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Exquisite Ash Bowl

Mountain Ash
Handmade, one-of-a-kind
excellent display piece or jewelry bowl
finished w/ food-grade tung & citrus oil
made by Zach LaPerriere
Sitka, Alaska 2018
bowl measures 11 1/2" X 3 1/2"


This bowl has a few things you'll only rarely ever see in a finished piece of wood.

For starters, these knots are sound and haven't cracked.  This is achieved by drying very slow and taking a few precautions that I have to keep secret!

The grain surrounding knots is often astounding, and that's certainly the case here.  There is beautiful depth and chatoyance—special grain that refract lights differently—between and below the main two knots.

You'll also see that I left the bark in the bark intrusions.  The photos don't allow enough depth, but in person you can see fine growth rings in the bark.  While it is expected to see annual growth rings in wood, seeing it in bark is exceptionally rare. This is the best example I've ever seen in a piece this large.  I should note that I don't use superglue to stabilize bark, but I do add extra coats of tung oil to make the bark more durable.

If you look closely, you'll see that there is still green moss in a fold of the bark.  When I turn these bowls on the lathe, the surface speed on the wood turning can approach sixty miles per hour.  How can the moss hang on at that speed?  I don't know, but I'm grateful for its tenacity.

If you flip the bowl over to look at the base, you can orient yourself to tree itself.  This piece came from about seven feet above the ground where the main trunk split into a large branch.  The bark shows the intersection of this trunk and branch.

You'll see the exquisite grain in the angle of the branch.  This beautiful grain serves a purpose—imagine all the stresses of holding a heavy branch at an angle to the trunk through everything from kids climbing on the branch to storms and heavy wet snow.  To resist splitting, the tree grows grain in interwoven patterns.  Wood grain generally reflects light at a constant angle to the grain.  Because the grain folds here, the light reflect differently.  As you hold and tilt the bowl in your hands, the refracted light appears to move.  It is a miracle of nature that this gives us the impression of deep translucence, of seeing into the wood. 

I'm sure there's a metaphor in this bowl about intersections, strength, branching—but I'll let you draw your own, because that's the nature of trees.  We each react to them and take different points of relevance from their amazing structures.

This will make a superb display or fruit bowl.  The warm color really pops against a light background.  When displayed prominently, I can pretty much guarantee everyone will want to pick up your bowl.


Story: This tree died in front of a historic downtown Sitka home and was given to me by the granddaughter of the man who planted the tree.

At a recent market in Juneau a woman bought a bowl from this same tree.  We got to talking and after I learned she grew up in Sitka 60 years ago, I asked her name and soon realized that the man who planted the tree was her uncle.

I have sold almost every bowl from this tree, and to date turned several more mountain ash tree, and yet: I have never seen another mountain ash with this rich deep color.  I've spoken with people who use mountain ash in both Alaska and Europe, and they are similarly perplexed.


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