Lessons with Refined Pallet, Making Wood Beautiful

Over this last holiday weekend I was privileged to visit the studio of a fellow artisan.  I am going to introduce you to Jef (yes, it’s with one “f”) he is the proud owner of Refined Pallet, Making Wood Beautiful .  Around 10-15 years ago Jef started playing around in his garage, at the time he worked at a furniture supply store and had plentiful access to higher quality moving pallets.  He started his journey in woodworking  by making custom boxes; jewelry boxes, storage boxes, even traveling bar sets.  Over the years his boxes went from simple construction to dovetail joints with exotic wood inlays.  I really don’t know what inspired his venture into lathe work, but once he started turning wood, he started producing even more unique and amazing pieces of art work.  I know his first item made on a table lathe was a wooden chalice, Jef said he made it for a wine tasting party (I told him it was blasphemy to waste good wood on wine and needed to use it for Mead sampling… he just smirked).  What inspired him to make pens, razors, and tablet stylus?  Seriously I think it’s his obsession with Harry Potter… he started making wands, and that’s what did him in.

So when I had elbowed my way into the garage to get a tour of his studio, I managed to talk him into showing me the ropes on a custom piece for my Husband.

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Of course I had to my camera with me… Now many of you who personally know, or *gasp* live with an artist, knows that any space becomes a studio.  And honestly it is amazing what comes out of this small space.

The first thing I had to do was select what exactly I was going to make, so we started at the center front desk going through all the hardware Jef has collected through out the years.  I chose to make my hubby a double edge safety razor.  For those of you who don’t know what a safety razor is, here is a link.  Next I needed to choose a wood.  This was the hard part, and honestly his stash was to extensive to get in one photograph.  He had everything from marbled acrylics to black palm.  These woods were amazing, but I knew my husband would like a wood with lots of grain to it, so I chose a bocote blank.

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After the initial stages of cutting the wood down to a relative rectangle, I had to draft out the shape I wanted in my head.  Now I will be honest with you, I have never been an artist that can think spatially.  I have always had an issue with 3-D sculpture, and when I looked at the wood in postition on the lathe I was very intimidated.  I did not want to waste this beautiful piece of wood!!!  We looked through Jef’s stock of finished razors to give me a goal to shoot for.  I knew I wanted to give the handle some curves, beautiful shape, not only to help bring out the textures in the wood but also to assist in a good grip.  After all this was going to be a sharp razor against my beloved’s neck.

I decided to make the razor  handle follow the feminine form, or the more “PC” term would be… I wanted to make it look like a voluptuous mummy.

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But first, I had to master the tools to make the handle round!  I asked Jef at this point how long it takes him to make one razor handle… start to finish.  He nonchalantly stated 20 min.  GAH!  20 minutes! In that amount of time I was still trying to get the rectangle to have round edges.   Jef even had to resharpen his large turning tool for me.

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FINALLY!  I was starting to get a round shape to my “mummy”  Now I got to move onto the smaller turning tool, allowing for greater ease of movement and design.  The entire time Jef was patiently coaching me through, reminding me to keep the tool positioned “just so”.

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He even managed to snap some shots with out my notice… the best part is my camera was set to full Manual mode, and he managed some great snapshots (see Jef you can take photos not in auto mode!)  You can see in this set up how small his work space really is, yet if you take a stop by his facebook page you can see the diversity of his work.

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Okay I will admit it, he took over on some of the more delicate parts.  But you can see the “mummy” started RIGHT?

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After about 1 hour of shaving millimeter by millimeter off, I was finally happy with the shape.  I was proud that there were not large discrepancies or gouges in the beautiful wood.  Now Jef walked me through the finishing stages.  There are so many finishing steps, from applying 15-20 layers of Acrylic to sanding through an ump-teen amount of grit.  I thought the coolest stage was buffing the finished product with the self-same wood shavings I had so diligently piled up under the lathe.

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Isn’t my “mummy” BEAUTIFUL?  Now comes the really fun part. Adding the double edge safety head to the handle.  But before that one last picture of just the handle…

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Look at that shine and grain.  Hipnotizing.

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First things first, Jef made sure that the hardware fit flush. Then onto the final stage of placing the sealing epoxy to make sure the head and handle become one.

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1.5 hours of handwork, and the steady yet patient coaching of Jef made this piece possible.  I could see why Jef likes to loose himself in making so many wonderful items.  There was something so soothing, and almost meditative about watching the wood shape under my hands.  Not knowing what it would truly look like in the end, the surprise at the very end once everything was joined.   It made me want to get back on the lathe and see what the next piece would look like, how it would turn out, and what it would become. Wood working is almost as seductive as pottery… almost.

I do want to thank Jef for a wonderful experience in his little studio. It was a pleasure to learn about a new craft, and I can say my appreciation of what he does daily has multiplied exponentially.  I hope all of you who took the time to read this have enjoyed the steps we went through, and if you want to learn more or see more please follow these links to Jef’s shop(s) and facebook fan pages.  If you get a chance tell him Ursula sent you.

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<——-  can you believe this

 

turned into this  ? ————->

 

 

Refined Pallet, Making Wood Beautiful ETSY STORE

Refined Pallet, Making Wood Beautiful FAN PAGE

Refined Pallet, Hollow Book Safes  (his other hobby)

 

 

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