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Jorgen Bleken- Traditional Norwegian Woodturner

July 31, 2013

Jorgen Bleken with vesselWe first heard about Jorgen Bleken from other woodturners in Norway.  He is a legend there as the most skilled woodturner at the “old things”- he can do anything in turning and carving to replicate traditional shapes.

Covered Vessel

He lives in the Hadeland area, north of Oslo, not far from Hadeland GlassWorks and near where many of my relatives live.  He was very gracious about receiving us as visitors, though he was self-conscious that he didn’t have too much English.  That was no problem because the real treat was what he could show us.

We started out in his house with some wonderful things he showed us.  Both he and Trond Killi, where I last visited, love birch burl and had many pieces that he turned of burl.  On the right is a traditional Norwegian vessel, turned of burl burl, with beautiful carvings on a clever lockable cover.

Burl postsHe loves burls, and we saw quite a collection of burls that he had collected and was preparing to turn.  Birch burl seems to be most plentful, called “Valbjork,” and it is quite unusual in that it often has dark lines caused by larva in the wood that give it a most unusual and rich appearance.  The good stuff is very expensive because it is much prized for knife handles.

Like many Norwegians, he also likes to do imaginative outdoor sculptures using the burls. Outside his shop heBurl with roof had one large burl with a roof on it.  He had a special place planned for this in his yard.  Just inside the doors of his shop he had two tall burl posts.  I asked him if he intended to place them on either side of his driveway at the entrance of his home.  He smiled and told me he thought they would look very nice there.

It seems that many Norwegians love burls and other unusual wood. In rural areas, they often frame the entrance to their homes with large burls for gateposts.

Burl box with stem and dye

In these two photos, you see Jorgen has turned traditional shapes in Birch burl.  In the one with the stem, Jorgen has added a bit of dye to bring out the grain of the wood. On the right is a small box with some nice details in lovely birch burl.  I believe it is recently turned but it is one of those pieces that looks like an antique instantly.

Traditional burl box

His execution is flawless and they look just like the antique turnings in the Folk Museum.

Next we visited his shop. It was full of projects and materials and tools.  He had good tools, a huge band saw, and a very fine One Way lathe from Canada, with a shop built carriage for fluting and an extended lathe bed.  He showed me photos of very ambitious and large projects he had done on that lathe.  Right now an almost finished cabinet sits on top of that lathe.

Jorgen Bleken shop pic 2

Jorgen Bleken shop pic

DinosaurBut my favorite piece was perhaps his dinosaur.  Besides all his traditional objects, he had also turned a fanciful and fun dinosaur that “worked.”  It had 4 large wheels and when you pushed or pulled it, the large round body which rested on the wheels was turned in the opposite direction.  Very fun and quite beautiful in birch burl.


From → Turner's Stories

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