I have worked with these commercially produced, made in the Philippines which is a major producer of “crap” tropical timber, type of segmented bowl blanks before. I have also written and posted about the experience in 2010 when I first worked with one, and again in 2014 when I worked with two more. I didn’t like them then and by this point, with considerably more experience in making bowls from a fairly wide range of materials, I like them even less. As far as I can tell, they are no longer manufactured and I am glad to hear it.
As I review some of the older posts I find myself surprised that I was ever even slightly disappointed that these blanks are not made any more. I think at the time I first wrote about these blanks that I simply didn’t have the range of experience necessary to have an informed opinion about the quality of different blanks, or perhaps this blank was just more poorly made than the others that I worked with in the past. Most likely it is a combination of the two.
All of the same concerns and issues that were present in the first two attempts continued to be an issue with this blank, but even more so in terms of the voids and the excess brown epoxy that had oozed into every corner and crevice, but not so completely as to actually fill the MANY voids, but instead leaving off about halfway such that epoxy resin looked something like unfinished frosting on a cake; not quite to the edges with squiggly-edged pools readily visible where it didn’t quite go all the way through.
In some places in this blank, the voids were truly huge, entire pieces of wood missing with just the excess epoxy to fill at least some of the spaces. This missing wood concern is what caused the bottom on the finished piece to be so thin. The bottom is composed of only one piece thickness, and even that has been turned away at least to some degree. I was amazed the whole thing held together. I think that if the voids had been as bad on the first piece as they were on this one I would never have continued with the remaining blanks, but would instead have given it up as a bad job. Perhaps I would have been better off if that had happened!
Aside from the prodigious voids, and to be clear I do recognize that in a bowl blank of this type there would, per force, be some smallish voids, but when I say void I don’t mean pinprick or even millimeter size voids, instead I am referring to what appear to be entire pieces of the matrix missing, the other concerns remained as well. The different densities of the woods used continued to mean some portions cut faster than others and this also affected sanding. But what most affected sanding, as one might expect, were the voids which would catch and destroy any sanding material quite quickly.
I used a spray lacquer as the only finish that I thought would have a chance of working with so many voids and disruptions, so at least the finished piece is nicely glossy.
I made this final piece as a gift for my husband, and only because he asked for it. I’d not normally consider this type of piece to worthy of gifting, but he had one I had made previously, and he keeps it on his desk filled daily with pencils no less, so I went ahead and made it for him because he likes these pieces for reasons I don’t understand. Sometimes, when making gifts for others, especially gifts they have specifically asked for, it matters not what we think about it so long as the recipient is pleased. He was and he may well be the only person about who is disappointed that these blanks are no longer made. Thankfully for him, he has two completed pieces to remember them by and long may he enjoy them.