Wood Science with a Spin on It!

The Art & Design Option within the Renewable Materials Program started three years ago and has already contributed to the introduction of new workspace for the department, as well as development of new classes in woodturning. There is now a complete woodturning studio, which is where the new Woodturning with Science classes are held.


There are seven lathes, an ample amount of quality tools, and shelves full of beautiful wood blanks. A complete finishing room provides a wide variety of finishes for student experimentation, including painting work or exploring pyrography. The creation of this lab space would not be possible without donations from organizations, like the Women in Turning Chapter of the American Association of Woodturners (AWW) and generous individuals in the local community. Dr. Seri Robison is the professor and Master Woodturner behind the creation of these classes and led the push for the Art & Design option. 


There are three classes in this series: Woodturning with Science I, Woodturning with Science II, and Woodturning Sculpture. The first two courses focus on wood anatomy, where students learn about the importance of microfibril angles, rates of shrinkage, and the presence of extractives in order to perfect their art.  Dr. Robinson notes, “It’s important to understand the wood anatomy in order to be a better turner.” In the lab, students gain experience working with a wide variety of wood, from native spalted bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) to exotic bloodwood (Brosimum rubescens). Exposure to these different species and varied forms of figured wood will expand the range of wood that the students can successfully work with to create unique works of art. The third class focuses on sculpture, allowing students to focus on the more creative aspect of woodturning after becoming proficient in wood anatomy and basic woodturning safety and philosophy. Students are grateful to be participating in the first run of these courses, and look forward to the third course in spring. Some students will be showing their work in the student gallery at this year’s American Association of Woodturners International Symposium this June in Portland, Or.