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30 Year Anniversary Chapter Profiles: San Diego Woodturners, Inc.
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Chapter: The San Diego Woodturners, Inc.

Founded: November 17, 1987

Chapter Anniversary Profiles:
The San Diego Woodturners, Inc.

Area Served: Encinitas, CA
First President: Richard Griebe
Current President: Nan Bushley
Founded: November 17, 1987
Website: http://www.sdwt.org/

What motivated the founders to start a chapter?
In 1984, two years before the founding of the American Association of Woodturners (AAW), a passionate group of six woodturners met in Julian, Southern California. Julian is a historic gold rush mountain town an hour from San Diego known for its rural, densely wooded terrain with switch-backed single lane access. If they were not passionate about this woodturning meeting, they would have never made the trip. The meeting agenda was to determine if there would be enough local interest to form a woodturning club. The vote was two ‘yea’ and four ‘nay.’ No interest; meeting adjourned.

Two years later, one of the original six from the first meeting, Richard Griebe, invited eight woodturners to his home in La Jolla, Southern California. Since the AAW was founded with tremendous success the year before, there should be enough interest for a local chapter in the San Diego area. This time the vote was a passionate eight ‘yea’ and zero ‘nay.’ The new woodturning club was an idea whose time had come!

How many joined the new chapter?
The eight woodturners that agreed to form a San Diego Area Chapter of the AAW became the original eight founding members of what was to be called the San Diego Woodturners.

Who were the founders?
They are as follows (in alphabetical order):

Bill Metcalf
Bob Worthington
Chet Brown
Mitch Talcove
Nan Bushley
Oliver “Bill” Jones
Richard Griebe
Roman Scheidel, Jr.


The next topic was to decide on a name, which turned out to be easy: The San Diego Woodturners. Next, it was important to define the Chapter Mission; it was decided to keep it simple: SDWT is dedicated to providing education, information, and organization for individuals interested in woodturning.

Now it was time to contact the AAW and officially apply to be an AAW Chapter. The year was 1987, the year after AAW was formed.

Along the way, a Chapter Logo needed to be designed; what better design than a California map, identified with the location of San Diego, overlaid with a Bowl and a Bowl Gouge? Another simple, but elegant effort. This has been the identifying logo since conception of the chapter.

The newly formed San Diego Woodturners had a few more meetings, trying to determine what a woodturning club should actually do. Officers needed to be elected, minutes needed to be recorded, and above all – what to do next? Richard Griebe was elected President and functioned as the Secretary and Treasurer for the first few years. Nan Bushley was elected Vice President.

Where did the first group meet?
It was decided to meet at Richard Griebe’s home until membership grew too large for a home meeting. (By 2015, SDWT had grown to 250 members.)

How much were the dues?

Membership grew slowly; dues were set at $10 per year and when there were about 20 members, the dues were increased to $25 per year and remained unchanged for 25 years. An early problem, never to be repeated, was what to do with all the excess collected money?

The first year, Nan Bushley decided to open her home and shop to the first ever SDWT Christmas Party. This became an annual event consisting of a potluck and gift exchange and has occurred uninterrupted to this day. The highlight of the social event is the woodturning themed gift exchange. Everyone who brings a wrapped gift receives a raffle ticket for a gift drawing. After everyone has a gift, each member in turn shows the gift and comments are made, mostly humorous. Nan Bushley has been the well-liked President Elect for 12 years, almost half the existence of the chapter. It was only this year that she decided to take a break and be “just one of the board members.”

Two of the very first professional demonstrators were Richard Raffan, born in the UK and now living in Australia, and Dennis Stewart, born in the USA, and known for his arm-brace hollowing system. A couple of years later, Ron Kent of Hawaii, known for his translucent art pieces, was also a demonstrator.

One of the first activities of the SDWT was to participate in the San Diego County Fair; a major, annual event for San Diego with 900,000 attendees in 1987, the first year of SDWT participation. Today, the attendance is 1,500,000. It was decided that SDWT would have a booth with three midi-lathes making something simple to give to the public.

Roman Scheidel, Jr., one of the original eight, continues to work at the Fair. He has developed the original idea of making small souvenirs for the public into the prefect idea: small wooden tops which would capture the attention and imagination of young children. They could watch the tops being made, try them out on the countertop, and convince their parents to make a small contribution for charity and get the top of their choice. Over the years, Roman Scheidel, Jr. has made more tops than the entire SDWT put together. He can make a perfect top in about a minute. Roman works the crowd by asking a child their age; if the child is ten, Roman will tell the child that’s a perfect age because 10 divided by 3 equals 3 remainder 1; so he will “customize” the top with 3 rings and 1 special ring. The children are fascinated that they have a special “age encoded” spinning top for their very own; what parent can refuse a contribution? All proceeds from the fair donations benefit another SDWT charitable program described below, Turn-Around-for-Vets (TAV).

Mitch Talcove, another one of the original eight, started selling wood in 1972 and founded the Tropical Exotic Hardwoods. In 1984 Mitch expanded his business and now owns and operates his own sawmill in Mexico. The SDWT is fortunate to know Mitch Talcove and have his world famous wood supply company in their own backyard.

What are some of the favorite memories of the chapter?
One of the greatest accomplishments of the SDWT is Turn-Around-for-Vets (TAV).

TAV was founded eight years ago, in 2007, by the SDWT, but a lot of credit goes to Ken Roth and Nan Bushley for the grass roots effort to get it started. TAV has the mission of helping to prepare our wounded heroes for return to duty or separation from the military by learning woodturning skills during their physical and mental therapy programs.

Since the grass roots effort, Tom Lightner, Major General, US Army, Ret., the current SDWT TAV Administrator and Chairperson, has grown TAV into the largest activity of the SDWT. The TAV Program is so large and well-known that it has been featured on the local News TV station.

The entire TAV Program is supported by SDWT volunteers and donations with no cost to our government. The TAV Program introduces our Wounded Veterans to woodturning as a form of mental and physical therapy; it is also our local effort to assist our Veterans as they return to civilian life. There are no fees or charges to participating Veterans, no advertising or administration expenses, and there are only volunteers working in the program. TAV uses the donations for woodturning programs once a week at three different hospital locations:

  • Wounded Warrior Battalion in Camp Pendleton, CA
  • Naval Medical Center in San Diego, CA
  • VA Aspire Care Center in San Diego, CA

Our "Turn Around for Vets” Program has the mission of preparing our heroes for return to duty or separation from the military. Our volunteer SDWT members mentor these brave men and women by teaching them to make wooden items such as pens, bottle stoppers, bowls, and various vessels on a lathe.

Under Tom Lightner’s “command” the TAV Program has grown considerably since the program started eight years ago and has gained such popularity with the military that SDWT now uses about 20 lathes and conducts classes once a week at three different hospitals. SDWT plans to continue the program as long as there are Veterans in need of physical therapy that can benefit from the program. The entire TAV program is supported by volunteers and donations with no cost to our government!

TAV assistance includes helping to locate job opportunities and supporting the pursuit of meaningful endeavors, such as the U.S. Paralympics. An example is supporting one of our SDWT and TAV members, Ernesto Aquino, USMC, in the U.S. Paralympics.

Supported by special TAV donations, p.Ernesto Aquino qualified as a member of the U.S. Paralympics Rifle Team in 2015. He completed the Warrior Games and won Gold and Silver Medals; then he participated in the National competition and won 3rd place for a Bronze Medal. TAV donations continued to support his first International Competition in Croatia. p.Ernesto Aquino competed at the highest levels in the Paralympic world. He competed side by side with the world's best. Although he did not win any medals during that competition, he set a few records for the US Team and gained valuable experience for future events.

Next he started training for his second International Competition to be held in Australia. This year, p.Ernesto Aquino had a setback. During a routine VA checkup, the doctors were concerned with his health and ability to travel overseas. Eventually, the doctors prohibited him from traveling outside the U.S., especially by air. Until the doctors can improve his condition or lift the travel restriction, p.Ernesto Aquino is “etiam in pugna” or “still in the fight!!”

Another milestone in the SDWT Chapter history is the effort lead by Sally Ault that collects wooden turned bowls from members throughout the year for the Empty Bowl Program, a community project that supports food banks and soup kitchens.

Also in the SDWT Chapter history, is participation in a local craft fair. Roman Scheidel, Jr., previously identified as one of our founding members, has copied his effort at the San Diego County Fair and incorporated his top making expertise in the San Diego Harvest Festival. Again, all proceeds go to the SDWT TAV Program.

Like most AAW Chapters, SDWT is non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

~ Submitted by Leonard Badour

In the thirty weeks leading up to AAW's 30th Anniversary Symposium in Atlanta, we will be sharing the stories of members and chapters who joined in 1986 and are still with us today. We hope you enjoy their memories and insights!  

  • Click here to view profiles online. 





Click here to read more AAW 30 year anniversary member and chapter profiles.

American Association of Woodturners
222 Landmark Center, 75 5th St W, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102
651 484-9094 | www.woodturner.org


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