My introduction to wood began as I was growing up in Albany, NY. My father was a woodworker and made furniture and other woodcrafts for us and our friends. I used to enjoy going down into the basement when he was sawing the wood because of the wonderful scent in the air. However, I was not very interested in following in his woodworking footsteps. I have been in the IT industry for over 47 years as a programmer, systems programmer, and consultant. I discovered the love of woodturning quite by accident. My wife and I attended the Bluffton Arts Festival several years ago, and while we were walking around, we stopped by a famous, local potter’s shop. Under the shop’s awning, stood a tall gentleman with long white hair, turning acorn cups, and tops. I stood there, watching him as he spoke to the onlookers, explaining what he was doing. I was fascinated by the ease with which he created such pretty wood forms. I came back the following day to speak to him as well about woodturning. One thing led to another, and that long-haired gentleman standing under the potter’s awning, Peter Lamb, became my instructor, mentor, and wonderful friend. Peter has been turning for more than 35 years and knew many of the woodturning greats during the American renaissance of woodturning. It has been a wonderful journey learning the proper techniques of turning, as well as discovering t he craftsman within me. The learning never stops.
Since I have been woodturning, I find myself spending more time looking at the wood blanks, trying to determine the shape I want it to be formed into. What fascinates me the most is the grain of the blanks and how I can turn the form to accentuate the beauty of the grain within it. Sometimes, it is obvious, looking at the wood how to turn it. Other times, I find that grain formations change within the blank as I turn it. I really enjoy the surprise element in those cases. A while ago, I turned an Ambrosia maple bowl for my daughter and her family for Christmas. Looking at the outside of the blank, there were a few stripings, and I knew it would look very nice. However, as I turned the outside of the bowl, the stripings changed dramatically as did the figuring. Now, in front of me was a bowl with many stripings, bird’s eye, and mineral staining! This could not be seen or imagined while examining the blank. These are the surprises that make woodturning a joy for me. I love watching the form I am creating as it evolves from a blank to the finished product. Often, I will start out with a concept of what I want the bowl or stopper or ikebana to look like. Then, during the turning process, I might change my mind after looking at how it is being formed. Perhaps, it is figuring that I don’t want to turn out, or some other part of the wood that I would like to accentuate. It is these revelations, during turning, that bring me enjoyment. Every piece of wood is different. That’s where the adventure starts!