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Charred Ancient Alder Bowl with a Secret

Red Alder
Handmade, one-of-a-kind
excellent display piece or fruit bowl
finished w/ food-grade Danish oil, varnish, and bees wax
made by Zach LaPerriere
Sitka, Alaska 2017
bowl measures 13 1/2" X 4"

I charred this bowl in response to requests for more bowls featuring shou sugi ban—the Japanese art of charring wood.

I'm always drawn to watching wood burn in the campfire.  Burning wood heats my home, bakes our bread and pizza, smokes our salmon and enriches our live in so many ways.  Nothing beats sitting around around a campfire with friends, especially when cooking a big king salmon over alder coals...

At any rate, I love watching wood burn and this bowl connects to that feeling.  There are small cracks from charring on the interior of the bowl, but the exterior is clear and smooth.

From the lower sides and bottom of the bowl you can guage how big and old the alder was that grew this bowl.  You can see both whites and blacks from spalting that grew inside the tree after it died at a very mature age.

Now for the secret part.  I deliberated shaped this bowl to have a knot in the exterior rim.  I figured the knot would fall out after the bowl was completed...but something special happened.  There is just enough wood wrapping around the knot that the knot can be removed and replaced.  I have showed the bowl to a number of people, and even after I asked them to look for anything unusual, no one considered removing the knot.  So here you go James Bond screenwriters: write the secret password on a small piece of paper and slip it behind the secret knot.  Not even the most cunning of villains would find it there.

This bowl will make an excellent show piece or fruit bowl.   I generally don't recommend charred bowls for salad, though dry salads without small objects like grated carrots would be fine.  When considering this as a fruit bowl, I really feel like the black interior shows fruits exceptionally well.


Story: Last February I cut two massive standing-dead alder about a mile up a wild river valley about five miles from my home and shop.  The official oldest alder in the world is recorded in Washington at 100 years old.  The two alder I cut were at least 120 and 130 years old.  Alaska is full of secrets!

After cutting and prepping the bowl stock, my family and I took three days to sled out material in 2-3 feet of snow.  We followed frozen creeks and bear trails in a magical winter wonderland.  It was our best snow in seven years, and I'm still grateful everything worked out just right, from getting my USFS permit to the weather so graciously cooperating with our effort.

You can watch a video of our alder salvage effort here:
From Tree to Bowl: Alaska Style