When I was growing up my father had a shop in the house. As a result, I
was always around tools. Looking back I realize that it was a pretty
basic shop but it was enough to give me a love for working with my
By happy accident
(rather than good planning) I went to university after high school
rather than becoming a tradesman. Yet even when I was buried in books
and classes, then later in a career in the computer business I still had
a shop in my home and woodworking was one of my hobbies.
1979 I purchased an old house in Calgary, Alberta and decided to
demolish the very tired garage. First, however, I had to clean out
the junk. One of the "treasures" under the floorboards was an old
lathe. It was made of two U-beams designed to bolt to a 2x10 with a set
of pillow block bearings on a block of metal for a headstock, a face
plate and a #1 Morse Taper on the tailstock with a dead-center. It had
perhaps an 8" swing and a 36" bed.
I took that old lathe
into my shop, built a stand for it, bought a pair of stepped pulleys
and a second-hand washing machine motor and after a little fiddling I
had my first lathe. I think the only thing that saved me was that the
motor was only about 1/3HP and the belt was not very tight. Like many
others I tried using my wood chisels first (with predictable results),
looked at a few books, bought a $25 set of six tools at the local
hardware store - and had a blast.
My first turning project
I moved to the US a
year later and left that old lathe with a family friend. When I
returned to Canada I got a "real" lathe for Christmas. Angle iron ways,
12" swing, 1"x8 spindle, live center! Wow! It was still fun and I
proudly pressed gifts on family and friends which I I still get to see
from time to time - a mixed blessing at best.
I outgrew that lathe
and bought a mechanical variable speed next. Once again, my turning
improved and I could tackle more elaborate projects.
My real awakening
happened in 1997 when I took a 5-day intensive seminar with Mr. Richard
Raffin. I found everything that is said about Mr. Raffin to be true.
He is a quiet man with strong opinions, a fabulous turner and a
wonderful teacher. My 15 years of fiddling around prepared me for his
careful and precise teachings and it felt like someone switched on a
light in a dark room. Things that used to take hours took minutes and
things that seemed impossible were conceivable even if they were not yet
Within a year of that
seminar, even after spending a bunch of time building a large heavy
base, I had outgrown my third lathe and needed to upgrade.
I looked at lots of
lathes and finally purchased a Oneway 2436 with a few add-ons. Buying a
"big" lathe certainly was a huge step toward improving my turning and
now I can tackle most anything I choose. I am also pleased that my old
lathe lives on in the shop of one of my young friends.
The next major
development in my turning was hooking up with a group of people who
wanted to form a woodturning group. Six of us became the "founding"
members of what is now The Greater Vancouver Woodturners Guild (AAW
Chapter 130) (see www.gvwg.ca ). We
had 70 people at our first meeting and the club grew to over 100 within
Being surrounded by
so many people interested in turning spurred me on to do even more
learning and turning. Moreover, the club began inviting top-notch
turners from all over the world to visit and teach. As a result I have
attended demonstrations and had hands-on classes with Bonnie Klein, Clay
Foster, Stuart Batty, Ernie Newman, Michael Hosaluk, Don Derry, Jack
DeVos, Mike Mahoney, Dale Larson, Phil Brennon and others. Each time I
watch another turner or take a class I learn something more.
In 1999 I also began
to demonstrate and teach for at a local tool company that has been a
long-time supporter of wood turning. Since I have taught and
demonstrated for a number of groups in the Pacific Northwest and I
continue to get a kick out of it each and every time..
In 2002 my career
took another "turn" when I was caught in the nation-wide trend for large
companies to downsize. I was suddenly given the choice of looking for
new work or turning my hobby into my job. Taking a line from Confucius
- "find something you love and never work another day in your life" - I
decided to pursue my wood turning full time.
Turning for a living
certainly adds a new dimension to the Art but I still love getting in
the shop every day and I still learn something with every project. With
good luck that will continue and I will turn for many years to come.
Oct 11, 2003