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Scandinavia Update: Woodturning in Sweden

In his latest travel blog post, Resident Artisan Nate White writes about his time traveling through Sweden and working with wood turner Stefan Nordgaard

Posted on June 11, 2023
by Nate White

In mid May I spent a week in Leksand, Sweden.  I was there to work with the wood turner Stefan Nordgaard, and hopefully check out Sätergläntan, a folk school in the area.  Leksand is a very charming town.  It has rolling bucolic hills and is right at the southern tip of a large lake.  

Another prominent feature are its houses; almost all of them are painted the same shade of red.  The paint is a by-product of copper mining and the original quarry was in Falun, a nearby town.  The paint is ubiquitous not only in Leksand, but most of the Nordic countries, having been in use since the 17th century.  

I was surprised at how little I was bothered by almost every house having the same color scheme of white trim and red walls.  I think a large part of it had to do with how much character all the buildings had beyond their paint, and the way in which the houses were laid out and situated on the land; no grids no culd-de-sacs.  The paint also reminded me a lot of the milk paint I use on my bowls, and bowls are a part of why I wanted to visit Stefan. 

Stefan and his wife Magan’s house

Stefan was the wood turning instructor for Sätergläntan for 25 years.  Getting to spend a week in his shop was a great opportunity and I could’ve spent at least two more just observing him turn.  Our time together varied quite a bit, and it was hard to pick one area of focus because of all of the turning skills he possesses.  

We started off off turning small end grain cups and dishes, only about a 3 1/2” deep and 3 inches in diameter.  We used this to introduce me to the wood turning hook, a tool that makes end grain hollowing a lot easier with smoother results.  From there we moved to little end grain boxes with snugly fit lids.  The thing about being at Stefan’s house and in his shop is that everywhere you look, there is a very beautiful thing he made, that I then wanted to try and make.  

This was a typical conversation: 

Me: “Wow, look at this gorgeous little box full of acorns turned from reindeer antler, how did you make these?”

Stefan: “Here, let me show you.”

So he showed me how to make gorgeous little boxes, and how to turn reindeer antler, and how to use the skew chisel to make glossy cuts ready for finish off the lathe.  

But what I really wanted to see was him turn a Snibbskål, which is a traditional ale bowl from Sweden.  It is distinct because it will either have a square rim just below the lip of the round bowl, or just square corners below the rim of the bowl.  

Stefan turning a snibbskål

I love a snibbskål; it is the form that really inspired me to get into wood turning and bowl making, and it was a great privilege to watch a master show me how they are made.  

 My time in the ADP started almost exactly 10 years from when I first apprenticed at the Carpenter’s Boat Shop, which was my introduction not just to woodworking, but slöjd, handicraft, and green wood working.  This trip across Scandinavia/Nordic/Baltic region will essentially wrap up my time in the ADP, and I got a lot of satisfaction from seeing the bowl that has inspired me so much from the beginning 10 years ago be made and to stoke that inspiration for me moving forward beyond my time at North House.  

The things I made with Stefan Nordgaard.