Arts Scene – Robert Pederson: The Wonders of Wood

by Jo Barnes | photos by Amanda Cribdon Photography – 

Walking along the oceanfront, we often observe the carefree grace of the arbutus tree. But who knew that within these languid limbs was a severe case of tree tension?

Bob Pederson, North Saanich woodturner, who is busy creating wooden Christmas ornaments and gifts, knows well the properties of different types of wood including the unique arbutus. Wood from this tree requires special attention before transforming it into art.

“Every wood is different to deal with,” shares Bob. “With arbutus you must work quickly or it cracks. We boil it first to remove the tension in the wood before working with it.”

It’s this kind of knowledge and often discovery about wood that makes woodturning both fascinating and rewarding.

“When you start with a block of wood, you don’t know the grain of the wood until you start turning,” says Bob, adding: “It’s that element of surprise.”

An activity and profession that dates back to Egyptian times, woodturning involves the use of a wood lathe and handheld tools. The wood piece is turned about a horizontal axis. Various tools are used to pare down the outside of the wood to remove bark and also shape it or hollow it out to make an object. It’s akin to clay being shaped on a potter’s wheel, but at much higher speeds with much harder material.

In our West Coast location, wood is a readily plentiful source for art creations. Bob repurposes wood he obtains.

“We have an abundance of wood products here,” comments Bob. “Everything I make is done with reclaimed wood.”

He crafts bowls, vases, platters, lidded boxes and ornaments. Each item is unique. His Christmas tree ornaments vary in shape, size and detailing and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over three hours to complete. Some are natural wood, others colourful through dyeing. Most include top and bottom finials for decoration and attachment purposes.

With Christmas around the corner, Bob continues to add to his ornaments inventory as he knows there will be customers contacting him.

“Some people buy one each year to add to their collection or buy as gifts for children,” he comments. “They are durable when made from wood rather than glass.”

In his 15-year woodturning journey, Bob has learned a lot and grown in his skills.

“I am trying to improve with each project I take on. I never stop learning,” he shares. “It’s all about improving with every object you do.”

He is a member of both the American Association of Woodturners and the local Woodturners Guild, both of which offer invaluable education and opportunities to connect with like-minded artists.

“There are workshops and guest speakers from all over the world,” says Bob. “I like the companionship of other turners. We help each other.”

Very early on in life, Bob developed dexterity.

“My mom taught me how to knit when I was very young,” comments Bob. “I was always interested in using my hands.”
He developed an interest in working with wood during school.

“My interest goes back to early high school days,” says Bob. “I had a table saw at home and would make children’s toys like little vehicles.”

In addition, wood holds special appeal for him on a number of levels. “I like the feel of wood. I like the different aromas; some are very pungent.”

For many years Bob operated a garden and floral business in Saanich before pursuing his current woodturning hobby. Like any artistic endeavour, repetition and practice are so important. It takes patience and knowledge. Bob’s natural dexterity is a valuable asset because woodturning demands skill and precision using specialized tools and techniques.

“It’s a dangerous hobby as you’re working with high speeds and sharp tools!” he says.

Dealing with physical hazards means of course adhering to daily safety protocols. Whether it’s shaving, paring or chiseling wood, it all creates a lot of dust in the woodshed.

“You have to be cautious of all aspects of dust,” shares Bob. “I wear a facial mask with a dust shield to eliminate breathing in the dust and also use dust extractors in my work area.”

Perhaps you’re looking for a unique Christmas tree ornament or a handcrafted gift for someone. Bob has a large inventory of creations and can be contacted at:

They might be featured on a festive tree or charm a little child. They might store a very special souvenir or decorate the dining table. Bob Pederson’s wooden works of art are turned out with talent.

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