Our History & Process

 
 
 
Jason burl

The artist

J. Ruel Martin is a 24 year self-taught woodworker, learning the craft little by little, as he could acquire the tools and skills. His son, Athan, is 21 years old and is turning with a level of skill you would expect from an advanced turner.

Ruel started turning simple projects 6 years ago on an old lathe gifted to him from a friend. He now owns 4 lathes, and has continually upgraded all his equipment in order to produce the level of work he is obsessed with. Ruel and Athan personally harvest all of the wood they uses from diseased, dead and downed, trees across the southeastern United States.

Over the years, Ruel has been influenced by several master turners across North America and Europe. Most notably, the Moulthrop's of Marietta, GA.

Ruel and Athan turn on lathed at their shop in Acworth, GA with Ruel’s wife and 5 children.

 
 
unfinished bowl
 
form from above

The process

“My process starts with sourcing the raw wood for my forms, which is truly one of my favorite aspects because its my chance to “hunt” for the prize. I love riding through the North Georgia Hills anticipating a great “find”. When I get my hands on something that I believe may hold a rare beauty beneath the bark, I can get downright giddy. Once I have returned to my home shop, I cut the logs into manageable pieces. These, “manageable pieces” may weigh in excess of 200 lbs when they are first mounted on my lathe so by maneagable, I mean, that its within my ability to manipulate it with the help of Athan, my wife and one or more of my kids still living at home. The pieces I harvest are transported to my back yard, where some are “roughed” into forms immediately, and others are allowed to be “attacked” by nature’s elements such as types of fungi, bugs, etc so that the wood may take on interesting characteristics due to the natural process of decay.

Roughing the form is one of my favorite parts. It’s where the tree gets to “speak”, as it were. I almost never start turning a piece with a commitment to a shape. As the bark and then outer layers of wood are removed, the grain of the wood, with its color and character tells me what shape it should be. From the point that I “rough” out the initial shape, many of my forms will be in “process” for over a year before they are finished and ready to sell.

After the rough form is achieved, I force the piece of wood through a series of steps meant to manage how it loses moisture. Water in a tree is like blood in a human or animal. As it loses water, the wood is almost tortured as it shrinks unevenly, and begins to split and threatens to undo itself completely. I work with all the tricks I have learned to make the drying process do as little harm to the form as possible.

After the form has dried out, it is put back on the lathe again and the shape is “trued up” after the initial shape has changed during the drying process.  At this point, the form is sanded enough to allow the grain to come through with great clarity.

After sanding, the inside and outside of the forms are coated with a marine grade, two-part, high-gloss epoxy. Between 6-8 coats of epoxy are applied, sanding in between coats, then allowed to harden over several weeks. After it has totally cured, the finish is sanded to remove imperfections in the finish and then polished to the desired level of sheen. The finish we have chosen for our pieces is a very labor intensive finish and most woodturners do not use it. We have chosen to go the extra mile, and then some, because we wanted to entomb the wood in the finish ensuring that it will last, in its current state, for generations to come. Lastly, we will apply a wax finish that helps create a “soft to the touch” appeal.

It seems that I learn a new lesson with every form. The way I see it, I am not really creating anything so much as I am doing the work necessary for you to see what nature offers behind the bark of a tree.  What often looks like firewood, is hiding a unique beauty.”