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View Full Version : Neander Interview: Alan Turner



Zahid Naqvi
02-16-2006, 11:18 AM
1. Name (and nick names).
Alan Turner

2. Age/DOB.
56

3. Location (present and previous).
Born in Oklahoma, raised in the Midwest, came to Philadelphia in 1971 and have lived in this area since then.

4. Tell us about your family.
I am remarried to "Miss Never Nasty" Paige, and we each have two children from previous marriages, all out of the house.

5. How do you earn a living, woodworking or other, any interesting previous occupations.
Woodworking is my second career, although the first has not yet ended. It is not related to woodworking. My new venture is a teaching studio for furniture making, and I have just teamed up with Mario Rodriguez, who has far more experience in this area than do I. Both of us, and others, will be the instructors, but his eye for design, color and feel are remarkable indeed. He has a breadth of WW experience that is hard to imagine. The name of the new teaching studio is: Philadelphia Furniture Workshop, LLC

6. Equipment overview (hand tools and other)
I have two shops, one at home in the basement and one in an industrial building. In the home shop I have a Delta Unisaw, 20" Aggi, 14" PM-141 BS, Griggio slot mortiser, 20" Woodtek planer, 12" American WW Machinery jointer (1925) with Byrd head, 15" Delta DP, Delta lathe that is seldom used. In my other shop, I have the new SawStop, 800 mm Zimmermann BS, 2 Delta DP's (one the RAM), 24" Oliver 299 planer, 20" Oliver jointer, State OSS, Woodtek 6x89 edge sander, 37" drum sander (Kuster), PM 141 BS, PM 10 HCM, Hammond Trim-o-saw, and a few other toys.

As far as hand tools, I tend to favor older tools. I have 3 sets of Stanley 750 chisels, a number of Witherbys, and a few Swanns, number of Buck Brothers, etc. I have several Bedrocks, an HNT Gordon smoother (great plane for tough wood), Boggs and Veritas spokeshaves, a number of old molding planes, Japanese mallets, etc. I am currently building wall hung hand tool cabinets for the new shop, and so don't know just yet how they will be distributed.

7. Describe your shop.
The home shop is centered around a 6' joiner's bench, self made, with tail vise and No. 2 Emmert. The shop is height challenged, and the door to the shop limits the size of projects to a 30" opening. It is a "no entertainment center" type of shop. The industrial shop is for larger commissions, 2800', and is also being configured as a teaching studio, with 10 joiner's benches plus teacher's bench, etc.

8. Tell us about the hand planes you own, and your favorite one(s) to use.
That depends upon the task. I have some new, and 3 bedrocks, the 4 and 5 of which see a fair amount of action. The LN rabbet block and the LV Med. shoulder plane are excellent tools.

9. You favorite chisels.
Stanley 750's, Witherby paring chisels, Witherby and Butcher self filed small three corner DT chisels, and about a million others. I think I have a total of about 70 or so.

10. Your favorite handsaw(s).
I like my LN gent's saw for finer DT work, and I have a number of Disstons which work as well as any new saw. All are hand filed, and pre WWII. The LN is the only new one. I have a Disston No. 77, which says on the blade "For mechanics, not butchers", which is filed crosscut at 17 tpi (not original) and is taper ground so has very little set. The steel is a bit harder than the other Disstons.

11. Do you use western tools or Japanese, why do you prefer the ones you use.
I have both, but cut joints with the Western saws only. As to the Japanese saws, the only ones I use except for rough work are the right and left handed flush cut saws from Zeta, and they are quite remarkable. I have Jap chisels, but rarely use them. I suspect they are not the best of class.

12. Do you have a woodworking home page.
Yes. www.alanturnerfurnituremaker.com
And we are in the process of developing a website for the new teaching studio.

13. Do you have any influences in your work? Certain styles or designers you follow/prefer.
My preferences are the 18th century, and paying clients.

14. Do you have any ancestors who were woodworkers that served as inspiration?
I grew up in my father's amateur shop. He was an excellent craftsman. I have been in the shop for 50 years.

15. What is your favorite neander project, or part of a project, you have ever done and why.
The Newport kneehole desk (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=19366&highlight=newport+kneehole+desk) is my most difficult and satisfying piece. While the carving is what caused me to build it (I needed to learn that skill and so took a course for the desk), it is also the most difficult carcase I have built. Holding it square so that I did not have to build 13 trapezoidal drawers was a challenge, as was the molding work, all done by hand. But I think what I most enjoyed learning was the design brilliance of Townsend. Every detail is perfect in the design, and none overpower the piece as a whole. There are a large number of consistent details which one does not immediately notice but which makes the piece work so well.

16. Do you believe there is any spiritual dimension to woodworking with hand tools.
I don't think of myself as a spiritual person, but certainly woodworking gives me great pleasure; it is quite a solitary activity, at least for me. The notion that my furniture will outlast me is a nice feeling. Of course it will probably all fall apart shortly after my funeral, but I won't know that. The other thing, and my wife had noted this often, is that WW'ers in general are a warm and community minded group of people, almost always willing to help others. Being part of such a community is an honor.

17. How much of your work is done by hand tools. Do you use whatever is best for the job or do you use hand tools even when they are less efficient.
I burn recycled electrons with glee in sizing and dimensioning stock, and fit all (never say always) joints with hand tools. Details are almost always hand tool items.

18. What is your single most favorite tool, and why.
I am not sure that I have a single favorite. I love to work with paring chisels, and my Witherbys are my best ones. I enjoy working with a drawknife and my Boggs spokeshave. I love wispy plane shavings, and all of mine do that, in different settings. My best 90 degree work, which I always use on drawer construction, is from a LN No. 9 with a cross grain shooting board. But, resawing at 25" on the Zimmermann is also quite satisfying.

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As part of my signature is a quotation from the patternmaking trade, and it is so true. Especially in making furniture, haste quite often makes waste.
__________________
If you see me rushing about it is either because I am in the process of making a mistake or correcting one.

Hank Knight
02-16-2006, 11:39 AM
Nice job, Zahid, and thanks to Alan for his comments. I've admired Alan's work for a long time and it's nice to get to know him a little better.

Hank

Tyler Howell
02-16-2006, 1:38 PM
Glad to know you.

Thanks for sharing

Dan Forman
02-16-2006, 5:14 PM
Zahid---This was a great idea, thanks for turning it into reality.

Alan---Thanks for doing the premiere episode. Sounds like the school is going to be first rate, only wish it was a little (lot) closer to home. Are you planning to do any long sessions, such as a 4-6 week intensive, or single subject workshops?

Dan

Steve Evans
02-16-2006, 8:18 PM
Zahid - Nice job

Alan - Looking forward to meeting you and Mr Jewitt in March.

Steve

Alan Turner
02-16-2006, 9:33 PM
Zahid---This was a great idea, thanks for turning it into reality.

Alan---Thanks for doing the premiere episode. Sounds like the school is going to be first rate, only wish it was a little (lot) closer to home. Are you planning to do any long sessions, such as a 4-6 week intensive, or single subject workshops?

Dan

Dan,

At this time, till May, it will be weekends and probably one evening per week. 6 to 10 Thursdays; that sort of thing. Mario and I are working on the calendar at this time. Starting in the Summer, we hope to have week long classes. I don't know about longer stints.

The courses will be both technique oriented, tool oriented, and project based. And, at several levels, from beginner to advanced. I very much want to teach a workbench class, and a bureau class. Mario and I may fight a bit on that as he is also a drawer man. (:

I am toying with the notion of teaching a class, such as the chest of drawers or workbench class, on a one weekend per month for several months basis, with some of the work to be done at the student's own shop. I think this may be a good approach for the more advanced student. In my case, I work best, and fastest, alone, without distractions. This solitary time, communing with the wood and tools, is very special to me. Keeps my head on straight.

Steve,
You will meet Jeff, and also Mario as he will be there Saturday afternoon (3/11) for a late afternoon open house.

Mark Singer
02-16-2006, 9:55 PM
Alan is a great crafstman and that was a very nice interview. Many of us know the quality of Alan's work from his posts here over the years...for the newer members this is a great way to know a little about one of the SMC greats... When I first was looking at SMC , I saw a post of a table Alsn made....that was it, I joined that day! Terrific job Zahid!

Ken Fitzgerald
02-16-2006, 10:05 PM
Glad to know some details about you Alan! Zahid excellent interview and idea!

Jim Becker
02-16-2006, 10:19 PM
You will meet Jeff, and also Mario as he will be there Saturday afternoon (3/10) for a late afternoon open house.
Hmm...my Lee Valley calendar (as well as Outlook) indicate the 10th is a Friday... ;)

But I made a note about the open house anyway!! :)
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Nice bio, Zahid and Alan! I learned a few new things about my friend Alan! And he is correct about the LOHL...she is adorable.

Brian Buckley
02-16-2006, 10:30 PM
Thanks Alan, you are a very very good craftsman. I have always admired your skill.

Brian

Alan Turner
02-16-2006, 10:35 PM
Hmm...my Lee Valley calendar (as well as Outlook) indicate the 10th is a Friday... ;)

But I made a note about the open house anyway!! :)
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Nice bio, Zahid and Alan! I learned a few new things about my friend Alan! And he is correct about the LOHL...she is adorable.

Jim,
Too much of Dave Anderson's wine, I am afraid. the open house is Saturday, March 11. I edited the above post to correct this mistake. Glad you caught it early on.

I do hope you can make it. Paige will be the hostess, of course, in the hope that with that promise, someone might actually show up.

Louis Bois
02-17-2006, 12:22 PM
Kudos to a craftsman deserving of such praise. Please keep us informed of upcoming projects.

Steve Wargo
02-18-2006, 10:55 AM
Congrats Alan. I think these interviews are kind of nice. Best of luck on the school.

Jerry Olexa
02-18-2006, 12:49 PM
Thanks for the interview. Nice job..

Dave Ray
02-19-2006, 12:08 AM
Zahid, another great interview from a man we all admire. It's a good thing to get to know these guys better. Thank you. :)

Dave

Richard Wolf
02-19-2006, 9:44 AM
Wow, what a team, you and Mario. Alot of talent there.

Richard

James Mittlefehldt
02-19-2006, 6:05 PM
I met MArio Rodriguez at a woodshow a few years ago in Woodstock Ontario, and you could not ask for a nicer more helpful individual. I have to say now that I know he is teaching some of Allan's classes I really wish I lived close enough to take them. If he can get someone that good to work with him I think we may have under estimated Allan's abilities.

I really like the interview thanks Zahid you have a good idea here.

Todd Davidson
02-21-2006, 8:43 PM
Alan~

Always a pleasure to be connected to you - whether it's beholding your craftsmanship, your sharing of ideas, or your kindness. Thank you!

In peace, Todd

Bruce Shiverdecker
02-22-2006, 9:31 PM
Evenin' Alan:

I was just getting into your interview when I read "Delta lathe that is seldom used."

I would have thought that by now you would have realized that doing that is a sacrilege. If you own a lathe, you
HAVE TO FEED IT!:D :D

ANDY ALERT>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> We have another one to assimilate!

After all is said and done, glad to know a little more about you.

Thanks for sharing,

Bruce;)