For well over two thousand years, in many parts of the world, woodturners have crafted articles for use and for aesthetics.
Woodturning involves a material, usually wood, but occasionally bone, being held firmly on a lathe and rotated. This rotation may be powered by foot or electricity. The hand-held cutting tool, is placed on a rest, close to the revolving work to steady it. As the material rotates across the sharp tool edge, with expert manipulation of this tool, together tool and maker shape the material into the desired object. Due to this rotation, the resulting form, usually, is round. In recent times however, due to exciting experimentation, the resultant forms are not necessarily thus!
It is this necessary rotation of the material which separates wood turning from wood carving. Carving generally involves stationary material. For many years the power for the required rotation was human in origin and this tradition is maintained by pole-lathe turners. Many different varieties of tree are used. For example native British species commonly used include, ash, beech, cherry, elm, oak and sycamore while non-native hardwoods such as bubinga, eucalyptus, padauk and zebrano add to the rich range of possible results. All Register members will be aware of the need to responsibly source their material from reputable suppliers.
Many woods are suitable for use with food. There are, however a few exceptions, of which Registered Professional Turners will be aware.
Some woodturners work from wet wood i.e. from recently felled trees still containing sap. Other turners prefer to work from pre-dried timbers. Some projects will dictate that properly air-dried or kiln-dried, seasoned timber is necessary; indeed, every Registered Professional Turner will have the skill to be able to match the timber available, their personal preferences and customer demands and desires. Two types of form can be created through the woodturning process.
Firstly, solid forms, comprising newel posts or balusters and spindles for staircases, chair legs, handles, lamps or candlesticks.
Secondly, forms with an inside and an outside surface; bowls, platters, hollow forms and boxes for example. Most of the former are turned with the grain of the wood parallel to the lathe bed (spindle turning) while most of the latter are turned with the grain running across
the lathe (end-grain or faceplate turning). There are, however, exceptions.
The work of woodturners comprises both functional and artistic work, both of which will be simultaneously pleasing to the eye and have an excellent form and an exquisite finish. Every item will be wonderfully tactile.
Some turners provide a general turning service to commission. For example, multiple copies of work from architects or furniture makers. Others make one-off art work for galleries and exhibitions. Also items are created for presentation pieces to celebrate or commemorate events or individuals.
The hollow form is one form of art work which brings out the beauty of the wood. They can also provide a wonderful canvas for further embellishments and experimentation.
Many turners focus on making bowls and platters while others make small functional objects known as treen. Miniature turning involves the use of small tools to make work to scale which is suitable for dolls houses. whatever the discipline, they all serve to highlight the skills of the RPT maker.
In the last two decades there have been many changes brought about by the increasing popularity of turning; technical advances providing new tools, and leaps of the imagination in to what is possible – which appears to be endless! Artistic pieces are often enhanced by combining turning with cabinet making and other artistic skills such as carving, painting, lacquering, pyrography, inlaying etc such as this piece by Joey Richardson.
Another area which has developed in recent years is segmented turning. Here, work is made from small pieces of wood, creatively joined together to show off the colour variations which further add artistic licence.
In addition to producing work, not only do many turners pass on their woodturning skills by demonstrating to clubs across the UK, with many having an international standing, they also teach individuals and groups of students.
Passing on these skills is imperative to the future of woodturning as seen here with RPT member Les Thorne teach at his workshop.
The Register is able to spotlight those turners who offer demonstrations, teaching opportunities, as well listing the type of work each member offers. Many commissions are generated from architects, builders, furniture makers, antiques restorers, art and craft galleries and members of the public…
…if you need a newel post near Newent, a bowl near Bowland Bridge, a candlestick near Canterbury, a presentation piece near Prestbury or a special commission from just about anywhere, please consult members of the Register; you will be assured of a courteous and warm greeting.