Turned to Art

All art is a form of expression. For Dan and Elaine Nealey, art begins in the form of broken or chopped pieces of pear, oak, maple and sycamore woods. One saying about wood art is that some burn it and some turn it. The difference for this couple is by the time the piece is finished, both have intertwined their abilities and imagination into their art.

“There are few pieces we discuss,” said Elaine. “Dan begins the process by turning the wood into what he sees, and then it is handed off to me.”

Being members of the Central Oklahoma Wood Turners Association, the couple enjoy the art with many other turners. Yet it all starts with the selection of the wood. Like most things, not all wood is created equally. “I have been turning wood for a number of years,” Dan said. “There are different orientations of wood, and I look for different styles. Sometimes I will work from the end grains [the bottom] and sometimes I will work from the side grains.”

After the wood is selected, Dan loads it into his shop and begins the turning process. Placing it on the wood lathe, he decides which size tool is going to be needed for carving out a vase, goblet, or whatever his keen eye imagines. This is the most critical part of the process.

“Stability and removing vibration is important because you sometimes want to turn wood down very thin and vibration, of course, can be bad,” Dan said.”

Once the wood is turned, then it is hollowed out. This is when Dan will conform the inside of the wood to the outside. After that, the inlay process begins.

“Sometimes when selecting woods, I look for those that have laid on the ground for a period of time because usually they have begun to decompose, adding character and leaving irregular voids in the wood,” Dan said. “In many of these, I will inlay semi-precious stones, metals, and contrasting woods, which will en