bowls and 30 small bowls, the majority of which were sold at Linden Ponds fair to benefit the Benevolent Care Fund, which provides for those in the community who suffer financial hardship. Carlson donates 100% of the profits from his bowls to the fund, typically buying the locally sold imported wood on his own. He charges between $65 and $150 for each bowl. Carlson warns that his bowls are made to be decorative pieces, not kitchenware. He explains with a smile, it s a standard joke here because someone heard the price and said, That s awfully expensive for a salad bowl. Carlson says he s cutting back the time he spends on his woodworking, but he can still be found toiling in the Linden Ponds woodshop, creating the occasional bowl for a family wedding gift or the Linden Ponds fair and developing new methods as he goes.

All the right angles

Every time I do these I learn something, he says. Most recently he devised a more accurate method of measuring each piece of wood in order to adjoin the rings at just the right angle. This is a very exacting process, he explains, taking a break from complete concentration on his task. Carlson joins about 40 others as members of the Linden Ponds woodshop, which is divided into an assembly room and a machine room. Members have their own keys and access to the equipment, which includes the lathe, scroll saw, band saw, ten-inch table saw, sander, and router table that once lived in Carlson s workshop.