MEMBER NEWS: Harold Lawrence, Milledgeville, GA - Woodturning art exhibition to be held at GMC (03/1
Monday, March 14, 2016
UNION RECORDER: Woodturning art exhibition to be held at GMC (03/11/2016)
Harold Lawrence, retired pastor of First United Methodist Church in Milledgeville and LaGrange First Methodist Church, will have an exhibition of his woodturning art March 19.
Lawrence said that in 2008, he saw a man making a top on a lathe.
“It fascinated me. He had a smaller lathe than I have, and his was in his home,” Lawrence said. “I said there’s no way I could ever do that, and he told me I could. He put a block of wood on it, and I made a top in about 15 minutes.”
For the next year, Lawrence said he visited the shops of local wood turners to learn from their years of experience and gain knowledge of the tools they use.
“There are different kinds of woodworking. A lot of techniques are fun,” Lawrence said. “No one project is like any other. Each has its own appeal and personality.”
In the eight years he has been practicing his craft, Lawrence has made bowls, vases, trays, platters, boxes and many more tops.
“I don’t have an engineering brain for measurements and angles. I’d rather take a lump of wood going into the trash pile and make something graceful out of it,” he said.
While bowls are probably his favorite item to make, he said, Lawrence does not have a favorite type of wood to use. Some are not his favorites, but he’s fond of the several different properties each type of wood can have. However, he did say maple tends to be the most versatile type overall while naming the several different varieties of maple available.
Wood is typically divided into two different groups: hardwood and softwood; however, the names don’t always refer to how hard the wood is. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees, which drop their leaves every fall. Examples are birch, ash, maple and oak. Softwoods are from coniferous trees, also called evergreens. This type includes cedar, pine, fir and spruce. While hardwoods are typically harder than softwoods, balsa is an example of a hardwood that is extremely soft.
Each type of wood has different properties: Hardwoods often have an interesting grain structure and are used for making fine furniture and decorations whereas softwoods are usually better suited for construction work. Further, each species of tree, as well as each subspecies, has its own distinct properties, ranging from the number of knots in the wood, grain patterns, size, hardness and resistance to rot, fungi and insects.
While everyone can enjoy the beauty of wood, a professional woodworker knows which types are better suited to which tasks as well as how different stains and finishes will look on each type.
For Lawrence, learning the properties is an adventure, as is learning different techniques of woodturning.
“Soft woods are better turned at high speeds to prevent tear outs, or breaks in the fiber,” Lawrence said. “Heavy wood is tough on tools, and there are a variety of tools. There’s one for just about every angle.”
Lawrence also said that mistakes can often be fixed with knowledge.
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of having the right tool to solve a problem,” he said.
With time, woodworkers can learn how to remove a dent from a damaged piece with a steam iron. Unlike pottery, which will never be the same after being damaged, wooden pieces can be repaired and even transformed into something unanticipated after the initial design is ruined.
Lawrence said that with full tutelage, a person can learn every technique he has in a matter of weeks, but the hands-on knowledge, the practice that goes into the craft, can take years. It can also take years to make just a single piece.
“None of this is a mystery — some of it is just labor intensive. The prep work can be very time consuming,” Lawrence said. “If you start with green wood, you have to wax it right away to keep it from splitting (while it dries). You have to wait two or three years. It takes a minimum of 3 1/2 hours to complete the simplest project. I have wood that has been drying for more than five years, measured, cut and waxed.”
In woodturning, the true masters of the craft are also very accessible. They are more often than not happy to give demonstrations and teach others their techniques and are willing to come to shows and conventions to teach amateurs. Lawrence said he also hopes to get together a local group of wood turners, especially younger people, where the artists can both teach and learn from one another.
“Everyone can find creative paths for themselves. This is what life is all about,” Lawrence said. “Because of my chosen career path, it was a challenge to find something to do with my hands and to learn in an area where I had no previous knowledge. Hands-on skill is becoming the domain of older people, and it should not end in a generation or two.”
Those interested in helping to form a local group of wood turners or who would simply like to learn the craft, Lawrence is available at 706-957-1508 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His art will be on display in the Usery Community Room, Usery Hall, at Georgia Military College, 201 E. Greene St., Milledgeville. The exhibition will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 19.
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