I have many memories of my childhood with my dad in his woodshop. My favorite place to play was down below the wood lathe surrounded by wood blocks and sawdust. I learned to work with wood from him, mostly by watching and "getting in his way". He worked second shift as a machinist at Caterpillar tractor Co., but spent most of his mornings working with wood. He taught me about precision measuring as well as working by sight and feel. After this informal training, going into the woodworking business just seemed natural.
After 18 years as a full time cabinetmaker, I felt the call to do something more artistic. So I drifted away from the linear / square world of cabinetry to pursue the more sinuous world of woodturning. There is a great feeling of freedom in creating based on form rather than function.
Since the first time I saw the huge sphere "Spaceship earth" at Disney's Epcot center, I have been intrigued with the geometry of the geodesic sphere. As a woodworker I saw the geodesic sphere as a unique challenge. The challenge in these vessels has been finding the balance between the ideal mathematical formula and the real world imperfections of wood.
These spheres are a collaboration of math and art, two disciplines that are normally thought of as opposite. Math is about strict formulas and rules, and art is free and unique. I contrast natural and man made materials in some pieces. I like to use ordinary, or underappreciated species of wood. I look at it as giving these common boards a chance to be appreciated as art
The vessels are made up of 180 triangles. The triangles are assembled into 12 pentagons and 20 hexagons. These shapes are then glued together to form a 180 sided hollow ball. Because of the construction, the ball is nearly round already. Only about 1/4" of wood is taken off to form a true smooth sphere.
This process has been a lot of trial and error over a three year span. Armed with the formula and a pile of wood, I thought I would have finished pieces by the end of the weekend. However, My first few attempts at this process were total disasters. After about 6 tries I had one that fit together OK, but it wasn't pretty. The 12th one was good enough to show other people. I am still adjusting and fine tuning the angles as I go.
I had completed rough spheres before I even had a way to turn them. I turn these on a lathe that I built just for this purpose. It is 0-60 rpm and can spin a 34" diameter sphere. For me the process of building the tools and developing the techniques needed to make the process more efficient has been as enjoyable as the process itself.