Posted this over in WoodCentral and figure there might be
some here interested in this subject.
We have five senses - touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell. Of the
five, turnings engages primarily sight, often touch and, surprisingly,
sometimes smell. (OK - so sometimes someone will thunk a bowl and
generate a sound, but thats uncommon). Maybe its only turners who
pick up a turned piece - and smell it - trying to identify the wood
and/or the finish?
Once you get beyond functional turnings - spoons, bowls, rolling pins,
tops, etc. - youre in aesthetic territory where the goal of the turning
is to engage its audience, specifically, to engage one or more of the
audiences senses. And since most turned pieces are typically only
looked at / displayed - sometimes while inside a display case - were
working in a visual medium - and therefore - light. Normally we must
rely on reflected light to convey the piece.
That leaves us with surfaces, real or perceived, outlines, shadows and
colors. The turner attemtps to create an interesting form, may utilize
coves and beads, ogees and combinations of curves and angles, perhaps
some texturiing, piercings, or maybe exploiting the figure in the wood,
some added color or some branded pattern and sand blasting, wire
brushing and charring are not uncommon these days. All rely on the
presence or abscence of reflected light to convey something to the eyes
of the beholder. With the exception of pierced pieces, most of the time
were focused on the light reflected from the OUTSIDE of the piece, wood
being normally an opaque material. Until recently, TRANSMITTED light -
from INSIDE the piece - was impractical, incandenscent lighting bringing
with it HEAT. Wood reacts to temperature changes. And when the
temperature changes are relatively large, and relatively sudden, it
often doesnt react well at all
Some turn wood so thin that it becomes translucent. But to see the
effect, a light source behind/inside the piece is required - turned lamp
shades being an example. Wood that thin tends to easily deform and is
pretty delicate, often proned to splitting and cracking.
Along comes compact fluorescent light bulbs - the same amount of light
as a comparable incandescent bulb - with less heat. But theres still
heat - thin woods nemesis. And even compact fluorescent bulbs
arent all that small and compact.
Riding over the hill - in all its shining glory - an answer to perhaps
an unasked question - The LED. Light with almost no heat! AND - they
dont draw much electricity so they dont need an external AC power
source or flashlight sized batteries - hearing aid sized batteries will
do just fine.
Imagine a thin walled lidded form with a finial - on a pedestal, an LED
and its little battery hidden In the finial to provide light from above,
and another hidden in the pedestal to provide light from below. Now
imagine the internal light dimming, going out, then getting brighter.
Youll see light from inside passing through the walls of the piece to
your eye slowly change to only reflected light from the surface of the
piece - and back again to mainly transmitted light, low spots in
textures and carving changing from dark to light.
Consider the effect of the color of the internal light source(s)
changing, changing, the contrast of the grain in the wood changing,
depending on the colors of the internal light source.
So, internal lighting can be used to exploit translucency
-thinner walls mean more translucency - means brighter
-the color of the internal light and the color of the woods grain can
change the look of the wood relative to what it looks like in terms of
only reflected white light.
Imagine a piece with a smooth series of uninterrupted blended curves, no
shadow lines or textures at all. Then imagine its internal shape,
rather than paralleling the outside profile, has a very different
profile, varying the wall thickness to later, when the piece is
internally lit, produce stripes and circles and patterns - of light and
dark - lighter where the wall thickness is small, darker where it isnt.
Have enough challenges getting uniform wall thickness, and the thought
of trying to intentionally change the wall thickness - where you want
to? Already turning through the sides of a piece occassionaly?
Exploiting translucency isnt the only option when playing with internal
Leave the walls as thick as youre comfortable with - and use piercing
to let some of the internal light out for the audience to see, or see
then not see and then see again somewhere else depending on the angle
and the location of piercings of the piece.
Freed from relying only on reflected light, internal lighting can open
up whole new areas of turning to explore. Got some ideas for exploitng
internal lighting? Care to share some of them?