Waking up in the morning and going out to the woodshop. Putting a hunk of wood on the lathe from your neighbor’s tree that you just cut down. Hopefully you have permission to cut that tree down. Watching ribbons of wood fly off the end of the bowl gouge. There's probably no more joy for a wood turner than that moment.
What if you do not have access to fallen trees or your neighbor won’t let you cut their tree down? That’s where segmented turning comes in. That is how I got started in it. I have been making furniture, bread boxes, and little items for craft shows for years. Then I saw a segmented bowl and knew I had to give it a try. I had a lathe but had not done that much with it. I read everything that I could find on the subject of segmented turning. One thing about segmented turning, I think you spend more time cutting pieces and gluing than you do turning. You can have a few hundred pieces in one bowl depending on what design you are looking for.
When I start cutting I always have my framing square close by. You are probably thinking framing square? Why would you need a framing square for cutting little pieces for a bowl? I use it to check to make sure my miters are perfect. After I have set up my stop block to make sure all my pieces are the exact same size I will cut ¼ of the pieces I need for the ring out of scrap (3 pieces for 12 segments per ring for instance) and check to make sure everything is fitting tight to the inside of the square. This saves me from cutting all twelve segments to find out something is off. If there are any gaps, I know I need to make an adjustment. After any adjustments are made then I can start cutting my good wood. I know it can seem like a daunting task to cut twelve segments and to get everything to fit perfect for the glue up. But I do the glue ups in half rings at a time.
For the glue up I will use large hose clamps -- the metal kind that you can find in the plumbing section of a home improvement store. I will use two small pieces of a 3/8 dowel rod to separate the two half rings. The dowels are placed about in the middle of the segment on each side of the half rings to act as a spacer. The roundness of the dowel will allow the segments to pivot to allow all twelve segments a tight fit.
After the two half rings have dried I will sand the two ends and make sure there is a tight fit. I will put the ring together and hold it up to a light to see if there are any gaps. Once there is no light showing in the seam then I know it is ready to glue up. After the rings have been glued it's time to glue the rings together to make the bowl. I use a drum sander to sand the rings to get them flat. You can do this on the lathe also. Mount the ring to a disc on a faceplate and true up the face of it. The key is to make the rings flat; not just smooth but flat. That way when you glue up the rings each layer will fit tight. When gluing the rings you will want to stagger the joints of each ring.
After the bowl has dried it’s time to start turning. There is a lot of work that you do before you ever really start turning the bowl but it can be very rewarding.
If you are looking for something new to try in your shop you should give segmented work a try. I know I have gotten a lot of pleasure from it.