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Woodturning News: General News

MONADNOCK TABLE: Translucent Lamp Shades by Peter Bloch (07/30/2018)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018   (0 Comments)
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Peter Bloch, a self-taught woodturner from New London, New Hampshire, is like an explorer seeking out the nature of wood. While most of us see a tree as one of nature’s most opaque creations, under Bloch’s experienced hand, he recreates it into a translucent lampshade.

Being self-taught has its advantages, he notes.

“No one ever said to me: You can’t make lampshades from wood,” says Bloch.

Bloch’s been working with wood for nearly 40 years, starting in his early 20s making wood sculptures, then later, making functional wood objects such as boxes and bowls. While working a burl vessel, which needed to be very thin, he began thinking about translucent wood. After some five years experimenting turning wood on a lathe, he created translucent wood lampshades. The father of modern woodturning, Vermont woodturner JoHannes Michelsen, helped Bloch to realize that he was onto something unique and saleable. Michelsen knew something about making wood translucent as he’d been using thin turning techniques to make functional wood hats.

Bloch’s lampshades — not to be worn as hats, mind you — are made from aspen. He discovered that this tree species, considered “junk” by loggers and foresters, makes a remarkably translucent lampshade.

Says Bloch, “I enjoy taking such an unloved species and turning it into something that is cherished.”

To begin the process of transformation from log to lamp, Bloch cuts the tree into 20-inch long sections. Then with a chainsaw, he makes a rough cone shape from a section. This cone weighs about 200 pounds. Then the cone is lathed, turning at a blinding speed — some 800 rotations per minute.

“The shape and contour of each shade are improvised as the shade is spinning,” he explains.

When the carving is done, the cone weighs less than a pound and is one-tenth of an inch thick — about as thin as a cracker. But that’s where the comparison ends.

“These shades will last generations. It will not crack and requires no maintenance,” says Bloch. (To see the process from start to finish visit https://vimeo.com/45938941)

One of the reasons making lamps has kept Bloch happy in his studio for so many years is that he never knows exactly what colors or patterns will emerge. Each log ages differently, so every lampshade will come out different. From log to lampshade on the lathe, unique patterns are revealed and colors ranging from pale golden and buttery yellow to earthy oranges and browns emerge. One can even see the rings of the tree on his shades. The wood, as he says, “speaks for itself.”

Bloch, 65, has been a master woodturner for decades, but still innovates, especially these days since most of his work is custom-made and designed for specific spaces. Shades can be as small as seven inches to as large as 20 inches in diameter. He makes table and floor lamps, sconces, single hanging shades and multi-shade chandeliers.

He also keeps things fresh by working with other craftspeople. He’s done 50 projects so far with Dave Little of Winnipesaukee Forge, Meredith, New Hampshire, and together they’ll be exhibiting a new piece in the “Living with Craft” exhibit at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Annual Fair in Sunapee in August.

Clearly for Bloch, taking a tree and transforming it into a fine and beautiful object is a highly engaging and rewarding exploration.

Says Bloch, “No one is ever unhappy with what I’ve created for them. I love the exploration of all the branches of this stream I am paddling in.”

View source and photos.

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