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Bowls of Imperfect Beauty PDF Print E-mail
Written by MITCH MAERSCH   
Wednesday, 25 October 2017 16:12

The bowls made by Wade Auer of Waubeka are not perfect—they have cracks and holes—and that’s what gives them the character buyers love

Wade Auer found his retirement hobby before he retired.
Auer, of Waubeka, initially wanted to cut grass at a golf course, but instead developed a lifelong interest in woodworking into his passion of choice.
Now, it even brings in a little money. Auer began creating bowls about a year ago and has made more than 80 on a lathe.
Last Saturday, he hosted an open house and sold 30 of his 35-piece inventory.
Auer’s bowls are unique; no two are alike.
“I like making the old-fashioned bowls. Most of the ones I’ve seen that other people have for sale – shops in Cedarburg or Plymouth – everything looks perfect,” he said.
“Mine are not perfect bowls. Mine are cracked. They’ve got holes. They just have a character all   their own.”
Auer became interested in woodworking in seventh grade at Ozaukee Middle School.
“Ever since middle school when we had wood shop and used a lathe, I always wanted to do it and never did,” he said.
Now, Auer is doing it. He’s on his second lathe, a Shop Fox model, after initially acquiring an old Rockwell version.
“I will cut a log in half, and I will rough out a bowl out of each half, and then dry them and finish them,” he said.
He gets help from YouTube. Videos have taught him how to make bowls.
“They’re all pretty much the same. There’s a lot of fast forward on them. There’s a lot of wood shavings flying,” he said.
Auer looks online for different finishing, sanding and dusting techniques. He has learned to hook a dust collector to a 55-gallon drum and make shields out of Plexiglass.
His first bowl was a goblet, “and then I had a couple of trial-and-error ones. Everything progressed.”
Now, Auer makes 4 to 6-inch bowls for $40, 8 to 9-inch bowls for $60 and 16-inchers for $80.
He roughs out the shape of the bowl and does the outside first. If it’s cracked badly, he wraps it in duct tape and then does the inside.
Auer fills cracks with glue, and later finishes bowls with walnut oil, after learning that worked better than butcher block conditioner.
“It all depends on the type of wood. Once the wood is drying, some species crack more, so it’s a little tougher to go and do,” Auer said.
Auer said he prefers black cherry wood.
“It doesn’t crack at lot as it dries. It turns very nice. You can get a smoother bowl out of it,” he said.
But he works with plenty of other types. Black walnut is a little harder and requires less pressure to turn, and ash trees get dusty but turn out looking sharp.
Auer never kills a tree to get wood for his masterpieces.
“I don’t cut down trees to make bowls. It’s either dead or has fallen down,” he said.
Some wood comes from a 40-acre parcel his mother still owns. Otherwise, if he sees someone cutting down a tree, “I’ll just stop and ask.”
Sometimes, people drop off wood from fallen trees, “and I’ll make a bowl out of it for you. It’s like a keepsake,” he said.
He learned how to build a kiln from YouTube and can dry wood in two weeks. Otherwise, he microwaves wood for one minute and lets it cool for an hour, then repeats the process until moisture content reaches 5%.
Auer uses a moisture content tester he found online. He puts the tester against the wood and reads it.
Drying the wood is the longest part of the process. Making the bowls themselves takes four to five hours, he said.
People can eat out of the bowls, but Auer said he doesn’t recommend it.
“If you want to use it for food, there’s a seasoning you have to do, like with cast-iron pans,” he said.
Sometimes, even he is surprised by the results. Starting with just a piece of wood, he holds a finished product, “and you’re looking at it — wow, how the heck did I do that?” he said.
Auer’s hobby began with making pieces of Adirondack furniture, and he has made a vase for a wedding. Someone requested a bench for a foyer and someone else wants a yarn bowl.
“I can make some pretty good stuff,” Auer said.
So far, Auer exclusively uses social media to pique buyers’ interest in his bowls.
“For right now, it’s all word of mouth. I usually post pictures on Facebook and somebody will contact me,” he said.
He is developing a wide following. His bowls have traveled to family, friends and others in Idaho, New Hampshire, Massachusettes and the Upper Peninsula.
“We’ve got contacts all over the United States who are getting ahold of us,” he said.
He got the idea to make bowls from home decor magazines.
Auer said he could make baseball bats up to college grade on his lathe, but he hasn’t tried that yet.
Working on his lathe is an escape for Auer, as 95.7 FM provides a soundtrack of oldies music.
“It’s very relaxing. I crank on the radio as I’m going,” he said.
For the Brookfield Highway Department employee who just turned 60, it beats his original plan to pass time when he retires.
“I think I found something better to do. I don’t have to get up at 4:30 a.m. and cut grass, Auer said with a laugh.
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