Art in Southern Denton County…and Beyond: From the practical to the profound, wood lathes – Cross Timbers Gazette | Southern Denton County | Hanazuka

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Sculpture by Joel Ruben

Written by Tom Lohr and Elizabeth Brannon

An interesting thing to observe at art shows and festivals is how the work of two people using the same medium can be very different.

Joel Rubin and Tom Rohr are both wood turners who fit that mold. Joel is a former general surgeon who currently works as an emergency room physician and focuses more on his decorative work. Tom focuses on functional pieces with a decorative flair.

Eighteen years ago, after several skydiving injuries, Joel began looking for another hobby. He took classes on various power tools at a local woodworking shop, but the one that intrigued him most was lathes. Joel started making bowls like most woodworkers. The surgeon’s feelings took over and Joel wanted to find other more complex things he could create. He began attending regional and national symposiums and taking classes from nationally known woodturners.

Looking at Joel’s work today, it appears that the artist who had the deepest influence on him was the late Binh Pho. After many attempts, Binh finally escaped Vietnam as one of the boat people and arrived in the United States in 1979. Joel’s work uses Bing’s technique of spinning thin-walled containers, punching holes to develop intricate patterns, and painting with air. The brush is very simple and gorgeous. All processes involved are tedious and require a lot of patience.

Joel said he creates some functional items because he gets tired of doing the same thing all the time. He creates unique salt and pepper mills by gluing different woods together. He uses different pieces of wood of the same type, cutting them into small angled pieces and stacking them in rows to create patterns into what he calls segmented bowls. These, along with his ornaments, fit into Joel’s desire to create something “visually appealing.”

Some of Tom Rohr’s works

Tom Rohr’s love of woodworking began at the age of seven.th Grade shop class. Tom always liked to make things. As a child, he spent hours tinkering with toys and later used the Erector set. Shop classes taught skills and techniques that were later applied to larger projects. Working with wood also gave me variety in the design of my projects and expanded my desire to build things, rather than using the fixed size limitations of my previous toy parts.

As time and money allowed, Tom slowly amassed a collection of tools and used them to build furniture, cabinets, and entertainment centers over time. Tom’s wife Thule was a mosaic and fused glass artist, and she was an early member of the Timbers artist guild, and some of the other members were woodturners. They kept urging Thule to “get Tom to try woodworking.” After taking a beginner’s class eight years ago, he was hooked. Like Joel, Tom continues to attend symposiums and take classes to expand his knowledge and learn new and different techniques.

Tom’s experience making functional items such as furniture is probably what led him in that direction with woodturning. Most woodworkers make the bowls, but Tom likes to decorate the bowls after sawing them. He uses a variety of techniques including dyes, paint, and pyrography. The desire for a little flair is also evident in the colorful wooden base of the pepper mill and the colorful handle of the bread knife.

Joel and Tom are both members of the local Golden Triangle Woodturners and American Woodturners Association. They are members of and participate in the Cross Timbers Artist Guild Open Studio Tour held each November.





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