The first time I saw Elia Bizzarri was on an episode of Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s Shop. Elia learned chairmaking from some of the finest craftsmen out there, including Dave Sawyer and Curtis Buchanan, and he makes beautiful, enduring chairs.
When the pandemic hit, Elia invested in high tech cameras, helpers, and a plan to offer quality online instruction. Folks can enroll in a class and join in the live session to ask questions and share some laughs with Elia and his guest instructors. And the students have a recording of the class available to them in the future as well. In fact, Elia will make the recording available to those who weren’t able to attend the live sessions. He has a good deal invested, and there is a cost, but I like Elia’s pay-what-you-can philosophy with these classes (a la Curtis Buchanan). If you want to learn bowl carving, but the fee is a hindrance for you, just pay what you can and join in.
In our class, we’ll be making bowls in the general design you see in the photo above. This style is accessible for beginners, but provides an ongoing challenge with each new piece as skills improve. In fact, many of the bowls I make are designed around this same formula with varying proportions, dimensions, and design details. We’re not learning how to make a bowl, we’re learning the techniques, skills, and concepts to make bowls.
I will be here in my workshop with an iPad directing the process and demonstrating, then with each step, I’ll provide some guidance for Elia as he performs that operation in his workshop. That will allow multiple camera views in his setting. I think this format will be helpful as the students can put themselves in Elia’s shoes as I explain the process and coach him as needed. We will also have to adapt to the tools and equipment that Elia has in his workshop, which provides a realistic scenario of adjusting to individual situations. Who knows what will come up. Whatever the case, we’ll figure it out and have some fun.
We’re breaking it down into three sessions, with a week, then two, in between to allow the students to work at their own pace before we move on to the next session:
Saturday, Feb 27th, Blank preparation, layout, and hollowing: In this first session, we’ll begin with the orientation of the future bowl in the log. We’ll go on to prepare the blank and use a compass in various ways to establish reference points for a symmetrical layout. We’ll learn adze and gouge technique for creating the hollow. We’ll leave time for questions and discuss managing green wood before and during the carving stages.
Saturday, March 6th, Shaping the exterior: In the second session, we’ll layout the foot on our still-green blank and learn a systematic approach to sculpting the complex exterior surfaces with an axe, a drawknife, and a gouge. Alternative tools and methods will also be discussed. We will take time to discuss drying procedures and other considerations to avoid cracking. Again, we’ll leave time for discussing questions thoroughly.
Saturday, March 20th, Refining and carving the final surfaces: After two weeks of drying, the green-carved bowls will be ready for the final transformation. We’ll learn various holding strategies as we refine the hollow and flatten the bottom. We’ll also explore various texturing options and fluting as we finish the side and end surfaces. We’ll refine the upper rim and cut the important final chamfers. We’ll also briefly explore various decorative options. Oil finishing will be discussed and there will be time for questions.
Elia has all of the details and sign-up information posted on his site now. Hope you can join us.
And don’t let let lack of ideal tools or wood stop you. You can do it without an adze, no problem. Elia is making green wood blanks available for those lacking access, but you could even start with dry wood and follow the procedure essentially the same way — something like a 4″ x 8″ dry basswood timber, say, 15 or 16 inches long, for example. There’s always a way.