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MAKE: Heavy Metal, Dark Humor, and Woodturning with Le PicBois (09/24/2016)

Monday, September 26, 2016   (0 Comments)
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MAKE: Heavy Metal, Dark Humor, and Woodturning with Le PicBois (09/24/2016)

Woodturning — the act of shaping wood on a lathe — can be a calm, almost meditative activity. But Patrick Laperrière, also known as Pat Lap, pairs woodturning with thrash metal to create highly entertaining YouTube videos on his channel Le PicBois.

Laperrière is relatively new to woodturning. “I started by watching Carl Jacobson. For the first year, I was just watching videos of him making stuff.” But Laperrière was not aware of the larger Maker community. “At the time, I thought he was the only one — I didn’t know YouTube at all.” Watching Jacobson stirred something, and Laperrière decided to take the plunge. “One day, I bought my first lathe. That was three years ago, and that was the first time I used a wood lathe.” Before long, Laperrière had launched his own YouTube channel. His first project video was simple (a pen), but the beginnings of Laperrière’s characteristic style were already evident.

While woodturning is a recent passion, Laperrière is a life-long Maker. “I was a carpenter — that was my first job. I was young; maybe 10 or 12 years old. I worked for my grandfather. He makes furniture, and we used to build houses together.” Pat worked part-time for 15 years before going to University, then Comedy school (yes, really), and he now works for a TV production company. “That’s why, when the weekend comes, I love to get back in the shop.” That’s also why his videos are always clean and well-produced — and why his motion graphics work is some of the best you’ll find in the Maker community.

As far as his love for heavy metal goes, Pat says it started in grade school. “I was a guitar player, playing 10 hours a day — that was my thing at that point. The first band I listened to was Metallica; I think I was 8 or 9 years old. It was during the… And Justice For All tour. My mother was freaking out because I was wearing the shirt,” Pat says, describing the skull-and-crossbones logo with extended middle fingers. “So I started playing guitar, bass, and drums. Later, I thought it was interesting to put it together with woodturning.” The contrast between woodturning — usually seen as a calm activity — and thrash metal is definitely unique, and combined with Pat’s sense of humor, they give his videos a distinctive flavor. For one video, he arranged and performed a medley of Metallica songs, playing most of the instrumental parts himself, then edited a project video to match the music. Half project, half music video, it is the archetypal Le PicBois video.

I asked if Laperrière composed music for all of his videos. “The first few,” he said, lamenting that he lacks the time to compose new music for his more recent work.

Thrash metal certainly helps Laperrière’s videos stand out, but it is not the only factor. His sense of humor is featured prominently in both the projects he picks and the way he edits. One project, entitled “lung cancer,” starts with a story about a relative smoking 15 packs of cigarettes per day. The project is actually a bowl turned from a pine burl; burls are abnormal tree growths that are somewhat similar to cancerous tumors. Dark humor, but humor nonetheless. It also includes a fight scene (side note: Laperriére assures me that his aunt is in perfect health).

Laperrière’s projects are notable for style, but also for their uniqueness. When Laperrière decided to shave his beard, he collaborated with Peter Brown (of Shop Time) to cast the hairs in epoxy and turn them into pen blanks, then a finished pen. The resulting video is an homage to Breaking Bad and a case study in how to turn a simple project into something far more interesting.

Laperrière’s most recent project is a perfect blend of everything that makes his channel unique. As Halloween is approaching, Laperrière released a video about turning a hollow vessel (a traditional, if advanced, turning project). However, the addition of a horror movie soundtrack and some clever motion graphics work turn the project into a funerary urn for his recently departed cameraman, Jean-Gabriél (also in perfect health).

One of the difficulties Laperrière works around is a three-month hiatus every year. “From April to September, I work all week in Montreal and I help my grandfather at the flea market in Saint-Eustache every weekend. He makes a lot of tables and furniture, and he has to sell the inventory that he has.” Right now, Laperrière makes videos from his grandfather’s basement, which is two hours away from his home. He intends to get a smaller lathe he can use in his apartment, but to date, every video on his channel has involved a long commute.

I asked Laperrière about his favorite part of making things. “I love this community, the whole YouTube thing. It’s really great.” A native of Quebec, Laperrière did not learn English until he started speaking to other Makers. “Just one year ago, maybe a year and a half, I was just speaking French. I was at a restaurant two years ago and I ordered toast because that was the only word I knew. Now I can eat bacon,” he laughs.

Community involvement has led to a love for collaboration, and no one is safe from Laperrière’s unique sense of humor. When other Makers began remixing a video from Phil Pinsky to demonstrate the different ways that the same project could be shown, Le PicBois published “Pinsky Goes Metal.”

Laperrière’s enthusiasm and attitude have a way of helping other Makers feel that same sense of inclusion. When a friend asked me a simple question about push sticks, I posted a short clip to Facebook. Laperrière downloaded a copy and gave me a bit of a surprise.

Like I said, no one is safe from Le PicBois.

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