biography

NICK REALE

My work consists of art created from wood either harvested from local, fallen or removed trees, or from reclaimed wood that has a unique history or backstory. The hardware and embellishments used are collected from my travels abroad including Italy, France, Germany and Austria. To compliment the wood, the hardware used is often collected from antique and architectural salvage shops, some being many centuries old. My work includes wood turning, box making, furniture, and toys.

Why Wood?

Taking the living form of wood and turning into functional art has always appealed to me. Each piece of wood is unique, having its own character and detail that emerges and is then showcased in the finished piece. I choose not to purchase wood (what some call “wood blanks”). Instead, I prefer the “start” to “finish” process of taking a downed tree, cutting it with a chainsaw, drying it, then cutting it again with a finer saw into my own workable blanks or boards. Once this is done the piece can be worked with and shaped over the time it takes to dry (a process often taking a year or more). It is the sanding and finishing process that brings out the unique grain and patterns each piece has hidden inside. The end result is a lasting item that will hopefully be cherished forever.

Inspirations

What Inspires Me

My inspiration has always been my wife. It started by making things for her that she truly loved and thought beautiful.

It has since expanded to friends, family and even strangers to see the smiles or watch them caress the piece and connect to it somehow. I enjoy making things that are tactile and have a weight (or lack of weight) that people want to hold or use or play with.

Creation Process

My work has changed in quality more than any other feature. When I turn a bowl or create something it is really free form. I do not use plans or drawings; I just take the pieces I want to use and start to make something I think will work. It’s analogous to a painter’s blank canvas.

Early in my career that resulted in many “broken” projects. Now I can create almost anything I am thinking of at the time.

I also chose to use tools that require a certain amount of skill. Nothing is made with CNC machines or laser guided cutters. Everything I create has been guided by my own eyes and hands.

Other Background

I spent 30 years with Pinellas Park Fire Department as a Firefighter/Paramedic and Lieutenant. I retired in 2014.

I am also a computer programmer and website developer. Along with my wife we own Cappuccino Media Group and cater to a wide variety of customers across the nation.

The process of creating art from trees

Acquiring wood and processing

Each part of the country, and the world, have unique trees associated with them. I am in Florida, so I have access to a wide range of trees. Many of these trees come down in storms or are removed because of age or health and many come down because of development. When I am fortunate enough to get access to some large logs or tree trunks I take out the chainsaw and start cutting. Based on the diameter, type, position in the tree are among a few of the factors that guide me in cutting the larger pieces into something I can then use later. Usually the pieces weigh between 100 to 500 pounds and take quite a bit of work to get back to the workshop. Then at the workshop I cut them with a bandsaw to facilitate drying. I dry the wood on racks - no kilns or vacuums systems - and keep a close eye on them. It takes at least 9 months to 24 months to dry the wood so it does not crack or warp. I routinely rotate the wood making sure it is drying at the right speed for woodturning. When you dry wood this way it is inevitable that there will be cracks or fissures, I use those as features in my work and feel it adds to piece making it interesting.


Prepping the wood for turning and shaping

After the wood has reached a moisture point of less than 5%, I return to the bandsaw to cut the pieces in a round-ish shape and find a point as close to the center as possible. The larger pieces i have to use a crane or have the help of friends to mount it on the lathe. Once on the lathe the wood is 'roughed' out and a basic shape is made trying to keep the wall thickness even as possible. I removed about 80% of the total volume. Then it is back onto the racks for more drying. This can take another few months based on the type of wood. The goal is to get the wood as dry as possible so it does not warp, crack or shift after the piece is complete, however because I only do rack drying the piece still acts like a living piece of wood and will change shape with extreme temperature changes. Depending on the wood type it is usually not noticeable but I also find that an interesting part of my work and of the produced piece.


Final Turning

Once the rough turned bowl has reached 2% or less moisture it is time for the fun part. Once it is remounted on the lathe it must be balanced and made round so that it can spin at higher speeds without vibration. It must also be checked for structural integrity because the spinning can create the piece to fly apart (you can see my wall of holes to verify this) . When all is rounded and it appears safe to move on the final shaping and design are accomplished. Typically, I take what the wood gives me and I do not have a plan or layout that I follow. I keep turning and cutting till I feel it looks good. This also applies to the wall thickness of the piece. Some think that a very thin walled bowl is

'better' than one with thicker walls. Granted it is harder to create thinner walls (although many use special mounted cutters or other mechanical means to achieve this - I just use hand tools and the lathe) but it is the overall feel of the piece that I am looking for. This includes a tactile component as well as a weight component.


Sanding and Finish

I hand sand each piece to 1000 grit. This seals the pores of the wood and the finish, when applied, does not become spotty or uneven. I mainly use two different types of finish. One I create from my own mixture that includes shellac (shellac is actually created from the shell of a bug called a Lac. They are harvested from limbs of trees and processed into a finish) the other is a wax finish that is put on by a buffing wheel at high speeds. Either is safe and durable. Depending again on the wood type and shape will dictate what I use. In some cases I have used a spray varnish. I do this to pieces that have lots of 'punky' or rotted pieces to help hold it all together and create a glossy finish. I do not use stains or anything that alters the color of the wood, no real reason why I do not except to say that I like the natural beauty better.

FYI...

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