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How did you get started in wood turning?

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by PapaDoc, Apr 27, 2004.

  1. captjim


    Feb 15, 2007
    Kona, Hawaii
    I shipped an old Delta lathe in the container with the idea of making some big game fishing lures I had in mind. I had never used a lathe before but happened to catch Dave Hout on the DYI network. I managed to “scrape” away enough from a 2X2 from the lumber year to create a blank to create a mold for the lure (it turned out to be a very successful design). Later, a neighbor gave me a piece of firewood from his pile along with a small chunk of Norfolk Pine.
    I “created” a couple of very ugly bowls but was hooked. I managed to gather up some monkey pod and tried to turn it on a lathe with only 4 speeds, none of them slow. Since I knew I was hooked, I had the Woodcraft in Honolulu put a Jet 1642EVS onto a barge and ship to the Big Island and I was into the game. Little did I realize, the lathe was to be the cheapest part of woodturning.

    As I started to create my first “real” bowl, I logged onto the AAW website after a search engine lead me to it. I’m not sure exactly how I introduced myself, but shortly afterwards, Dave Somers, from Volcano, HI., emailed me with an offer to help and within a few days he made the 2 hour drive over to my place for some hands on help. He mentioned that a group of turners from the Big Island Woodturners were planning to create a West Side group since it’s a 5 hour round trip from the Kona side to the Hilo side.
    Little did I expect that the turners involved were well known professionals, Kelly Dunn, Gregg Smith, Cliff Johns, Frank Sharp, Jack Straka, etc. and I was blown away by the offers of help from these gents. Turning wasn't their hobby but their livelyhoods. Their generosity with their time and expertise was just exceptional. With their help, critiques (sometime harsh) and encouragement, I believe I have become a pretty decent turner and sales at the galleries have supported my belief.

    It is simply incredible that the world of turners seems, almost without exception, to provide all the help one asks for and without an agenda other than the rewards of helping the novice.

    I try to live up to the examples demonstrated by those who have helped me by paying it forward to the next turner.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2011
  2. hughie


    Oct 1, 2008
    Sydney Australia
    Started when I was about 12 or 13 in my Dads Shop on a old Taiwanese spindle lathe, no chucks and carbon tools only. :) Now I am looking at retirment in a couple of years.
  3. Thomas Stegall

    Thomas Stegall

    Feb 3, 2011
    Niles, IL

    At 40 years old, I am probably of the last generation to see "wood shop" as common place in school. In the wood shop class I took at 13 years old, we were given six or seven assignments. Each assignment was designed to introduce us to one of the power tools in the shop i.e. a cutting board was made to introduce us to the table saw etc. Having grown up around my father and grandfather's tools my whole life, I was familiar the tools in the wood shop class except for one tool, the lathe.

    For the lathe we were required to make a three inch tall candle stick holder from a piece of pine. The candle stick holder I made was absolutely hideous! But while making it something inexplainable happened. Something just "clicked" in my head and a I said "wow, this is what I want to do". From that point on I dreamed of doing woodturning. As an adult living in apartments I never had a place for a workshop, but always retained the dream of woodturning.

    At 33, I got married and we bought a small house. Always working for non-for-profits we had little money, but I immediately started sealing and saving wood. I once brought home a 7 foot x 13" log of green hickory. When asked what it was for, I responded "some day I'm going to turn this". Five years later and twenty five years after that wood shop experience, it was my wife who purchased my first lathe as a Christmas gift. Now, I can't get enough of it. Each time I step up to the lathe I push myself and the limits of my ability. As a member of the Chicago woodturners I have been blessed with the friendships of a few world-class woodturners that have shown me what is possible, and helped me achieve a small measure of it. And while I am not a recognized name, I intend to continue to push myself until I reach that quality of work and find my own artistic voice/style in woodturning. I waited 25 years to become a woodturner, and I'm now a proud member of the AAW trying to catch up for lost time.

    P.S. My adice to new woodturners is to avoid using one of the core saver systems on 5 year old hickory, its not nice!
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2011
  4. waltben


    Apr 29, 2004
    Haymarket, VA
    Home Page:
    Thought I'd replied way back, but I guess I didn't

    At least twelve years back I bought my wife a Bernina sewing machine as that was the one she'd told me she'd always wanted. Her first project was an Edwardian tea dress and she got about half way with it and realized she needed a hat to go with it. After researching that kind of hat on the web ($400+), she asked me if I could make her some hat blocks so she could make her own. That got me my first lathe and a big belt sander. I've still got the belt sander but have sold my first lathe when she offered to buy me a Bernina equivalent lathe for a birthday - a Stubby! The moral is, it pays to keep your LOML very happy!
  5. John Beaver

    John Beaver

    Feb 11, 2009
    Southern California
    Home Page:
    I inherited a lathe that sat in the back of my garage/shop for 10 years. One day I decided to play with it but didn't have any wood to turn, so I glued up some pieces into a pattern and made a vase (surprising I didn't hurt myself trying to turn it incorrectly with some old tools). After that my ideas came much faster then my turning ability, so I took some classes to learn to turn correctly so I could make the objects I had in mind. That was 2 1/2 years ago and it's changed my life.
  6. WODAD


    Mar 24, 2006
    Beresford, South Dakota
    I had been unemployed for about a year and had given up all hope. I was virtually to the point where the life insurance looked like an awesome deal for the family. I saw a used grizzly lathe on ebay and the guy lived less than an hour away so I bought it at his buy it now price and he even delivered it. I learned how to turn in Jr. High and Senior High School, had seen woodturnings at craft shows and knew I could do that so I did. With in a few months my spirits were back up and I was back to paying bills. I did eventually find another job and all has turned out well, I could sell all I make but I donate a lot of pieces to charity events. I can't quit now as turning literally saved my life, I owe it to the wood! I find great peace in front of the lathe.

    Frank D.
  7. odie


    Dec 22, 2006
    Panning for Montana gold!
    Some great stories here.........:D

    I bought an antique Shopsmith at a garage sale way back around 1979, or so. I think I paid under $200 for it, but can't really remember. Never had an idea to turn anything on it, but it was convertible to a lathe, so eventually I gave it a try........

    ....the rest, as they say, is history! :D

    Hook, line.......and sinker! :eek:

  8. Allen Howell

    Allen Howell

    Feb 9, 2011
    Palm Harbor, Florida
    How I got started...

    I was "downsized" in July '10, and my wife and I have always appreciated the woodturners' work at Art & Craft shows. Finally, around December my wife said that I needed something to do in-between job applications (not a big market for Landscape Architects in this economy) to keep me busy. So, in January we bought me a Delta Midi, then some tools, and etc....

    Took a couple of courses at WoodCraft, joined a couple of clubs, seen some demos, and am finally getting to a point where the bowls are not an embarrasment.
  9. glenkey


    Jul 8, 2010
    Tulsa, Ok
    Woodturning, how I started

    Somewhere around 2005 I got hurt at work and was off on injury leave. My brother had given me a shopsmith. I was bored stiff from watching the "stories" on tv, so I got up and went to the garage to see what I could do. Turned the shopsmith into a lathe and tried some spindle work with extremly dull tools. Didn't know anything about turning as I never had a woodshop class in school. Had a dead center on the SS but didn't seem to matter to me, until I smelled the smoke. A few months later I joined the local club that has a member that is a distributer of Jet/Powermatic and wound up with a 3520B. Have been taking classes with all that the club brings in and enjoying every minute I can spend in the shop.
    As odie said, from there I was hooked, it even got the boat.:eek:
  10. KellyDunn


    Jun 28, 2010
    Hawi, Hawaii
    Home Page:
    First turned in shop class in 65 I think. My grandad had a shop and I watched him. Should have asked for lessons. In 79 I was in Hawaii and my next door neighbor was a retired fellow who turned every day. After getting tired of me hanging out watchimg him he gave me his 1st lathe(very old sears) told me if I turned him an egg he liked I could keep it. My mom sent me her dads tools. No idea what I was doing but when I did an egg he liked he told me when I realized what a piece of crap the lathe was I was ready for a new one. Bad times here in 82 sent me to the Calif. bay area for work. I ended up being shop foreman for a one off furniture maker. He had an old Delta lathe and better tools than I had had. Part of my job was to turn leg and chair parts. He of course noticed I was not very good. He had me sit in on a slide show by a guy named Dale Nish. Then sent me to Provo to learn how to turn spindles. Tommy Sorensens class taught me spindle basics. Richard Raffan and Nick Cook took a look at my tools and taught me to sharpen them. I had by then purchased a few tools from Craft Supplies. What I saw in Provo lit a fire under my butt like nothing else. Dennis Stewarts work blew me away. Ray key and the others made it look easy(not). I would stay after work and turn on his lathe. That Delta was a pretty good lathe. I gave my boss my first hollow form. He told me I would be famous in the field one day. I had become a very good furniture maker. But turning was for kicks. I took out a couple discs on a concrete job. In 87 I came back to Hawaii with a mess of 2nd hand power tools thinking of setting up a furniture shop. I pounded nails built cabinets and turned a bit. Joined the woodguild and met Jack straka.Way things went I ended selling my home and building another. 1st thing was the shop. About halfway through my back was so bad it was all I could do to get up. I got a letter from the state of calif. asking if I still had a claim from my injury. My file had been under a desk of a person who had retired. I had had a bowl lathe made and cast the parts in concrete. So i was messing with turning. In 89(after a long battle with workmans comp) I found myself arriving in San Francisco the day before the quake. Saw a surgeon who said I was not going anywhere. Was shaking hands with my old boss down in Palo Alto when the quake hit. 1st thought was what an exuberant handshake. After surgery the doc sat me down and we talked about what I did. He told me no more pounding nails, no furniture heavy enough I could not lift. what else do you do? I told him I had been turning bowls. He said great, thats what you are going to do for a living. Workmans comp had a lathe custom built for me. I took my first batch of bowls and sold them to the first gallery I walked into. I had begun getting mentored by Jack Straka.I modeled my turning business after Jacks. Also in 89 Jack and I went to an aaw symposium I think in washinton state.(jack was an Instructor) I met David Ellsworth and struck a deal with him to critique my work whenever we met. Best deal I ever struck. My work got better. I met Ron Kent and thought I could do translucent work better than him.
    2011, boy has the turning world changed. But even after all these years I still look forward to learning something new on the lathe. I ran into the doc who had my case here in the 80s a few months ago. It was his brother who told me to go full time. I had given him the 1st bowl off my new lathe. He said him and his brother still talk about Kelly Dunn as one of the only guys who got on the doal who got off and went on his own and became a success after being basicly to hurt to work. He said he had followed my turning life. Shook my hand and said its easy to do with all the awards you take and how you have become an icon of Hawaiian turning. Made me feel good to say the least.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2011
  11. Frank Reed

    Frank Reed

    Jun 27, 2011
    Long Beach, ms
    I got infected with turning in HS in '62. Final project for grade was a plant stand for mother. I didn't pick up a gouge again until 2000. I goofed around with a Ridged lathe until 2003 at which time I purchased a Jet 1642. I was gaining skill practicing on wooden pallet material. Katrina devistated the MS Guf Coast in 2005, leaving a lot of wood lying around. I started turning bowls for my neighbors that lost trees that had some history to them. The word got out and I started picking commissions from random folks. Now I turn for fun and what I don't give away or donate to benifits for their silent auctions,
    I get a booth at craft shows and sell enough to support my habit. BTW when my mother passed I retrived my plant stand project.
  12. Dick Sowa

    Dick Sowa

    Feb 20, 2007
    Dundee, MI
    Home Page:
    I first turned wood in Jr High wood shop class...early 1960s, and knew it was my favorite type of woodworking. I didn't turn a thing till a couple decades later, when my kids were migrating from cribs to real beds, I was dirt poor, starting my career, and I was looking at ways to save money. I realized I could make quality furniture for them a whole lot cheaper than to buy the same thing.

    For my kids, I first built a couple of bunk beds, then later some day beds. Both require gobs of spindles, so I used that as my excuse to buy a cheap Craftsman lathe. Then I got a copy of Dale Nish's Creative Woodturning. It turned me on to vessels and segmented turning. I piddled in turning from time to time, but with raising kids, and pursuing my career, woodturning took a back seat till I retired. Then, my wife and I moved to some property in the country, where I had space for a real, honest to goodness, woodshop. Shortly afterwards, I got a top of the line lathe, and started turning stuff whenever I had time.

    At this point, it is truly an addiction. I still do other kinds of woodwork, but when time permits, and other projects are on hold...the first place I head to is my log pile "to discover what wonders await beneath the bark". I don't know who originally coined that expression, but I really like it.

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