Bowl/Pot/Chamber Pot(?)

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Blog entry by Mark Wilson posted 09-02-2015 08:51 AM 1399 reads 0 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is the city. Los Angeles, California.

This is the most popular industrial tree in the city and her suburbs.

Here’s one at UCLA, showing the buttressed trunk, it’s most famous feature.

This shows how this magnificent tree elevates sidewalks.

Sometimes, along with the sidewalk, someone’s front yard gets picked up, too. That’s when the County sends a tree crew to remove it. My call comes in the form of the sound of chainsaws nearby. My call to action. My chainsaws and I follow the sound like Pavlov’s dog. We don’t much care what’s being cut. If it’s a tree, or something like a tree, we’re there, between the cutting crew and the clean-up crew, getting under foot. This time it was that ubiquitous shade tree of industrial and suburban streets everywhere. The mighty Ficus. A bunch of that soaking-wet wood came home with me early this year. Been in the back yard, drying out, ever since. Until Saturday last, when it first sat for its portrait.

When this wood reached the back yard, it was about as interesting to look at as a wet paper towel. And about as wet as a wet paper towel. Going back to before the balancing act, here’s a photo showing how the drying process literally squeezed out the wax I had slathered on the ends.

I couldn’t get that most-useful (if not delicate) lathe-balancing tool, the chainsaw, started, so I had to come up with some way to make my machine stop dancing enough to get a tool on it.

Now you’re cookin’ with gas.

Now, it’s starting to look like a big bowl.

With some horrendous radial pithy ath cracks.

What to do? What to do? Gotta shore up the side and top edge, right? What to do?

I know what let’s do. Let’s remove some of the cracked area – a la Bird Opus One – and replace it with some attractive feature. Something that looks loke a Feature Ring? Only,more like a Feature Panel, mebees?
Yeah. Like that.

So, after coming up with fourteen different designs on Sketchup for such a thing, and not a single idea as to how to actually make one, I settled on a block of Shedua, about an inch thick, big enough to bridge the cracks.
But, first, a pocket must be made for the block.

And hogged out.

Chisel’s sharp. Mallet’s whacking appropriately. But, this is really hard.

What to do?

That’s a little better.

And, it kinda fits.

Note how thin a wall I was looking forward to.

And now, because I’m incapable of leaving well enough alone, I have to get all too-clever-by-half about it all. Poke some holes, make some kind of eye-catching design with dowels.

Yeah. Three petals around a stamen. Whoops. The 3/4” Forstner blew the 3/8” dowels right out of their holes.

What to do?

Use a bigger Forstner. Bore it all out and fill the hole with one big fat plug.

(No photo)

Sharpen your tool.

This is what a sharp tool looks like.

Now, Undo what you spent all day Sunday doing. (Remnant of the 1-3/8” Forstner that walked.)

Hey. A wet paper towel, this is not.

It seems to have something to say. Let us amplify its voice.

A photo of a dirty camera lens.

Wet paper towel, indeed.

Some WOP, quick, before the cracks open up. Five coats.

I went through 101 photos. I spared you the vast majority in the writing of this epic.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

-- Mark

17 comments so far

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

23759 posts in 3711 days

#1 posted 09-02-2015 11:40 AM

And it is a good one. Nice work Mark!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2613 days

#2 posted 09-02-2015 01:14 PM

So, lemme get this straight. You spent all that time and effort cutting, fitting, gluing, and clamping in that block. THEN you drilled it full of holes (for an eye-catching-design “DECORATION” you say … ). THEN, you spend probably the same amount of time turning afore-mentioned inserted designer block completely OUT so it’s no longer even in there !

Does that about sum it up?? Yeah, you are a tool :-)

And I’m thinking a bit more “Spittoon”, rather than chamber pot. Which turned out FANTASTIC I might add !

Plus I see you’ve finally read that book “The Art of posting a project in 321 easy steps, with pictures and commentary”, by that world famous MotorMouth author, Joe Durning ! Good for you!

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View doubleDD's profile


8966 posts in 2649 days

#3 posted 09-02-2015 01:34 PM

Interesting blog, start to finish. I agree with Joe, looks like a spittoon. A lot of work for a pot but worth it.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View lew's profile


12933 posts in 4361 days

#4 posted 09-02-2015 01:41 PM

Thanks for the journey, Mark!

That wood really does have some beautiful grain.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View DocSavage45's profile


8881 posts in 3448 days

#5 posted 09-02-2015 05:19 PM


LOL! I use to grow ficus in my house in Chicago as a house plant. This blog took as much time as the piece. Very detailed. Are you going to try video next?

a lot of effort here Mark, but it appears you enjoyed it all.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Bob Collins's profile

Bob Collins

2738 posts in 4289 days

#6 posted 09-02-2015 11:04 PM

A lot of time and effort spent there Mark but the result is great, changed my mind from trying to get the butt into the whatever you want to call it, better still chew the tobacco and stand back and spit. Well done.

-- Bob C, Australia. Your best teacher is your last mistake.

View Grumpy's profile


25952 posts in 4457 days

#7 posted 09-03-2015 12:36 AM

Great blog mate. Thats one big piece of turning.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2696 posts in 1669 days

#8 posted 09-03-2015 12:38 AM

Joe, I do what the voices in my head tell me to do. Until they start acting like idiots. That’s what happened there. When the big Forstner bit walked and ruined the block, I said, It was a stupid idea to begin with. Sit down and shut up.
Same species, I think, Doc. While they do make nice little indoor trees, and are heavily involved in the art of Bonsai, the “industrial” Ficus is cultivated such that it grows to 80 to 90 feet tall and provides a lot of shade. And some become works of natural art. For instance, one of my favorites stands at the entrance to the Automobile Club’s headquarters, up the street from USC. It was planted the day they completed the building in, I believe, 1923, next to the driveway. After a few years, it began overwhelming the driveway. So, they tore out the driveway and built a new one that goes in on one side and out the other. And the buttresses are such that one could, push-come-to-shove, hide out in there from an angry ostrich. I looked and looked for a photo of that tree while writing my saga, but, couldn’t find one. If you’re interested, get on Mapcarta or Google Earth. The building is at the corner of Adams and Figueroa, south of downtown L.A. Go street level on it and walk south from Adams, looking at the west side of Figueroa til you get to the entrance.
Thank you all. I like the way it came out.

-- Mark

View DocSavage45's profile


8881 posts in 3448 days

#9 posted 09-03-2015 01:27 AM

Great story!

Around here they’d cut it down..GRRRR!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2696 posts in 1669 days

#10 posted 09-03-2015 05:14 AM

It’s private property. Had it been City/County, it would’ve been gone the minute the driveway developed a crack.

-- Mark

View fatman51's profile


335 posts in 2442 days

#11 posted 09-26-2015 06:14 AM

Nice chamber pot Mark. A big turn. Is that a Mark V? So I go on the net, find the address, go on Google Earth, find the auto club and I am looking at this little tree growing between the drives at the wrong entrance thinking, that’s a shrub. Than I found the correct driveway and I should say that that is a cool tree.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2696 posts in 1669 days

#12 posted 09-26-2015 06:32 AM

Thanks, John. I’m glad you did that. You saw the great big, hundred-year-old buttressed tree, right? Awesome, innit? It’s a popular photo spot. (Until the security guards spot you.)

-- Mark

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2696 posts in 1669 days

#13 posted 09-26-2015 06:38 AM

And, yes, it’s a Mk5. 1956

-- Mark

View fatman51's profile


335 posts in 2442 days

#14 posted 09-26-2015 10:41 AM

Cool, that is an early one. I didn’t count the rings but it was a decent sized tree with a lot of arched forks coming out of the trunk.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

View robscastle's profile


6675 posts in 2810 days

#15 posted 04-01-2016 01:27 AM

Hey thats good stuff Mark!

I shall have a cup of coffee and read it again some more.

I see Joe has his signature here again!! I would love to be able to do that sort of stuff bu I have no room.

Mind you I have three stashs of timber “hidden” arond the house as it is, drawing less than constructive comment from my wife Aurora at times.
The work bench I have is right next to the clothes washing line so I get a few daggers if I make too much sawdust!!

-- Regards Rob

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