Liquidambar from the Cornell Botanic Gardens


Liquidambar is such a cool word to say, and what an amazing wood to work with. Also known as sweet gum, this tree typically grows in southern US states. But, I am lucky to have been gifted some from the Cornell Botanic Gardens, here in Ithaca, NY.

This wood is very sweet and fragrant while being turned, cut and sanded. There is truly nothing better than the Wood Owls Shop having an intoxicating soothing smell of the wood being worked.

The Hollow Form

Liquidambar Hollow Form
Liquidambar Hollow Form

This particular piece of Liquidambar was punky, had fungus growing on it and ants had begun to take over. It was quite the challenge to get this wood into a state to where I could turn it safely. However, I was able to craft this extraordinary end grain turned hollow form from this legacy tree.

the box

I have a special happiness for wood that has spalt, and this wood is loaded with it. It has amazing black and purple line spalt throughout the wood like veins. You can especially see these veins in this box, crafted on the band saw.  This box has hand crafted copper nails, copper wire as a clasp and the hinges are waxed Irish Linen.

the plate

Another special piece is the “bird in the wood” plate below.  The eye of the bird was the center of the tension release point for the wood which led to the crack that runs from the eye to the edge of the plate. This crack is filled in with coffee grounds and CA glue.

Look at the various spalt lines on this piece. Sweet Liquidambar!

bird in the wood

It is a most wonderful honour for me to receive wood from the Cornell Botanic Gardens therefore each piece of wood deserves the best possible thoughtful design.


~~ The Wood Owl

The Lyft Logs

The Lyft Logs

So, some of you might know that I not only create art, but also drive for Lyft in my spare time.  It is not just a job driving people around as you might think. It is more of a great way to help out the local community. I live in a community that has close to 30,000 students that come and go every fall and spring and while many of them have cars, some do not. Some get tired of the local Taxi’s and find the local bus service doesn’t meet their needs either. So that is why there is a good market here for Lyft and Uber to fill those gaps and put some money in my pocket as well.

the driving begins…

I started driving for Lyft in December when it was slow as the mass of students had gone home for the Holidays. I thought it was a good time to get up to speed on how it works. So, those first two weeks driving most of my riders were heading to the airport or the bus station. I had a few shoppers,  mall workers, university staff, some students who stuck around, and the local restaurant and bar peeps who I have picked up more than once.

the snowiest city in the US is your next destination…

My second day of driving I pick up a rider at a hotel and find myself driving her up to the Syracuse airport!!! Shocker to me at the time but I got used to it the second time it happened. Since Lyft drivers do not get to see the riders destination, you don’t know until you hit the accept button, and by then it could be too late. Surprise!  If by chance you didn’t want that 2 hour drive to Syracuse and back, well, too bad.  Actually that drive isn’t that bad except for pot holes in the road the size of small ponies and the constant threat of snow even in summer up there. Other than that, it is a good way to snag a half of a Benjamin. Same for a trip in the opposite direction, Binghamton.

I’m now a “townie”…

One fun thing is that I get to pick up the same local restaurant and bar peeps over and over again. Each time I get to know them a little better and one day I got called a “townie” so that was a very exciting and rewarding day for me. I proudly smile every time I think of being a “townie” now.

party like it’s 1999…

Then there was New Years Eve. Wow. Talk about fun and craziness. I was only out until about 3am and thankfully there were no incidents. I did see quite a few people pulled over getting tickets when they should have been getting a Lyft instead. One of the nights highlights was at Bar Argos when  a few drunken ladies in fur coats tried to hold the Honda hostage by laying on the hood asking if they can steal the ride, but I already had people in the car at the time. Another was when the Mayor of Ithaca pinged me for a ride and it turned out to be for a friend of his instead. All is good. Many people got home safe that night.

on our way to Ohio?

Then last weekend this happens. I decide at noon on a Saturday to head for for a few hours of driving, then come in for a break and head back out later that night. The newly returned students were back for their first week and the surge was up to 110% for rides from 11pm to 4am. But no. That isn’t really what transpired for me.

So, I am not even out of the driveway when I get a Lyft request and I click the button to accept the request from Jim. Then as I am driving to pick him up, he calls to tell me it is a long drive and if that was okay. Okay, I said, thinking, oh, another Syracuse airport or Binghamton trip. He thanked me over and over again for taking him to his destination.  I pick him up from the campus at Cornell and we are off and headed to Cleveland Ohio. Yeppers. Cleveland Ohio.

Twelve hours later I am driving back though Ithaca seeing students everywhere but I am too tired to go online to drive. I got home at about 1:30 Sunday morning, a little worse for wear, quite exhausted but felt as if I had helped someone who needed to get from Ithaca to Cleveland quickly. I think I might have helped him with his homework as well.


Don’t expect to stay in one place when driving for Lyft or Uber, just keep focused on helping others who happen to need it at the time. If you are just going to do it for the money , then you are missing the point. If you do anything just for money, you are missing the most important part of life. Period. You will be surprised at how rewarding it can be to help someone, even if it is just giving them a Lyft.

labor day weekend outing

Wow…..I took a little break from Lyft as I focused on making improvements to my house to prepare it for sale and no surprise. Nothing really changes.  About 90% of the riders are chatty and friendly to their destinations and even ask how I am doing, do I have plans, anything in Ithaca that is exciting to see or do….I do my best to go with the flow.

Yesterday I happened to Lyft four different Stephanies. How bizarre was that?????  What fun. Most of my fares were grad students tooling about town, getting toasted at the park, heading to the bus station, to or from the airport and I tell you, i barely had 2 seconds of time between drop off and requests, so I was hopping.  But, my hands began to ache, my stomach was growling and I was getting fatigued after about 6 hours in the car so I called it quits for the night and went home to feed the Frenchie.

The gift of helping others get around doesn’t change and for that I am thankful. It got me out of the house of many projects and into the fray of things.  PS…..I am still a “townie” and I like it that way.



~~the Wood Owl


Apple Wood Blog

How or where to begin? Begin with the beginning I say. I started turning wood in order to do something with the apple trees that the electric company cut down on our property in order to replace a pole. We were both very sad and angry at the loss of the trees and I felt I needed to do something about it.  But what could I do?

At the same time I needed to have brain surgery to repair an aneurysm in my brain, behind my right eye. Wow. I wasn’t even sure I was going to survive the surgery, let alone do something with apple wood.

The apple trees became symbolic for me and my brain. They became the push for me to create, the drive for me to connect with nature, the desire for me to connect with the community and the impetus for my healing.

Apple wood was the first wood I turned and hand carved. It is a beautiful fine grained heavy dense dark wood, prone to cracking and checking, dulls tools very quickly but yields a warm connection to wildlife and nature.  The root stock however is totally opposite of the trunk and limbs. The apple root is easy to work with, very light in weight and colour, has obtained an amazingly beautiful spalt stain, and has a sweet almost piney scent.


spalted apple root hollow form
spalted apple root box
apple wood hollow form