Closeup of Hybrid Turning Inlay Robert W. Chatelain - Woodturner, Huntington, Vermont, 802-238-9481

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Hybrid Turning Process

"What is it ... is it glass? is it pottery? it wood?"
"How do you do it?"
"How long does it take?"

These are the questions I hear all the time, right after "Wow!" or "How beautiful." I'll share my process here and hope that the photos, although they are now quite dated, will still help to illustrate the changes during each step. If you click a photo, an enlargement will be opened in a new browser window. Hyper-links to most supplies and suppliers are listed on the Links page. Let me know if you need further information.

Click to Enlarge Chainsawed burl mounted on face plate and ready to turn on lathe

I choose burls like this with lots of undulations. These undulations, the way the burl is mounted for turning and the depth which I turn into the burl combine to produce the voids which will be filled. I chainsaw and then bandsaw a chunk of burl of the desired size and attach a face plate to the area that will become the base of the bowl.
  Click to enlarge Bob at the lathe

To make the cutting easy, the initial turning is completed with green wood. While the lathe spins the burl, I use a gouge to cut away most of the wood leaving a thick walled, rough vessel form. The drying process takes one to two months in a 115°F kiln.

Click to enlarge Bowl after 2nd turning

When dry, the distorted form is remounted on the lathe and turned back to round. Before beginning the inlay, the void edges must be thoroughly cleaned of bark and other loose material to assure a secure bond with the epoxy resin.
Click to enlarge Bowl with resin applied over duct tape

I construct a temporary support wall of duct tape on the 'inside' of the voids to give support during application and catalytic cure. I use a two part, paste type epoxy resin and mix it with powdered pigments, mica and metals. I use System 3 Gel Magic; it is a high viscosity and cures in about 24 hours at room temperature. The viscosity is increased even more by mixing in clear epoxy shavings. The epoxy is applied in multiple, thin layers.

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Click to enlarge Bowl with more inlay layers
I allow each inlay layer to cure for 24 hours at room temperature and then return to the lathe to shave off high points of resin. The inlay proces is repeated as often as necessary to complete the vessel form, usually changing the pigment mix from layer to layer to create the surface design. Although the vessel form is now complete, there are still low areas in the inlay.
Click to enlarge Bowl with gold leaf applied to the low areas.
I apply gold leaf over the inlaid area, paying special attention to pressing the leaf into the depressions. The next turning removes leaf on the surface while leaving leaf in the depressions. The gold leaf is capped with Devcon 2-Ton, a clear resin, creating a smooth, uniform and continuous surface. Capping can also require multiple applications. The clear shavings are saved and added to the System 3 epoxy in the previous steps.
Return to top of Hybrid Turnings Click to enlarge The completed bowl with resin inlay
The vessel is sanded and sealed with a thin wipe of clear resin, again Devcon 2 Ton. A final sanding removes irregularities in the seal and the piece is waxed and polished with a high speed buff. The turning is parted from the waste block and face plate leaving the completed vessel.
Scarlet O'Hara
Black cherry burl