Meet The Maker: Simen Soltvedt – Crafting the Future with Resin and Wood
My name is Simen Soltvedt and I’m 48 years old. I reside on the scenic west coast of Norway in Bjørnafjorden. It’s just an hour away from Bergen, the country’s second-largest city. My wonderful wife, Elin, and I are proud parents of two young adults aged 18 and 22. By profession, I delve into the world of digitisation within the municipal sector. However, my passions extend far beyond my work. Three years ago, I began a journey into the art of woodturning, discovering a new realm of creativity. In addition to woodturning, I actively pursue hobby photography and find joy in hiking through the mountains.
What motivated/inspired you to enter the woodworking industry?
I’ve always had a knack for creativity, and while woodworking has been a passionate hobby for just about 3 years now, the roots of my fascination date back to my junior high school days. It all started in those elective woodworking classes where I found myself captivated by the craft. Our teacher was a true inspiration, and it was under their guidance that I first got my hands on a lathe. I vividly remember shaping a wooden bowl during that time, which ended up being showcased in a youth cultural exhibition. The experience of transforming wood was both gratifying and invigorating, especially as my very first wooden bowl took centre stage!
Since that pivotal moment, the desire to have a lathe of my own never waned. Yet, practicalities like navigating through my educational years and tending to my growing family meant I didn’t have an appropriate workspace.
However, 2020 brought an unexpected opportunity during the initial months of the Covid-19 pandemic. We decided to construct a hobby shed in our garden; I took charge of designing and building it. This space comfortably accommodates both my pursuits and those of my wife, who also finds joy in crafting wooden spoons and kitchen tools.
My journey in woodturning has largely been self-taught, with YouTube becoming an invaluable teacher. The online platform is a treasure trove of knowledge if you explore it well enough. It’s a combination of trial, error, and persistence that has truly been the best instructor over time.
What projects have you worked on?
Primarily, I engage with wood, often in tandem with resin. My inspiration originates from YouTube or Instagram. This can occur through direct emulation of techniques and aesthetics, or more subtly by expanding upon existing approaches and experimenting with novel amalgamations not yet explored by others.
How do you acquire your wood, and do you have a preference for working with specific types of wood for different projects?
We reside in a rural region abundant with forests, thus the majority of the wood I utilise is wood I’ve personally felled. I seek permission from landowners to cut down one or two trees, and they generally grant their consent. Additionally, I’ve been fortunate to receive numerous pieces of wood from neighbours who have chopped fruit trees, which proves highly convenient. I take great pleasure in crafting spalted birch wood on a lathe. It’s readily accessible, and only a handful of us wood enthusiasts truly value the beauty of dried wood. I particularly admire its intricate patterns, and when I apply Odies Oil Dark, the wood’s appearance is further enhanced.
In the past year, I began incorporating resin into my projects. At first, I used resin primarily for fixing cracks and damaged sections in the wood. However, in my most recent projects, resin has evolved into an essential component of the final product. For instance, with one bowl I decided to split the piece diagonally and then cast a resin stripe between the two parts. The result wasn’t perfect, but I learned a lot that I can apply to future projects.
My most time-consuming project, “Chess Bowl,” began with a piece of cherry wood. I carefully crafted 1×1 cm sticks and planed them uniformly. These sticks were arranged in a classic chessboard pattern on a circular plate, with longer outer sticks set diagonally. I then enclosed the plate with protective walls and filled it with blue-tinted resin. This project spanned over a month but yielded a truly impressive result.
My latest project, an evolution of the “Chess Bowl,” is known as the “3D Bowl.” In this design, I’ve introduced greater spacing between the wooden pieces, and they are all positioned upright. To enhance the aesthetics, I incorporated a touch of black colour into the resin. However, it was crucial to maintain the resin’s transparency to beautifully showcase the wood
What materials and tools did you use to create your projects, and why did you choose them?
I start by powering up a Record Coronet Herald lathe. For turning, I utilise a combination of traditional turning tools from Hamlet Craft Tools, Robert Sorby, and Record Power, alongside carbide turning tools from Easy Wood Tools. Specifically, when working with resin, I find that carbide turning tools with a negative rake angle work best for my preferences.
I’ve opted for Entropy Resins® CCR Clear Casting Epoxy Resin, specifically with a slow hardener. This choice allows me to cast thicker layers of resin, which is crucial for my project. What I appreciate about Entropy Resins CCR is its ease of use and its ability to yield a clear and pleasing result, all without the need for a pressure chamber.
Did you encounter any unexpected challenges or setbacks during the process? If yes, how did you overcome them?
Challenges are opportunities for learning, and in my early resin projects, I encountered valuable lessons. One major issue I faced was resin discoloration and cracking, primarily because I had cast thicker layers than the resin was designed to handle. This was a key factor in my decision to switch to Entropy Resins CCR resin.
Additionally, I grappled with the issue of resin seeping into the wood. Through experience, I’ve discovered a solution: applying resin to the wood before casting. This not only prevents seepage but also reduces the risk of air bubbles forming along the wood’s surface.
I’ve also discovered that using a glue gun to seal the mould when I pour the resin into is not a wise idea. I had an unfortunate incident. The glue melted onto my bandsaw blade, causing damage.
Do you have any other exciting upcoming projects you plan to work on?
Absolutely, my mind is brimming with ideas, perhaps more than I can realistically bring to life! One concept I’m keen on involves crafting a dark wood bowl with a broad rim. Within this rim, I intend to create a depression and fill it with vibrant coloured resin. Additionally, I have plans to craft a layered bowl, combining resin with an array of different wood types.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to work with resin?
To ensure a smooth project, it’s crucial to plan meticulously and avoid wasting resin. Start by preparing the casting area thoroughly and gather all necessary materials before you begin mixing the resin. Prior to diving in, take the time to carefully read the resin’s instructions. Additionally, brush up on your mathematical skills pertaining to volume and quantity, as they’ll come in handy. Seek inspiration and valuable insights from platforms like YouTube and other sharing platforms. Most importantly, don’t hesitate to experiment and embrace the possibility of making mistakes along the way.
Find Simen Soltvedt’s Instagram account here: https://www.instagram.com/solsiden_snekkerbod/