On the Woodworker Sessions this week, I chat to Johann Pieterse of Cape Town.
Johann Pieterse of Cape Town
Johann is a wonderfully gentle person and an extremely accomplished artist in his own right. A talented painter, carver, boatbuilder, sculptor, cabinetmaker and woodturner, he has a quiet, but infectious demeanor and has a wealth of woodworking knowledge. I regard him as a true friend and mentor. Johann shares his passion and knowledge freely and he is a superb teacher.
Johann's Hand Built Lapstrake Rowing Boat
Tobias: How, why and when did you become interested in woodworking?
Johann: I have been inspired to do handcraft all my life, I did technical drawing, metalwork, woodwork and ceramic work at school, but I have always been drawn to wood as my artistic medium of choice.
Wood is a warm material, the natural graphics and beauty of wood is endless. During the past 30 years, I have made numerous pieces of furniture and cabinetry and have even built some wooden boats, all on commission. In recent years, I have become more inspired towards Sculpture and Artistic Wood Turning.
Turning on the Nova 1624 Mk.II Lathe
Tobias: What aspects of your craft do you find the most and the least enjoyable?
Johann: For me, the most enjoyable aspect is the wonderful intimacy of forming and shaping wood by hand, using finely tuned and sharpened hand tools.
Mindless hours of sanding is my worst nightmare!
Tobias: Which machines, power tools or hand tools could you not do without?
Tobias: What was the first piece you ever made, what is your favourite piece and what is the next piece you wish to build?
Johann: The first pieces were at school, coffee and bedside tables, I also turned a bedside lamp. The most enjoyable project was building a fine lined lapstrake rowing boat based on the American Whitehall pulling boats. The boat was built using 95% hand tools. I am currently working on developing my Artistic Woodturning to include more decorative aspects and Marquetry.
Johann's Fine Lapstrake Rowing Boat
Tobias: What are your favourite timbers to work with, what timbers do you avoid and why?
Johann: For Furniture and Cabinetry, I really enjoy working in Hard Maple and Bubinga.
For my woodturning, I love Wild Olive and any fruitwoods like apple and pear when I can get my hands it. For carving, my favourite wood is Lime. Generally, I don’t like working with most African woods, as I find that the dust is at best irritating and at worst toxic!
Sculpture: Landscape of the Mind
Tobias: What is your standard finishing process for your pieces?
Johann: I generally work through the sand paper grits 120, 240, 400, 800, 1000, depending on the wood and function of the piece.
I use Shellac based sanding sealer, and then either wax polish or 3-4 coats of Danish oil resulting in a satin finish. I really detest the plastic look that some finishes give.
Tobias: If you could add another discipline to your woodworking arsenal, what would it be?
Johann: Tobias, with you doing French Marquetry, you have recently inspired me, and this is a discipline that I would like to incorporate into my Wood Turning and Sculptures in the future.