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Woodturning News: General News

MOODY COUNTY ENTERPRISE: Siouxland Woodturners reach their goal (05/31/2016)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016   (0 Comments)
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MOODY COUNTY ENTERPRISE: Siouxland Woodturners reach their goal (05/31/2016)

As members of the Siouxland Woodturners made plans to complete their first major group project, they thought they’d break the world record for largest turned-wood bowl. Turns out, the world-record bowl is an imposing 13.5 feet in diameter. That was a little larger than they’d had in mind.

“We decided, for our first attempt, that was…. we did a five-foot bowl,” said Alistair Hird, a rural Colman resident and the club’s current president.

It was still a hefty undertaking: Working together, about a dozen wood turners assembled almost 200 pieces of wood using glue (and screws, temporarily). The body of the bowl is pine, donated by a truss company. Walnut, donated by a club member, provides a darker accent ring near the rim. The assembly alone took 10 hours, Hird said, as they carefully followed a computer-generated plan for arranging each piece.

“And then just hours and hours of turning,” he added. “We had no machines, so one of the club members built a lathe just to do it on. Club members took turns at turning it and it took over 6 months, on and off.”

They began with 2x6 pieces of wood weighing more than 300 lbs. altogether. After all that turning, the bowl is a trim 140 lbs. and just an inch thick. Club members learned a lot along the way and made adjustments to keep the bowl balanced and perfectly round.

For several months now they’ve been able to sit back and show off their work to the public.

“It’s quite an impressive sight,” Hird said.

Asked what the bowl is intended hold, Hird said “Nothing, it’s just for publicity!”

It’s made a few appearances already, in Sioux Falls this past Black Friday and currently in the office of J&K Building Center in Flandreau. Next it will go to The Granite Threshing Bee in Larchwood, Iowa, July 16 and 17. (Or see this bowl on the club’s web page: Go to SiouxlandWoodturners.org, photo gallery, “The Big Bowl.”)

The Big Bowl may have been a new challenge to many club members, but they’re not all new to woodturning. In fact, Siouxland Woodturners includes 70 members, men and women, ages “9 to nearly 90,” Hird said, all at different levels of experience and skill. They come from South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, many of them driving several hours to attend meetings in Sioux Falls. They share a love for the craft and an eagerness to teach it to others.

“The club is all about helping educate people on how to (turn wood),” Hird explained. “I don’t think we’ve a member that wouldn’t show you how to do it.”

As a member of the American Association of Woodturners, the Siouxland group hosts a series of classes for the public, twice a year, and it gives live demonstrations when invited. But anyone interested in trying their hand at woodturning is invited to visit one of the club’s month meetings, where lathes are available and members are ready to explain the process.

They meet the first Saturday of every month, September through May, in the ag room of Harrisburg High School at 1 p.m. Throughout the summer they meet at other places but the public is still welcome: These dates and times will be posted on the calendar at SiouxlandWoodturners.org.

“Anybody of any age, ability or anything is welcome,” Hird said.

Hird himself became interested in woodturning while in high school, back in England. But lathes were expensive so he didn’t buy one; that is, until he got married 27 years ago.

“Suddenly, you’re an adult. You have to start buying presents for everybody,” he said. “The cheapest option was to buy a lathe and make presents. So for the last 27 years, people in my family get something turned: Wedding presents, birthday presents, Christmas presents.”

Lately he’s making wood bangles for girls in the family, a rattle for a new nephew, and plenty of bowls, along with helping friends with their projects. Occasionally, if he wants to make back some of his money, he’ll sell a piece. But usually they go out as gifts and sometimes donations to a charitable cause.

Individually and as a group, members of Siouxland Woodturners are generous with their work. The group participated in Sioux Falls’ Festival of Trees while it was still going; each year they donated a tree with about 200 handmade wooden ornaments on it, plus extra pieces thrown in as gifts to whoever bought the tree at the charity auction.

They also make Freedom Pens from the extraordinary combination of a hollowed-out bullet shell and a piece of turned wood. These are given to U.S. military units after they have been deployed, including the Flandreau unit that deployed recently.

“So far, the club’s made 500 pens for the military that has been deployed from South Dakota, and it’s all been freewill donations,” Hird said.

Of course, woodturners appreciate receiving donations themselves at times, as they did for the Big Bowl. Keep this group in mind when you’re ready to cut down a tree, Hird asked; members are always in search of quality wood.

“If anybody wants to donate trees, the bigger the better,” he said, laughing. “We have access to a sawmill.”

Hird would like to extend a special thank you to the folks at J&K for allowing him to keep the bowl in there for awhile.

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