Stephan Moll, MD: As the Lathe Turns…

Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at the University of North Carolina

What sparked your interest in woodturning?
Pear bowl

It happened by chance a few years ago: I have always enjoyed building and repairing things, including working with wood, but I had never taken any lessons to develop or enhance these skills. In 2011, though, I was flying to a medical meeting and happened to sit next to a hobby woodturner. The conversation with him led me to visit the monthly meetings of the Woodturners Guild of North Carolina in Raleigh.
Soon after that, I drew up plans for a 360-square-foot woodworking shop as an addition to our garage, had it built, bought a lathe, took woodturning lessons, and started turning wood.
Dr. Moll in his workshop inside

What do you enjoy most about woodturning?

I love learning about wood – seeing the different, and always unique, structures and patterns when one cuts the wood, turns, sands, and polishes it. Now that I know more about wood, I look at the world around me differently, too. I am able to identify individual trees and notice details about the wood they are made of. Part of the joy of woodturning is imagining what the tree’s wood might look like if I had a chance to turn it. I also very much enjoy when one of my four children or any of their friends join me in the workshop and we create something together – turning, sanding, and polishing a bowl, a platter, or a ring holder.
Hickory bowl

What do you make? Do you have a favorite piece?
I enjoy making bowls and hollow forms out of various woods. One piece I am very fond of – because my children like it a lot – is a pear bowl, which they call the “Winnie the Pooh honey pot” (top image). Another favorite is a hickory bowl I turned from a tree that grew in our backyard in Chapel Hill and was damaged when my workshop was built — the colors and structure of the wood are wonderful (bottom image).

What is your favorite wood to work with?

River Birch wood has many different internal wood structures that make it interesting to work with: a shimmer in some areas that one appreciates when moving the turned piece, bright speckled parts called “pith flecks,” and unique patterns from spalting (discoloration patterns from fungus). Really, I enjoy working with most woods; they all have unique appearances, working characteristics, odors, and textures. Of course, there are also unique stories about how I found each piece.

Where do you find the wood that you work with?

I enjoy knowing where the wood I work with came from, so I am always on the lookout for fallen or felled trees – either from family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, or trees that I find when I travel. Actually, I just bought an electric chainsaw that I plan to take with me when I travel so I can cut wood into transportable pieces that I can take back in my suitcase.

I’m looking forward to the 2015 ASH Annual Meeting in Orlando so I can potentially find some Mimosa wood to work with, and I would also like to suggest that ASH hold a future meeting in Houston or New Orleans so I can get my hands on some Live Oak or Post Oak wood, or in San Diego so I can find some Eucalyptus wood!

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