Making a Shrink Pot
Wood Selection // overview
- The same consideration used for bowl and spoons can be used for shrink pots. I use a lot or birch for my shrink pots because I have a lot of it here in Maine. Other tight-grained hardwoods can be used.
- Branches with minimal knots are optimal. Clear, knot-free sections of the branch should be used for shrink pots. Small knots may not pose a problem, but any knot is a risk for cracking later on. It is also harder to cleanly excavate the interior when wrestling with the grain surrounding a knot, especially considering the odd angle required for this job.
- Shrink pots can be any size, as long as you have the tools to accommodate making them.
- The bottom section of the pot is usually a thin piece of dry wood - a lot of times I use pine because I have a lot of off-cuts of it.
- The lids can be anything really, as the only limitation is your imagination. Lots of time I use off-cuts for these as well, though I tend to save the prettier pieces for the lids because they are more visible. Lids can be either very simple in design and function or they can be ornate and highly decorated, such as with krympburkar, the Scandinavian style shrink pots. Look them up, they're my favorite!
Tools // roughing // shaping
- Dividers are used to create two concentric circles on either end of the blank, marking the inner and outer walls of the vessel.
- A hand auger/t-auger or a drill with an auger bit is used to remove a large portion of the waste wood on the interior of the form. An incannel gouge and mallet are used to remove the remainder of the waste, moving closer to the guideline.
- The majority of the waste on the outside of the vessel can be removed with a carving axe. A drawknife or plane can be used to work closer to the line while also refining the shape. This vessel will dry before final cuts are taken, so enough thickness is left to account for final cuts or any design elements.
- A hook knife is used to remove the remainder of the material on the interior. I pay special attention to the textured surface, as the way I leave it at this stage will serve as the final surface - its much easier to reach from both ends before the bottom is fit.
- A small notch is then carved on the inside of one end, just a half inch or so from the bottom. I use a small, deep sweep gouge to do this but it could also be done with a v-chisel or even a straight knife, also sometimes called a sloyd knife. Don't know what sloyd is? Check it out HERE.
- A dry piece of wood is then cut to fit the bottom - the fit must be tight enough to just pop into the notch but not so tight that it must be forced. Too tight a fit and the tension of the drying outer tube around the dry bottom will crack the vessel.
Final Shaping // decoration
- After the shrink pot has dried (usually a few weeks but this could vary depending on your climate/location, and the thickness of your pot's walls), final cuts are taken on the outside of the pot with either a spokeshave, a block plane, or a drawknife, depending on the texture I'm aiming for.
- I leave the inside walls alone, as its quite difficult to access the inside from only one end. I make sure that I'm satisfied with the texture and overall look when I'm doing the roughing cuts, before the bottom is fit.
- The lid can now be fit. If done before the pot has dried, the shape and size of the opening could change, making for an ill-fitting lid.
- A variety of lids can be made -those that fit like cork stoppers, others that twist and lock into place.
- Decorations can be made using chip carving, patterns, burning, and painting.
- After all decorations are made, and the paint has fully dried, I finish the pots with raw linseed oil. I've herad of people using a resin seal to make these water-proof. I've also heard people making them waterproof without sealing, though I've never attempted to test water-holding capabilites.