Turning with Physical Limitations

Woodturning is enjoyed by people worldwide as a method for creating art and functional objects. For the most part, woodturning is enjoyed by people who can hold their tools with two hands, stand, see, and hear during the turning process. Most of the instructions found in books, on the web, and in videos assume the student has all of these capabilities. What happens when one or more of these capabilities do not exist?

People with all types of disabilities have safely enjoyed woodturning. The key is to identify alternative approaches or adaptations and enable instructors to adequately describe and demonstrate the techniques.

The Turning with Physical Limitations program describes the process of woodturning for a person with challenges. The instructions provide alternative approaches to some of the techniques that traditionally have been described only in terms for those without disabilities.

There is more than one way to do many things in turning, whether the turner is sighted or otherwise challenged. It is hoped that a larger discussion would find various methods and effective techniques for someone with disabilities.

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Next Phase

The next phase of this outreach is to focus on seated turners and beyond.

The visiting group from the Division of Services for the Blind,  North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), with the pens they have just turned. Happy campers.

Channell Sanders with Ray Fenton.
John Buccioni, Johan Geurtsen and Allan Cooper ready to help out if needed.
Ray Fenton, Mark James and Carl Durance helping with the pen assembling.
David Stapley setting up mandrels for Darrick Henderson.
Joe Ruminski instructing Channel Sanders.
John Buccioni working with Sarah Dodson.
AAW volunteer teacher Daryl Gray with Marie Piquion-Leach.
A happy Cynthia Speight with her newly-turned pen.
Cynthia Speight, Director of DHHS Division of Services for the Blind, and her instructor Avelino Samuel.
Andi Sullivan and Robert McCants.

The Unseen Pleasures of Turning

During the 2010 Hartford AAW symposium, Malcolm Zander noticed a young blind woman, accompanied by a sighted young man, walking through the Instant Gallery. He felt bad for her as she was unable to see the pieces on display, and examining them by touch was not permitted. So he obtained one of his own pieces, a simple solid hollow form, and placed it in her hands. Her reaction was such that he resolved to try to organize a session at a future AAW event for such people, where they could explore some selected touchable pieces with their hands. He contacted Tib Shaw, curator of the AAW Gallery in Saint Paul, who had some experience in showing woodturnings to visually impaired people. It was agreed to stage a small trial session at the Saint Paul 25th Anniversary symposium.

Tib contacted the local Vision Loss Resources association for the visually impaired and organized the attendance of four blind participants, who arrived in a corner of the trade show area with two guides. Malcolm Zander invited four artists whose work was conducive to tactile examination – Al Stirt, Andi Wolfe, Betty Scarpino, and Bill Luce. They attended and each spoke to the group about their work. Michael Hosaluk also supplied several pieces. In addition, Al Stirt arranged for the group to examine a lathe, and Brent English of Robust Tools was glad to oblige.

The accompanying photos show the group meeting and examining some of the pieces. Andi commented, “It was the most amazing experience for me to watch how these individuals explored each piece with their hands.”

Betty Scarpino, Al Stirt and Malcolm Zander meeting with the group.  Photo Credit: Andi Wolfe

Andi Wolfe explains her work before passing around a piece. Photo Credit: Malcolm Zander

A participant explores one of Andi’s pieces with her fingers. Photo Credit: Malcolm Zander

Betty Scarpino explains her turned rattle with captured rings to the group. Photo Credit: Andi Wolfe

Betty’s rattle being examined by one of the group.They were all very curious as to how it was made. Photo Credit: Andi Wolfe

One of Bill Luce’s sandblasted fir pieces being examined. Photo Credit: Andi Wolfe

The same Luce piece being examined by another participant. Andi says, “I was intrigued about how delicate a touch this person used to explore the surface.” Photo Credit: Andi Wolfe

Exploring the textures of a small Al Stirt turning. Photo Credit: Andi Wolfe

The participants were fascinated by the texture of Michael Hosaluk’s iconic form. Photo Credit: Andi Wolfe

Rearranging the two parts of Michael Hosaluk’s piece. Photo Credit: Andi Wolfe

Examining the tailstock. Photo Credit: Andi Wolfe

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