Artists preparing for the Oak Bay Night Market

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Finishing a block of wood into a well-crafted artisan bowl requires a keen eye, a steady hand, and lots of practice.

Woodturner Harvey Brooks is a veteran who has turned thousands of woodturning wheels with precision over the past 18 years.

In his Fernwood woodworking workshop, he’s busy putting the finishing touches on bowls he’ll be showcasing at the Oak Bay Village Night Market on July 20.

He sees wood turning as an art form that involves working with materials rather than making flat wooden products like cutting boards.

“Like any art, the more you practice, the better you get,” says Brooks, who is self-taught. He loves woodworking because every piece is unique. No two pieces are the same, no two react the same, no two look the same when finished. Mother Nature does an amazing job of creating a variety of colors.”

Brooks learned his technique by watching videos and through trial and error.

Whether using local Garry Oak, Arbutus, Western Maple or Pacific Yew, the process is delicate and subtle.

Roughing out bowls has a high failure rate, and many cannot be finished. Depending on the wood, up to 40 percent of the bowl may crack during drying.

Brooks begins the shaping process with a block of wood, preferably one that’s still green.

“I use a chainsaw or bandsaw to roughly round the rough piece of wood, then mount it between the centers of the lathe and use a bowl gouge to begin the shaping process.”

“I start by roughly shaping the outside, checking the direction of the grain and adjusting the wood to expose the most beautiful part of the grain. Once I have it shaped to look good, I put the bowl back on and hollow out the inside.”

The wood is then dried for at least six months, and sometimes for several years.

The wood may warp as it dries, so once it is completely dry it is turned on the lathe again, sanded and finished with several coats of a natural oil wax finish.

“I’ve been displaying my bowls there since the Oak Bay Market first started,” he says, “I work alone so it’s rewarding to talk to people and see them appreciate my work.”

Brooks will be joined by about 85 other artists, performers and vendors at the monthly market, the second of the event’s third season in the Village. Hours are 4-8 p.m., with Oak Bay Avenue closed to pedestrian traffic between Monterey Avenue and Yale Street.

Entertainment will be provided by Morris dancers, Scottish fiddler Gavin Duncan and magician Paul Kilshaw, and there will also be a barbecue to raise funds for Cops for Cancer.

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