Tomís words about himself and his relationship to wood and bowls
I have always felt a special attraction to wood. I like the look of it. I like the way it feels and smells. I like to feel myself putting effort into creating something with wood. I like the surprise of discovering the look of it after a cut has been made or a finish has been applied.
My father had a wood shop in his basement. Even before I can remember, he had made wooden furniture. When I was very young, he built me a workbench and outfitted it with saw and hammer. He had an ample supply of maple and I tried working his scraps. He got a large supply of wormy chestnut and he built several more pieces of furniture. This carpenter spirit must run in the family. My great grandfather was a carpenter. Also today I have his set of tools.
When I was 16, I built a small boat out of plywood. During my childhood, I had a series of two racing sailboats, made of wood, of course. It was a challenging and rewarding experience to annually apply new finished to these boats.
In my mid twenties, I myself built two racing sailboats of wood. These were constructed of wood planking over frames and these projects allowed me to achieve my dream of building boats from scratch. The planking was western red cedar, which is very aromatic. I still have the clear memory of the sweet cedar aroma every time I made a cut.
About the same time, I built a complete set of living room furniture of birch. Birch does not have a lot of grain character and is hard to work, but is a durable wood for furniture.
Over the years I have maintained a shop with saws, drill press, sanders and jointer. My interest and use of this equipment varied from year to year, but I always came back to build something.
A few years ago, shortly before I retired, my son and daughter gave me an unusual Christmas gift. It was a one-day class with an accomplished bowl turner. I had never thought much about wood turning; boat building was more my thing. But I spent the day with this expert and I turned a bowl. He was an excellent teacher and I learned the basics.
Soon after that, my son showed up with a lathe. He said it was a used lathe and a great deal. So that was that! I started to turn bowls.
Like most things in life, the first lesson just scratched the surface. After many destroyed bowls I learned how to make my own tools. I also learned how to hold the work in the lathe so it did not fly around the shop. There were times when a helmet and body armor would have been appropriate. But now there is a measure of control although still a combination of difficult wood and Tomís error can cause a projectile to become airborne.
I originally thought wood would be hard to come by, but that is not the case. My son found an Acacia tree being cut down. So I have 50 bowls worth of Acacia. Madrone is common on the north coast. Bill Owens at Point Arena gave me several logs. Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills trimmed their ancient Olive trees providing me more wood. My son has a connection with a furniture importer from Indonesia. We were given a warped table of Mango wood. The network is working.
Turning bowls is environmentally very satisfying. Trees are cut for lumber to build furniture or for a construction project. When I turn a bowl, I am using scrap wood. I have purchased turning stock, but that is rare. Most of my wood is given to me.
Every piece of wood offers a challenge. Somewhere inside that ugly block is an interesting shape, color, smell, grain pattern and an opportunity to make it or break it.