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What is Segmented Turning?

By Larry Ray Palmer
Updated May 17, 2024
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"Segmented turning" is a term used in woodworking. It refers to a process where a project, composed of several joined pieces, is turned on a lathe. The individual pieces are glued together to create designs or other effects in the finished woodturning projects.

Using various types of wood as a medium, an artistic craftsman can produce a variety of patterns and color variations in segmented turning woodcraft. An example of this patterning could include alternating light and dark-colored pieces of wood along the horizontal axis of the project to create a marbled effect in the finished product. The different colored wood pieces also could be glued together along the vertical axis of the project to create a striated look, or layered look, in the finished product.

The process of segmented turning is a common woodworking technique employed by advanced woodcraft hobbyists. Working with the natural beauty and characteristics of the various wood types, the skilled craftsman can also create unique patterns. Ranging from the very simple to the very complex, the patterns are created using both coloration and grain textures in wooden products such as bowls, vases, wooden sculptures or other cylindrical objects. By cutting and assembling the turned wood of the project in a new formation, additional variations in the design and visual effects of the project can be attained.

The glued-together pieces of wood used in the process of segmented turning are known collectively as a bowl blank. The process of creating a bowl blank is the realm of the advanced woodworker because the tolerances needed to create a suitable bowl blank are very exact. Using precision miter cuts with less than a single degree of inaccuracy is required to create a bowl blank that will stand up to the process of segmented turning.

Bowl blanks for segmented turning are usually constructed in one of two ways. These two common methods used in the assembly of bowl blanks are ring construction and stave construction. Ring construction is the most commonly used method, but stave construction is more suitable for some projects.

In addition to traditional segmented turning bowl blanks, open segmented turning bowl blanks are sometimes used to create striking works of art. These bowl blanks are created in a similar method to that of ring construction bowl blanks with one major difference. The open segmented turning bowl blanks are purposely created with gaps and variations in the joints of the wood that create unique openings in the design of the finished product.

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