Suwannee Democrat

Local News

March 8, 2013

Local wood turners share their passion

Live Oak — Two members of the Bell Wood Turners Club, husband and wife, Larry and Joan Weaver, gave a talk at the Branford Public Library recently to about 15 people that attended.

“We’ve been doing this about three years,” said Joan. “We jumped right in. We went down to Bell and saw a demonstration and were interested in it.”

Joan said she and her husband were originally from Pennsylvania.

“We’ve been in Florida over 40 years, so we’re Floridians,” laughed Joan.

She said in the short time that she and Larry have been doing wood turning, they’ve progressed quite a bit.

“Even when you first start, you still accomplish a lot which is great,” said Joan. “Being retired has helped and you never get bored.”

Joan said that she and Larry always look forward to going out to their wood shop and working on the latest pieces.

“It keeps us out of trouble,” laughed Joan.

Joan explained that in some places members might give a demonstration, but that the library was better suited for a talk and to show a DVD with the demonstration and that way they could pause and answer any questions one might have and the “clean up “ is easier. 
“That library is so nice, we didn’t want to get wood shavings and dust everywhere,” said Joan.

She was very appreciative of the ladies at the library allowing them to be there and for displaying several pieces for the week prior to them coming.

“We brought up pieces of the experts and some of our own,” said Joan. “That way you could see the progression and what you could do.”

Joan said that it was amazing what you could do to a tree that was cut down. Rather than burn it or discard it, you could be constructive and make something beautiful.

During the year 2000, two local woodworkers in Bell became interested in wood turning. After years of building various non-turned items for local customers, Gary Taylor bought a Delta 16-42 lathe and convinced his friend Van Johnson to buy one as well.

A lathe is a machine tool which rotates the workpiece or wood on its axis to perform

various operations such as cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling or deformation.

Wanting to learn more about wood turning, Johnson and Taylor attended the Georgia Association of Wood Turners Symposium in Helen, Georgia in September of 2000. Taylor placed a notice in the local paper to determine if others were interested in starting a club. Almost 30 people showed up to meet in a local restaurant.

The Bell Wood Turners Club was formed back in February of 2001 in Taylor’s little work shop. Shortly afterwards, he and the others became members of the American Association of Wood Turners (AAW). The club kept getting bigger, so after about six months, it was evident the meeting place would have to be relocated. They moved the meetings to the Community Center in Bell and the meetings (the second Thursday of each month) have been held there ever since.

Club members supported and helped run the Florida Wood Turning Symposium for five years by providing lathes for demos and people to help with the daily activities. The club has always had a high percentage of club members attending the FWS at Lake Yale each year.

The club holds a demo-sale day each year during July at the Community Center in Bell where members have a chance to show their work and offer it for sale. They also provide demos for the people attending the show to see how woodturning is done. The club has a bow lathe built by members to demonstrate how wood turning was done before electric power was available. A member of the club has to stand on one foot, work a pedal arrangement to power the lathe while holding the turning tool to shape the piece being turned. This type lathe is not for you if you can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

During the early years of the club, members participated in a group project to make a section of a totem pole. It was installed on a pole at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts at Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Members of the club have attended classes there and at John C. Campbell Folk School near Brasstown, North Carolina.

The club has a booth each year at the Bell Christmas parade with turned items for sale. Members were represented at the Trenton Down Home Days during the early years when it was held at the city park. Members provide demos for groups interested in learning more about the craft. In the interest of teaching others, Taylor has presented demos to groups such as the local Woman’s Club and for the Oak Hammock Retirement Community in Gainesville.

Starting in late 2009, members participated in a group collaborative challenge project to be displayed at the 2010 AAW National Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Several members turned small wooden replicas of hot air balloons. The balloons were hung on a framework of turned wooden spindles. The pieces were transported to the Symposium by a club member and assembled with the help of other members attending the event. The project won first place in the Fantasy Division.

In the interest of teaching the next generation the art of wood turning, the club gave classes for the local 4-H kids. Classes were scheduled for twice a month on Saturday’s during 2010. In 2011, they held all day classes for one week for kids interested in wood turning and club members brought lathes and provided supplies for the sessions. During these classes, the kids learned to turn projects such as tops, honey dippers, mallets, small boxes, pens and small bowls. The instructors enjoyed the process of teaching the kids as much as the kids enjoyed learning. This project was greatly helped by grants from the AAW for both years that enabled the club to buy lathes, turning tools and supplies for the kids.

The future of the club looks bright. They have several local turners that have become great demonstrators. They also bring in expert turners from other clubs in Florida and turners of national fame for all day sessions. Anyone wanting to learn wood turning will find a friendly helping hand at the BWC.


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