Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Traveling Turner

Once again, my career has me on the road ... yet I have found time to turn in the most unlikely places!

I have a lot of sawdust and wood chips in my truck. I also have bowl gouges, spindle gouges, and a Jet VS Mini-Lathe.

No, I'm not going to a turning demonstration or my local AAW meeting ... I'm a computer consultant on my way to a client engagement!

Some five months ago, I traded in my normal 9-to-5 for the life of a travelling consultant. The rationale was a sound one, and the decision has opened up a whole new series of opportunities for me and my family ... and yet ... it cut into the time I used to set aside for wood turning ... one of the loves of my life.

I tried the typical response of weekend woodturning, but it was never enough, and it took away from the precious time I had to spend with my family. My solution? A new Jet VS Mini, and a travelling turning workshop (some people call it a truck).

Now, on the road from Georgia to NC, or on long trips out to Phoenix, AZ ... have lathe, will travel!

I have turned on the tailgate at 3 am at a Hampton Inn (and even had a small crowd of six folks watching). I have turned during a lunch break, with a turning smock protecting most of my "school clothes", although my shoes, socks and pants needed a good brushing and still looked suspicious afterwards. I have turned inside of hotel rooms ... but a word to the wise on this ... make very good friends with your housekeeper first. A particular Marriott Courtyard still remembers me ... fondly.

Where do I find wood? Everywhere! Some I bring or buy. But most of it is "found wood". I have found wood alongside the highway (downed trees already cut up by the transportation folks). I have found wood in parking lots, behind buildings, beside dumpsters, and brought to me by passers-by who wondered what in the heck I was doing, then stayed to watch. When they came back another day ... wood was their gift for having enjoyed watching me turn!

Since being on the road, I have met many fellow turners within the AAW, too many to mention in this article. I carry my AAW Resouce Directory everywhere! I have encouraged several neophytes, and taught two individuals completely new to turning! Not too bad. I don't think I had this much fun just turning in my shop!

What about my turning projects? Well, they are normally simple. Candlesticks, bowls, a few pens or toys ... things which can be turned and finished in a single session of 30 minutes to an hour.

My techniques? I cut as much as possible rather than scrape. I sand just a little, 220 or 300-ish is as high as I go. I call it quick-sand! I use some sealant, some hard wax, and/or a friction polish. Anything which allows for immediate or limited handling. My chuck (Oneway Stronghold) is an absolute essential with every jaw size they make.

The resulting objects? I don't know where they are. I give them to hotel desk clerks, waitresses, gas station attendants, police officers (there is a story there), co-workers, and clients. But I like to think that they have a good home, and are placed someplace where they can be seen, enjoyed, and touched. I hope that appreciation of craftsmanship is not yet gone from the general populace.

Bottom-line? I have sawdust and wood chips in my truck, an experience which is hard to duplicate, and a real happiness to be a travelling wood turner.

I do miss the Chattahoochee Woodturner meetings, but they are on Tuesdays ... and on Tuesdays I am in NC. I do occasionally get to the Mountain Laurel meetings in Clarkesville, since Thursday is my homeward bound day. Or look for me hanging out at Klingspor's wood working shop in Winston-Salem (every chance I get ... Go meet Morris, another great turner). Keep on the lookout for me ... I love meeting fellow turners!

A quick acknowledgement for some good friends who are helping me in my woodturning journey: John and Joy Moss, you have brought precision and art to my turning ... thanks. Hal Simmons, thanks for the sharpening skills and spindle techniques. Nick Cook ... thanks for letting me pick your brain, every single time we meet! And all the rest of you ... you talk with me, share techniques and finishes, and Don Butler explains his jigs to me ... again! Thanks everybody!

Happy Turning!
Jim Byrom
(From The Road)