What, Me a Woodturner?

by Stan Wellborn

When someone unfamiliar with woodturning picks up a beautiful turned bowl or examines a cute wooden baby rattle, he or she frequently comments, “I could never make something like that.”

The fact is, anyone can learn to turn wood and quickly discover the special joys of this craft.

Ask the people who take up woodturning what they enjoy most and you will hear many different answers. They will talk about the benefits of making things with their hands. Many will describe the pleasure of mounting a chunk of wood in the lathe and teasing out its beautiful grain, color, texture, and warmth.

Others will speak of the satisfaction of giving family and friends the unique gift of an elegant pen, a salad bowl or set of candlesticks, a jewelry box, a holiday ornament, or any of dozens of objects that can be produced on a lathe using craft’s most organic material: wood.

Perhaps most of all, woodturners thrive on the camaraderie and interaction with other turners, who eagerly share their knowledge in local clubs, national symposiums, or in one-on-one mentoring relationships.

In a time of computer-assisted designs and impersonal robotic production, woodturning offers a way to lose yourself in the creative process itself. Nothing engages your mind more than concentrating on a rapidly rotating piece of wood, using special chisels and your imagination to create a finished piece – from wood that was otherwise headed for the fireplace.

For the newcomer, the costs of starting out are typically modest. Most beginners try their hand using a club lathe and turning tools. Excellent new or used lathes can be purchased fairly cheaply when a turner decides to set up a home shop.

To those who find woodturning to their liking, the American Association of Woodturners offers a wide range of services, including a professional journal, the Woodturning FUNdamentals web site for beginners, a library of carefully selected videos, plus grants and other forms of support for amateur artisans, and professionals.

In sum, woodturning is an activity that can engage the minds and hands of folks of all ages. We encourage you to give it a try and discover why thousands of our members find it a life-fulfilling pastime.