Making a shrinkpot

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Often when I am at the market , or when I do a demonstration, people ask me how I make my shrinkpots. Therefore I made this photo report of making a shrink pot.

It all starts with selecting a nice piece of wood. It is important that the wood is still green or wet. That’s because dry wood does not shrink, and therefore it cannot be made into a shrinkpot. The shrinkage of the wet wood is used to clamp the base in the pot. The reason you do this, and not just partially hollow out the branch leaving a bottom behind, is that the wood would then most likely crack. Roundwood (the entire trunk or branch) always cracks during the drying process, due to the difference in shrinkage between sapwood and heartwood.

A trunk or branch without side branches works best, because it is the easiest to hollow out. If you want to leave the bark on your pot, the diameter of the pot will of course (almost) be the same as that of your branch. In case you want to remove the bark, you would choose a trunk that has just a slightly larger diameter than the pot that you want to make.

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As the base of the shrinkpot added after hollowing out the pot, you have to completely hollow out the chosen branch top to botom. To do this properly, I secure the branch in my sawhorse with a strap. I then place the sawhorse on its side for easier drilling. With an auger I then drill a hole that is at least as deep as I want the pot to be.

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After boring the hole, I saw the length of the branch that I want to use for the pot.

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The hole made with the auger must be enlarged. This works best with a gouge. In practice I use two of them. I start with a narrow one and, as soon as the hole is wide enough, switch to a wide gouge. When the thickness of the wall of the pot hole is nearly how I want it to be , I mark the final diameter so that I can gush a nice even hole. For this I use a blue watercolour pencil. This has three reasons:

  • On wood that is still wet, a normal gray drawing pencil does not give off any colour. A watercolour pencil does work very well on wet wood.
  • Blue is more visible on wood than grey.
  • The person from whom I learned to use a watercolour pencil (Jan Harm ter Brugge, Hout van Bomen) always uses blue, so I do that too 🙂

I then gush out the rest (fairly) neatly up to the line.

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To finish the inside of the pot, I use a curved spoon knife. Here I remove the channels and the loose fibers that were formed during gouging.

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To fix the base in the pot, I carve a slot on the inside of the pot just above the bottom. I use a small Flexcut scorp, of which the cutting edge is parrallel to the handle. The depth of this slot is determined by two things. For example, it must be deep enough to allow the pot to shrink enough before it touches the base so that it does not crack. On the other hand, the slot must not be too deep, otherwise the base will not get clamped in well enough.

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The base is then made from dry wood, so that it will nog shrink and retain its shape and size. That is why I make sure that I always have some dry boards in stock. I have split the boards from green wood, after which I have let them dry. Before the board can be sawn to the right size, it must be planed. I use a draw knife on a shaving horse for this. The size of the base is then marked on the planed board. This is equal to the size of the inside of the still wet cilindrical wall.

For easy sawing, I clamp the board with a so-called holdfast. I then saw the bottom with a hand-held jigsaw.

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After sawing the base it must still be trimmed. To ensure that the base is strong enough, but will also fit into the groove, it should become thinner from the center to the edge. I shape the base with a a stock knife or clog maker’s knife. After the last trimming of the base and the lower edges of the wall of the pot, the base can be pressed into the pot.

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When the base has been pushed into the slot, it will initially still be loose. However, due to the shrinkage of the cilinder, it will automatically get stuck. The jar can now be put away, together with the rest of the drying shrinpots. The first few days in particular it still has to be checked on a daily basis to ensure that the base is still in the slot. Thereafter it is a matter of waiting until the pot is dry. Hopefully the base will get stuck and no cracks will occur.

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When the shrinkpot is dry, the lid can be made. But that’s for another time…