View Full Version : SMC Turner Interview - Jack Mincey

John Keeton
06-15-2010, 8:38 PM
How young are you? 50

Physical description (Family rated, please) 6” 4” tall, 240 pounds, thinning brown hair, and brown eyes which my wife says never look at the road but at the trees along the road. I just let her drive so I can pay better attention to the trees.

Where is home? I live a few miles from a small state university called Western Carolina University in Cullowhee N.C.

Where else have you lived? I’ve lived my whole life in the same neighborhood. The land I call home has been in our family since 1936, no sense missing with a good thing.

Family information: Married to my wonderful wife Trish for 25 years and have a 7-year-old son Jared. Jared has been a blessing in our life. We were 18 years into our marriage when Jared came into our lives. He has been well worth the wait.

Do you have a website? No website yet.

Vocation: High School Shop teacher for 27 years.

Shop Overview: Being a shop teacher over the last 27 years, I’ve always worked in my school shop. I just built my home shop a few years ago in preparation of my upcoming retirement. It took almost a year and a half to finish the building. I did all the work on it by myself except for pouring the slab and setting the trusses. For the slab, I hired a crew to do it, but for the trusses, I called in some friends for a hard day’s work. The only other help I had was from my then 5-year-old son. He had a blast driving nails in the soul plate but was able to help hold one end of the tape for long measurements. My shop is 26’ x 34’ with 12’ by 34’ upstairs.
The upstairs has a photo tent in the back that works well. I hope to build a finish booth in the upstairs in the future. It is a turning shop with a table saw used for storage 99.9% of the time.

About the only thing left to build in my shop would be cabinets to go around the walls, but it’s hard for me to go back into the flat world even when the result would help my turning.
Continued on the next page....

John Keeton
06-15-2010, 8:55 PM
You can see my need for cabinets in a few of the pictures, but one can also see how a turner uses a nice table saw as well.
Iíve made enough from selling crow and turkey calls to help buy most of the equipment and tools in my home shop.
How many lathes do you own? One in my home shop, it is a 1640 Oneway 2hp with the outboard bed and banjo. It makes for a great 40Ē spindle lathe and a 24Ē short bed bowl lathe in one lathe. When I first bought the 1640 my shop wasnít ready so I set it up at my school shop for the first 3 months. It was not unusual to have a student turning on the inboard side while another student sanded a piece on the outboard side, at the same time. I also have access to a Jet 1642, PM 3520, 2 new delta midi, and three old Rockwell lathes that are in my school shops.

How many turning tools do you have? More than 50 for sure. They are mostly in my home shop, but many are in my school shops.
If you could upgrade to another lathe - what would it be and why? Stubby, I see one used at a local club for demoís and feel it is one of the best if not the best bowl lathe on the market. It is very versatile in the way the bed slides in and out and even rotates if needed. Everything about the Stubby screams quality as well.

How long have you been turning and what got you started in the first place? I started turning in 1975 after my High School Shop teacher did a demo on turning a bowl from dry wood using a ĹĒ round nose scrapper. I was hooked after that moment, but my turning was limited to dry wood until about five years ago when I was introduced to green wood turning by my local club. I turned a lot when in high school, but I didnít have access to a lathe for 7 years after college until I moved up from teaching junior high students to High School. Although Iíve been turning for a long time, I didnít get serious about turning until 5 years ago. I think that is what you call it when your build a shop the size of a small home and spend enough on a lathe and bandsaw to buy a good used car, but I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Continued on the next page....

John Keeton
06-15-2010, 9:00 PM
Here are just a few of the beautiful turnings from Jack's shop!

Continued on the next page....

John Keeton
06-15-2010, 9:15 PM
What's your favorite flavor of ice cream? Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

What do you enjoy most about turning? I love discovering what nature has created in the piece of wood for me to find. I try and look for pretty pieces of wood to turn. Someone once said that life is too short to turn crappy wood; I think it is too short to turn plain wood so I am always looking for special pieces of wood. After getting the wood, it is our job to try and show off what nature created in each turning.

What do you enjoy the least about turning? Sanding, Sanding, Sanding, did I say sanding? I don't really like having to turn something that someone has ordered. I much prefer to turn what I want and then sell it.

What was your first completed turned project? You get bonus points for a picture of it. A mahogany bowl turned from three 2Ē thick pieces of mahogany glued together. I turned it in 1975 when I was a sophomore in high school.
What is your favorite individual piece that you have turned, and why? Hard choice - but I guess it would be a 9Ē sphere I just turned from maple. The wood has a 3-D look to it and it the thinnest small opening HF Iíve done to date.

What is your favorite form that you turn?I like vases and Hollow Forms. One can go wild with form and shape on both. One doesnít have to sand the inside of a vase or HF as much as one does a open form bowl. They also seem to sell better and for more than open form bowls.

What do you not turn now that you want to - or plan to - in the future? I turn a lot of different things in working with my students since they seem to all want to do something different. I guess that pepper mills would be one item that I will do in the future that I havenít tried as of yet. It would be good to have one next time I turn ribbon fries by turning potatoes on the lathe. My students and the teachers at our school loved this event.

What is your favorite piece someone else has turned, and why? It is a HF that John Jordan turned from walnut with the light sapwood around the small opening. It is carved and textured perfectly IMHO. Most think of Jordan as a carver, but he makes an effort in his work to preserve the natural color the wood has when it is first cut.

Are there any turners (or others), well known or not, that have influenced your turnings? I try to look at every turning I see to try and get ideas on designs that I might use in the future. No one turner has really influenced my form. I do like to look at everything here at the creek and at club meetings to try and get ideas on new stuff to try.

Do you belong to a turning club? I belong to two at this time and working on starting a small local club that will meet at the new school Iím at. Carolina Mountain Turners and Western North Carolina Woodturners are the two that I belong to at this time. I do 4 or 5 demos every year for our small club the Western North Carolina Woodturners. I feel like a sponge at the meetings of both clubs absorbing the knowledge of the other turners and the demonstrators. Clubs are a great way to excel ones learning curve in the world of turning.

What is your favorite wood to work with and why? Free wood is always best. Since learning to turn green wood 5 years ago, the only expense Iíve spent on bowl blanks is the gas that I use in my truck and chain saw. Free Maple is my favorite wood for bowls. It has so much verity in color and dries with little problem. For small stuff, Cocobolo is hard to beat. When turning small items like my crow calls, I can skip sanding and simply use a piece of 0000 steel wool on this wonderful wood. I wish that it was free!

What brought you to SMC? A fellow club member told me about the creek and a started reading and asking questions to expand my turning. It is a great place to hang out in my book.

Do you remember your first SMC post? Not really.

Jack, I don't either!! But, a little search revealed you posted on 02-17-2008 in response to a question about chainsaw recommendations. http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=76841 (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=76841)

Have you met or hung out with any fellow Creekers? Tell us about it. Yes, Ted Okolichany is the president of western North Carolina Woodturners and we see each other at our monthly meetings and board meetings. He doesnít post a lot here but reads the threads on a regular basis.

Got any nicknames? How'd you get it? I go by flyrod444 on other sites including call-making sites. Iíve been a fly fishing guide for over 23 years so flyrod was easy. A friend gave it to me when I went primitive camping with him years ago. I mean primitive, nothing invented since the early 1800ís was allowed in their camp. When I first started using the internet, I needed a handle and flyrod was already taken on a few sites I went to. The 444 was the caliber that I harvested my first deer with and when I added it to flyrod, it made for a one of a kind handle to use.

Now let's get a little deep (tribute to Andy)... If you were a tree, what tree would you be and why?
I love to trout fish as much as turn wood so the spot the tree grows is more important than the type to me. There is a spot on the Whitewater River near my home that I would want to have my roots buried near. It is where nature got it just right. It is about 2 miles from any usable trail so the only way in is by wading up stream. It has a 100í water fall that cascades down into the prettiest bit of water in the world. There is a big old birch tree there that I wouldnít mind being in the least. When I leave this world we know, I would like my ashes spread around this spot on the river even becoming part of the old birch as it absorbs my ashes to help it live.

If you won the Mega Millions Lottery, what part of your life would change? I would like to fund a turning program for our school system so that the students would have everything that they needed to turn out great bowls. Maybe even start some type of four-year scholarship fund for the most deserving students that come through the program. Iíve taught some truly great and bright students over the years that college is out of reach since the parents havenít the financial ability to pay for their secondary education. It would be great to see turning put back into the state curriculum as well. It can be hard to fit in enough time for students on the lathe with all the other stuff that shop teachers have to cover any more. Iím a firm believer that the skills students learn at the lathe are transferable to many other areas. How many creekers know that students that take shop in N.C. have to take a state end of course exam like they would in their academic classes? Not one question on it has anything to do with turning.
Being a self-taught turner, I would love to take a couple classes from a couple of the proís I think have the most to share.
Next, I would buy as much land around my home as I could possibly buy. They donít make any more land and one can never have a large enough buffer around them.
Last, I would hire someone that liked to sand and let them sand all my bowls.

Any words of wisdom for your fellow turners? Speed can hurt you badly. I have found with good technique that one can get just as good of finish cut at lower speeds and be much safer at the same time. There is a huge difference in what happens at the lathe if something bad happens, say between 800 RPMís and 1200 RPMís.
Practice, Practice Practice, No one is a born turner, but most everyone can learn to turn if they get some instructions from someone and practice what they are taught. I use my students that have a shorter learning curve to help teach my students that are having more difficulty. Learn from your mistakes, think about what you are doing while at the lathe and when something bad happens (like a catch) remember what you were doing and donít do it again. I can hear a tool catch across the shop and I simply tell my students change what you were doing because it isnít working. It drives me crazy to see someone get a catch over and over using the same bad technique. People if you get a catch there is a reason and it is usually your technique, so change what you are doing when a catch occurs until they go away mostly. They will never completely go away, but with good technique and practice, they will become a rarity instead of a normal occurrence. At the risk of jinxing myself, I will say that Iíve had only one catch this year using a bowl gouge, maybe someday I will get to this point with a skew, but it is ways off I think.
If you are just starting into the world of spinning wood donít try and make anything at first, just mount up some wood between centers and makes sawdust until you get the hang of using the tools. Then it is time to start making things. Start using free or very cheap wood, Iíve had students bring in a beautiful burl to start a bowl before they have the hang of turning and I make them wait until they can create something out of poplar or some other wood of little value.
Last try new stuff on occasion, it helps keep the passion one has for the spinning world fresh. If I find myself in a rut making the same thing I will look around for something that Iíve never turned and try it out a few times and it helps me rejuvenate my desire to turn more and some time leads me into a direction that I wouldnít have ever gone otherwise.

Jeff Nicol
06-18-2010, 10:09 AM
Jack, It looks like the shop is ready for anything and I understand the need for cabinets and storage! I have almost 80 drawers in my shop and lots of cabinet space, but it is still not enough!

Having a child a bit later is not a bad thing, it usually give the couple time to get everything established and not have to struggle with everything a child comes with when you are young and broke! Your son will grow up with some of the best hobbies a boy could want, woodworking and it looks like some hunting gets done also buy the critters hanging in the shop!

Being a shop teacher must have been very rewarding over the years, I had some thoughts about it when I got out of highschool, but beer, girls and the great outdoors kept me from college. Did the military thing then 25 years of heating and AC work. On the same topic, my buddy who is a Tech Ed teacher (New age shop teacher) just got selected to be the schools new principal, he is not sure about the administrating part but a promotion is a promotion!

O.K. I am rambling like normal, so a very nice interview of a very accomplished turner!

Thanks for sharing your life with us,

Jeff :D

Ken Fitzgerald
06-18-2010, 10:22 AM

Thank you for a very interesting interview! Your students are indeed lucky to have you for a teacher and a role model as you obiviously have a passion for what you do and I am sure it transmits to your students.

Again, thanks for a very interesting interview!

Tim Rinehart
06-18-2010, 11:38 AM
These interviews are great, I went back and looked at some others over the years. Really adds interest to forum and knowing common threads between yourself and others.

Hope we get a chance to meet up sometime Jack,..always a great excuse to leave Charlotte for the mountains!

charlie knighton
06-18-2010, 12:44 PM
thanks for sharing

David E Keller
06-18-2010, 6:01 PM
Another great interview... I really enjoy reading about the other turners on the site. I appreciate the time involved for both parties, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

Pete Jordan
06-18-2010, 7:52 PM
Great interview, Jack!

You seem to have a great outlook on life and a great life. Keep turning.

Ted Okolichany
06-18-2010, 8:13 PM

Was really nice to read your interview and bio.. Now, I know more about your love of wood and the turning that you do. Nice to know as a transplant to our mountains here, that we do indeed live in a very beautiful, wonderful place.

Keep on turning!


Bernie Weishapl
06-18-2010, 8:55 PM
Jack that was a interesting interview. Thanks for sharing. Your students are lucky to have you around especially as a role model.

Jack Mincey
06-19-2010, 5:59 PM
First I would like to thank Sawmill creek for the chance to be interviewed here and John for sorting through my answers to the questions and putting them on the creek. Thanks for the kinds words everyone, turners do tend to be great bunch to hang out with in person or on the net.
Keep Turning,

Karl Card
06-19-2010, 6:21 PM
nice shop. good interview, Nice collection of lathes...

Tony De Masi
06-19-2010, 6:23 PM
Very nice interview Jack. And I'll agree with most others here that it seems that you have some very lucky students to have someone like you who still has a passion to teach.


Mike Svoma
06-19-2010, 10:14 PM
Nice interview, Jack. It's great to here some background behind the names we see everyday on this forum.

Steve Schlumpf
06-20-2010, 10:33 AM
Jack - Thanks for taking the time to do the interview! Always great to get to know a little something about our fellow Creekers!

Thanks for all you do for the kids and for showing them just how much fun being creative with wood can really be!

Aaron Wingert
06-20-2010, 10:43 AM
Great interview Jack. Your commitment to your job as a shop teacher is plainly evident in the fact that you set up your new Oneway lathe at the school shop and let students use it! :D

Those crow calls you make are just plain spectacular.