Tell us about your work
I am primarily a wood turner, although I also do scrollwork and intarsia.
How did you come to be an artisan?
When I was about 11 years old, I was very practical and not that academic. I enjoyed woodwork and I got a woodworking magazine. They started to do a series on learning to do wood turning. This caught my imagination and I bought a very basic Black and Decker drill-driven lathe and some simple tools. This got me going and I produced some basic turnings between centres. The lathe was so basic that when I got a dig-in I had pirouetting wood flying around the workshop, until it came into contact with something and then it became dangerous. Luckily this did not happen enough to put me off.
A few years later I bought my first proper Coronet lathe which enabled me to do more adventurous work as well as faceplate work, such as bowls. It was not long before I was married and had children and the wood turning took a back seat. I ran an engine-tuning business in the stockbroker belt of Surrey and Hampshire, and on buying my second house I decided to build myself a large workshop and the lathe was given pride of place again. I bought more tools that helped me do more complex work. As engines started to be controlled by ECU’s I found I had to sell up and I moved to Devon and bought a hotel. This is very time consuming and so again the wood turning took a back seat although I did build another workshop for the lathe.
As retirement age approached I decided to get back to wood turning. But I had had enough of turning the predictable bowls and candlesticks. I wanted a challenge. This is when I got hooked on segmented wood turning, where one piece can take up to six weeks to complete. The possibilities are endless with this type of work. Segmented work is made up of lots of small pieces of wood that once assembled create an attractive finished article. It can be very challenging and frustrating as well as extremely rewarding once finished. It almost guarantees the wow-factor.
Can you tell us a little about how you work?
Wood turning takes a lot of concentration, so I tend to work in the mornings when I am fresh. Two hours is about the maximum I can keep going. Any longer than that and the chances of getting a dig-in increases, thus spoiling work you might have spent hours on previously. There may well be other tasks that do not take so much concentration, so those can wait until later in the day.
What is your studio/workspace like?
Wood turning does cause a lot of shavings, so it is important to keep the workshop clear of this. I have set up the workshop with dust-extraction to all the machines, so it keeps relatively clean. The house I am now in has a large basement so is dry and keeps fairly warm. It houses my newer lathe, the big brother of my original Coronet, now a Record CL4 with the luxury of variable speeds. I also have a Kity Combi which includes a planner-thicknesser, a circular saw, a spindle moulder and a mortiser which I bought to build my first workshop. It is nearly forty years old now. This is invaluable for my segmented work as I need pieces of wood to exact measurements and equal to each other. My bandsaw was bought at the same time as my combi, so is also that old. I also have a large belt-sander and faceplate sander which is accurate enough to finish off each segment before assembly. I also have a drum-sander which accurately sands each ring of segments before assembly. My pillar-drill helps in various jobs. I have made up lots of different jigs which do specific jobs. My scrollsaw is used for jigsaws and marquetry which I have incorporated into my segmented turnings. My computer also comes into play to calculate all the complicated angles needed for all the masses (usually into the several hundred) of pieces to make one finished item. Of course there is a bench and various electric tools which help make life easier.
Who or what have been the main influences on you?
As I now specialise in segmented turning, Dennis Keeling has been my mentor and inspiration. But I also get the monthly Woodturning magazine, which gives one fresh ideas along the way. I am also a member of the North Devon Wood Turners and we have monthly meetings with professional demonstrations and club member demonstrations. This gives one the opportunity to talk through one’s problems with other members and maybe help them out.
Whose work do you admire?
Dennis Keeling of course and Malcolm Tibbetts in the USA. There are not that many well-known segmented wood turners, so there are other turners who create their work into the next level through using colour and texture. So of those I admire Nick Agar and Mark Sanger.
What tools or equipment could you not do without?
My lathe, of course, but because I specialise in segmented work, my thicknesser is also essential. Then my digital angle finder is also essential for all the exact angles required. Then my disc sander and lapping plate for finishing the angles so they glue together as perfectly as I can get them.
What are you working on at the moment?
Our wood turners club has an exhibition at St John’s Garden Centre in August 2016, so creating pieces for that. I am trying to get some inspiration at the moment!!
What direction do you see your work taking in the future?
I would like to develop the segmented turning further, do more complex designs, but maintaining good form.
Where can people see your work?
I am new to selling my work, as my pieces take so long to make, up to 6 weeks, I cannot really get the true value for the work. Wood turning is still seen as pedestrian, rather than an art-form in this country. In America it is starting to be seen for the skill and art it has. So I am a new member of Exmoor Arts, and thus I now have my work at Farthings Of Exmoor in Lynton. I think Exmoor Arts might be putting it on Etsy.