Gary Sandler

I grew up in the LA area but relocated to the Sierra Nevada foothills outside Sacramento 30 years ago. I always disassembled (read “broke”) things as a kid. I was a born tinkerer. I got a Computer Science degree in college and did software systems for 40+ years in aerospace, financial services, and medical systems.

I had made a number of boxes and flat projects in the 2010s that kind of wore me out. The “thing” always needed a place to be and you had to get around, over, and even in it to do the chores. Space was a challenge.

I had inherited an old variable-speed Delta lathe from my father-in-law with the Reeves drive. It’d slip, it was loud, and it wasn’t very true. Still, I played with it, made some pieces by scraping, and felt like there was likely more. I learned there was a local turning group, Nor-Cal Woodturners in Sacramento, so I joined, watched the demos, borrowed the videos, and found there was more to lathe-life than scraping. Joy! Stuff was much simpler. The bowl gouge and skew chisel were my friends. I had control over the outcome without making it rough mess.

I liked the work of Malcom Tibbets and got his book “The Art of Segmented Wood Turning.” I also got Dennis Keeling’s “Segmented Turning.” I made some segmented bowls. I found I made plenty of mistakes, so I tried one bowl a second time to get the shape better by starting with the correct length wedges. I also got Clarence Rannefeld’s “Laminated Designs in Wood” to improve my game with accent ring designs. I haven’t ventured into that territory yet and still aspire to.

I got the segmenting software, but frankly feel that the compass, ruler and graphpaper method is just fine. I did my measurements there and transferred them to an Excel spreadsheet with units in fractions (yes, you can do that). For me, the software just added complexity instead of removing it. I got the 18-piece open segment Seg-Easy jig and it worked great. The 36-piece jig is a challenge for me as the pieces stick in the jig instead of gluing up strong. Another area I need to work on.

I found I preferred the “make a ring in two halves” method. Still, it requires getting the angles just right. I use an old Dubby Sled and to get the angle absolutely correct I cut and glue up n pieces to make a 90- or 180-degree piece and keep adjusting the wedge angle until it glues up to the correct angle. I invested in a drum sander and I love it for the rings. It was a very worthwhile investment. Finally, I made an open segment piece and spent hours on removing excess glue with a small file from the open joints. A labor I am still glad I invested in because I really like how the piece came out.

I’m interested in trying the 36-piece open SegEasy jig again, or another wedge layout strategy to see if it can improve construction reliability and stability.

In addition to segmenting, I’ve done some lidded boxes, wands, pens, bottle stoppers, finger bowls, tri-corner bowls, laminated-glue-up bowls, natural edge bowls, and one in maple with iridescent paint.

My segmenting projects are below. My first segmented piece has that little cherry accent ring in it. The piece looks chunky from the top as the pieces don’t look curved, but of course they are.

My second piece, on the left, had an odd shape due to the way I cut the wedges and how aggressive I was in the turning. It was not as “roundy” as I’d wanted it, so I made it again. In both cases, the padauk dust is a total pain and requires great care to keep it from bleeding into the other segments.

The last piece I’m especially pleased with as it hit all the design criteria I had – color, openness, bowl shape, and “how’d you do that?” wonder.


May 2023