View Full Version : Turner Interview: John Hart

Mark Cothren
05-04-2006, 10:19 AM
Name: John Hart

DOB: October 27 1958

Physical description (G-rated, please)
Hmmm....Well, I guess I’m short. (5’ 7”). I’m happy with that by the way. :) Blonde hair, blue eyes, 155 pounds. That’s pretty much been my description since high school 30 years ago. I don’t know why I haven’t changed…except maybe it’s because I don’t like doughnuts.

Location (for how long, previous locations, etc)
Hmmm, well, I’ve sorta been around. Born in Kansas, Early childhood in Pennsylvania, High School in Florida and Idaho, did some college drinking at Boise State University, then on to Texas, where the Navy sent me to California, Florida, Alaska, then Hawaii....Stayed in Hawaii for a while after I got out of the Navy, then worked in Washington DC for a while, then came to Cleveland. (By the way...I really don't like Cleveland. Can't wait to get to the country)

Family information (brag on your spouse, kids, grandkids, dog, etc)
I don’t talk about this much cuz my wife doesn’t like it when I talk about her behind her back. But, I’m going to make an exception here.

I am the sole male in this family. Wife, 2 daughters, Dog, Cat... All female. I lose all arguments and never get time in the bathroom.

Seriously, I am married to a beautiful woman named Mary who has put up with me for something like 15 or 16 years. She’s a devoted mother and a Bible-thumpin’ Christian, devoutly determined to keep me in line. I wish her the best of luck. Mary is the mother of our two beautiful Daughters, Rachel(12) and Elise(10) who never seem to agree on anything and never seem to stop talking. I am secretly training our German Shepherd how to kill cats.(She doesn’t appear to know how)

Mary has been Homeschooling the girls and doing well....But this summer, after we move, they'll be going to a real school. Everyone is excited.

Vocation (what do you do for a living, and what have you done previously):

Right now, I’m the Information Systems Director for a Bio-Chemical company in the Cleveland area. That basically means that I know nothing about chemicals and a bunch of stuff about computer systems....sorta.

Done a handful of different jobs over the years, starting with delivering milk to the front steps of all the houses in our little town in Pennsylvania, then…including, but not limited to:
Crop Dusting Ground Crew
Car Stereo Installation
Printing Press Operator
House Builder
Men’s Clothing Sales
Radio Disc Jockey (KBBK-FM Boise and AFRTS)
US Navy – (never went to sea)
CAD operator (Fire and Security Systems)
Engineering Technician (Aerospace)
Electronic Engineer (Aerospace)
I.T. Guy


Equipment Overview (lathe, tools, etc)
6” Jointer
A Slow Speed Grinder
High speed grinder
Couple of Drill Presses
A Big Ol’ Paper Cutter
Router and Table
Big old disk and belt sander
15” Lathe
An old 10” cast iron Table Saw
Some drill bits
Mixing bowl
Some wire

How many lathes have (or do) you own? Tell us about 'em.
I have a 15” Craftsman Lathe (Rated at 2HP, but probably not really). I like it. It is a direct drive, PWM-controlled Toy. It’s not as quiet as I would like it to be, but other than that, it’ll take a big hunk of tree and make a nice vase. (As long as I don’t get too involved)

How many turning tools do you have?
Dunno. Over 30 I think. There’s a pile of homemade tools, including Bertha and the Ugly Stick, a pile of miniature tools, and over in the girl’s pile, there’s some medium-sized tools. I just got three Pinnacle tools not long ago, a set of Buck something-or-others, Greenlee spindle tools and a wonderful gift from my Secret Santa, a Sorby Hollowmaster. Hmmm....maybe there's 40 tools. I should dig them out of the shavings and count them.

Tell us about your shop
I have a small basement shop that I built out of a corner of free space one weekend. It’s small and getting smaller every day (8 X 10). I just added a Radial Arm saw and a new(used) Sander to my list of tools, but they have to live out in the garage with the pile of turning blanks and the RX-7. We are moving to more expansive digs this summer, so space is
about to get much better.

This small shop is my hangout, it is the place where I go to relax. It is truly my only haven. I’ve routed Satellite TV into my computer down there, along with my internet connection. What I really need is a refrigerator and a microwave! Hmmm...Maybe at the new house.

How long turning?
I’ve been turning approximately 395 days. Didn’t turn on all of those days, but I sure tried.

What got you into turning?
All of you did it. Really.

5 or 6 years ago, my Dad sent me a check as a gift and told me to buy something for myself that I wouldn’t normally buy. So I bought a lathe. Didn’t know what to do with it and didn’t have any tools. It never occurred to me that there are clubs, books, videos or any of that other stuff...so basically, I was clueless. To make a long story short, I made
a bat and that was it. Then the lathe sat dormant until last Spring when a newspaper interview with Earl Reid led me to SMC...Then I found this here Turners Forum and y’all. Or is that All Y’all? It was pretty exciting to find out that there are people who actually use that lathe-thing for something other than wood rack and tool holder.

What do you enjoy most about turning?
The freedom. I kinda look at it in terms of allowing the tree to live again. It is true that all woodworking accomplishes that task, but with Turning, the natural defects that are a part of the tree’s life, are preserved and celebrated...not covered up or cut away. With woodworking, we use trees to build stuff. With Turning, we give the tree new life.

Oh...and one more thing....I really really really enjoy everyone’s company here on SMC. Everything in my life has improved since I found this place. (except the woodshop – It’s dirtier now)

What was your first completed turned project?
A Bat. As an avid Cleveland Indians fan, I wanted to make a bat for Tom Hamilton, The Voice of the Indians. So I Turned a bat, carved a Trademark in it with an exacto-knife and inlayed a feather in it, made from Ebony, Walnut, Redheart, Yellowheart and Ivory. I mailed the bat to Mr. Hamilton, and he wrote me a nice letter. I’ve long lost the letter and
wish I had the bat!

What is your favorite form that you turn?
I like vases and hollowforms...so, I guess my favorite it a combination of the two.

What is your favorite form someone else turns/has turned?
Well, of course there’s the Stinson/Ketron/Burns HF Standard that we all love, but I’ve really thought about this...I just love the surprise of the newly finished project showing up on my screen. Whether it’s a pen or a handle or a thingamagig...all the way up to the thin-walled Hollow Forms or giant segmented works of art...It is an absolute delight to see what hands have done and what thoughts go through the minds of those who made something by applying steel to wood...and the fun they had while they were doing it...The joy of discovery.

Hmmm...That was a bit long-winded wasn’t it? Ok...I like ‘em all.

What is your favorite wood to work with and why?
Redwood Burl is my favorite. It really wants to become stuff. It never fights the tools, spins round and round just like it is supposed to, sands like a dream, takes a finish just right, and in the end, comes forth with colossal beauty.

Have you met or hung out with any turnin' Creekers? Tell us about it.
Well, lets see...I’ve met Charlie Stein, Blake McCully, Earl Reid, Keith Christopher, Joe Tonich, Dick Strauss, Robert Mickley, John Timberlake and Ken Hertzog all pretty much on separate occasions and a variety of different settings. Joe Tonich’s first words were, “You don’t look like your picture”.

What is your favorite individual piece that you have turned, and why?
A Redwood HF Vase sort of thing. I like it the most because I discovered so much while I turned it. I found out that just about anything can be made from a piece of wood. It has nice figure too!

What is your favorite piece someone else has turned, and why?
Too many to really pinpoint a single one, but the one I keep going back to is:
Keith Burns – his Green Haze HF http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=30494 (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=30494)

Keith seems to have a knack for intricate detail and he shows it off with this piece. But, it’s not just that. He also left a bit of the tree’s original character. I really love this piece.

What do you not turn now that you want to - or plan to - in the future?
Tall Vases. I gotta figure out how to do that, but I figger that there’s going to be some glue involved.

What brought you to SMC?
My Brother in Law gave me a newspaper article on the Freedom Pens project.

There was an interview with Earl Reid and it made mention of SMC. At that time, I didn’t even know you could make a pen on a lathe, much less find an entire community that does it. You see, I don’t join Forums. I spend about 60 hours a week in front of a computer, so I’ve never considered it to be very fun. But I took a look at the site anyway. One
conversation with Ken Fitzgerald, and I was hooked. What goes around comes around, eh Ken?

Got any nicknames? How'd you get it?
Only one. John. My mother called me that one day, and it stuck.

Now let's get a little deep... If you were a tree, what tree would you
be and why?
That would have to be the Texas Live Oak. I love Bonsai (Tree in a Tray) and when I lived in Hawaii, I had a few that I nurtured into some very gnarly, but handsome little trees. The Live Oak grows naturally like the Bonsai that I had. They have so much character that I can sit for hours and run my eyes over the intricate patterns.

Joe Tonich
05-04-2006, 10:34 AM
Joe Tonich’s first words were, “You don’t look like your picture”.

LOL!!!! Remembered that, did ya? ;) LOL!!

Good interview....mebbe one day we can meet a little longer. That lil' time at Rockler just didn't cut it. When I first talked to you, I knew you were 'Top Notch'. :D

Ken Fitzgerald
05-04-2006, 10:35 AM
Excellent interview John! Glad to get to know a little more about you! But the truth be known....after that conversation you decided the site could use a little more class so you stayed around!:D And I'm truly honored to call you friend!

Pete Jordan
05-04-2006, 10:39 AM
Hmmm....Well, I guess I’m short. (5’ 7”)

John, I'm 5'7 and I thought I was tall!
I really enjoy your posts and your advice!


Michael Stafford
05-04-2006, 10:58 AM
John, loved the interview and hearing the depth and breadth of the experiences you have had that make you what you are. I can sympathize with all the women, I grew up in a house full of 'em. I do have one complaint, the picture of you leaning on the clock or miter saw makes you look so intense and almost foreboding like a middle linebacker or something. I know that you have got to be one of the friendliest and kindest guys on the Creek. That picture doesn't suit the mental image I have of a smiling happy go lucky John Hart that writes so many friendly posts that I like to read.....

Paul Douglass
05-04-2006, 10:59 AM
Great interview, and nice to know you better. 5'7", that is me also and both my feet reach the ground! You should write a book about all your different jobs. Vert interestion.

Keith Burns
05-04-2006, 11:04 AM
Great interview John ! Your work has always been an inspiration as you continually challange all of us with new things. You are a class act and although we have never met face to face (yet) I am proud to call you my friend.

Bernie Weishapl
05-04-2006, 11:43 AM
John great interview. I must say I have learned a lot watching and reading your posts. It has been my pleasure knowing you John and with the wood you sent has made me feel very welcome. I appreciate all you have done for me.

Brad Schmid
05-04-2006, 11:51 AM
Nice interview John, great to meet ya!

Stu Ablett in Tokyo Japan
05-04-2006, 11:57 AM
Hey John, nice to get to know you better.

I tell you guys, when it comes to secret blank bombing runs, no one is better than Mr. Hart!!


Bruce Shiverdecker
05-04-2006, 12:30 PM
WOW there's more to you than just PURDY STUFF!

Thanks for being here and for letting us see more of what we know is great guy!


Ed Scolforo
05-04-2006, 1:50 PM
John, I knew I liked you for a reason: I used to be 5'7 and still weigh 'bout
152 lbs. (Don't laugh, you'll shrink some day too.) I get a kick out of your level of enthusiam when new turnings or ideas are presented on the forum. Don't ever lose that sense of wonder. You have a really great looking family.
Keep up the good work!

Blake McCully
05-04-2006, 2:09 PM
Hmmm....Well, I guess I’m short. (5’ 7”)

John, I'm 5'7 and I thought I was tall!
I really enjoy your posts and your advice!

Sheesh, John, you almost gave us skyscrapers of 5'7" a complex:p. Great interview. We're gonna have to do the Berea thing again.

Keep up the great work, and the inspiration as well.

Bob Noles
05-04-2006, 2:47 PM

5' 7"...... from our association and SCM friendship, I figured you to be at least 6' 7". You stand at least that tall in my book :)

Thanks for a wonderful interview and it is always nice to get to know more about people you admire and look up to. You have been an inspiration to so many, I being one in that elite crowd.

Dick Parr
05-04-2006, 3:49 PM
Great interview John!

Having been born and spending my first 18 years just east of Cleveland, I know why you want to move out.:eek: :D

Glad to get to know you better John.;)

Cecil Arnold
05-04-2006, 4:09 PM
Hi, John, nice interview.

Dennis Peacock
05-04-2006, 5:11 PM
Good interview John. Nice to meet you even more.

Jim Becker
05-04-2006, 5:14 PM
Excellent interview, John!

John Hart
05-04-2006, 5:57 PM
Aw shucks....Thanks everyone! I had fun doing this interview. Thanks for all your kind words. I'll see if I can dig up some pics from last summer....so I can bore you to death with family pictures.:D

Travis Stinson
05-04-2006, 6:18 PM
Great interview John. A pleasure to know you better. I always look forward to seeing your work and applaud your willingness to take chances and try new things. :)

Curt Fuller
05-04-2006, 6:27 PM
Great to know you better John. I always enjoy you wit, wisdom, and humor along with your excellent wood turning.

John Hart
05-04-2006, 6:29 PM
Thanks again y'all!
Ok...Here's some more pictures. Most are from last summer

This is us walking out of a lava tube near Mammoth Springs, Arkansas

A little Drivers Education in Chesterland, Ohio

Easter this year....I know...bad picture. One of those timer deals

Rachel at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan

Mary and Elise at Conneaut Lake Park, Pennsylvania

John Hart
05-04-2006, 6:30 PM
Here's some more.....

Elise's new home in Missouri (outside Mammoth Springs, Arkansas)

Girls climbing in Ohio...Near the new house

Elise on a Pony....Neigh Neigh!!!;)

Rachel's First Fish. Rockport TX

Elise's First Fish. Rockport TX.....Then we evacuated from the hurricane that eventually missed us.

Jim Dunn
05-04-2006, 6:41 PM
Great interview John. I like everything you have posted and do enjoy your turnings as well. Glad I met you in this forum. Your family is beautiful! Good luck in your endeavors what ever they may be.


Jim Ketron
05-04-2006, 7:22 PM
Nice to Know you Better John!
Great looking family!

Barry Stratton
05-04-2006, 7:42 PM
Great interview Buzz, errr, John! So Drew Carey is wrong when he says "Cleveland Rocks???????

I can relate to the all female except for you household as well. On a serious note, I appreciate the patience and advice you give this rookie and for being one of many that make this place GREAT! It is not surprising that you have such a fine family. Enjoy that new house and remember to get those girls their own lathe if they can't have a horse!

Mike Ramsey
05-04-2006, 8:15 PM
Beautiful family John! Enjoyed the interview! Can't blame you for
wanting to live outside cleveland, the few months I lived there as
a kid was spent in the hospital from being run over by a drunk cab driver....
You are an example & influence (good) on most of us at the Creek
with your posts & beautiful turnings..

Corey Hallagan
05-04-2006, 8:23 PM
Joh, it is a pleasure to get to know more about you. Truely one of the "Nice" guys on SMC. Always willing to lend a hand and information etc. You are definitely an asset to SMC,


Ernie Nyvall
05-04-2006, 10:34 PM
Nice to get to know you a little better John. I almost feel like I've talked to you on the phone.... oh wait a minute... I have talked to you on the phone. You have a great looking family there and looks like you are creating some great memories for your children to cherish.

Thanks for all your help, inspiration, and generosity.


Andy Hoyt
05-04-2006, 10:40 PM
You're an inspiration, John. And I'm honored to know you.

However - Assuming that your listing of past professional endeavors was essentially chronological, and factoring in your age, time in the nav, etc; I've estimated that your stint in men's clothing sales was coincident with the heyday of disco.

The resultant mental image thusly generated of a 67" tall twenty-something dude threaded out in three acre lapels, parachute bellbottoms, other assorted sartorial embellishments, and lotsa gold chains hanging off your neck is just too darn painful.

I need a lacquer.

John Hart
05-05-2006, 5:41 AM
You're an inspiration, John. And I'm honored to know you.

However - Assuming that your listing of past professional endeavors was essentially chronological, and factoring in your age, time in the nav, etc; I've estimated that your stint in men's clothing sales was coincident with the heyday of disco.

The resultant mental image thusly generated of a 67" tall twenty-something dude threaded out in three acre lapels, parachute bellbottoms, other assorted sartorial embellishments, and lotsa gold chains hanging off your neck is just too darn painful.

I need a lacquer.

Lemme try to ease your pain....It was a snooty clothing store. White shirt, tie, slacks. Although, as I recall, John Travolta, with his finger pointed in the air, was a big hit around that time.;) Have some lacquer anyway!! (hic):o :)

I gotta find some pictures of me smiling or something!!! Big Mike is giving me a complex.:D

Karl Laustrup
05-05-2006, 5:53 AM
Great interview John. Great looking family.

I know what you mean with three females. Same here except I've got my mom, wife and grand-daughter. Can't win.


Stu Ablett in Tokyo Japan
05-05-2006, 7:37 AM
Yeah, I'm also surrounded, my lovely wife, my two daughters, the MILFH, and three, count them, three sister in laws......... :eek:

We have two, TWO toilets in our house, and there are also two big sink. 4 foot long mirrors in the house too, for them "Makeup" sessions.

I can remember with two sisters having to wait a long time to get in the can, as they were powdering their noses... :rolleyes:

Great read John!

John Miliunas
05-05-2006, 11:11 AM
You know, John, I've always felt you to be a man of many talents. Going over your past history, I now see that my assumptions were very much founded! :) Thanks so very much for giving us a bit more insight into who John Hart really is and for verifying what many of already assumed: A great family guy, with many skills and attributes to use and share. This place would not have been the same without you, my friend! Thanks! :) :cool:

Glenn Hodges
05-05-2006, 11:28 AM
I enjoyed the interview, and I don't believe I would like Cleveland either.

Earl Eyre
05-05-2006, 11:40 PM
Great interview. What really caught my eye was your love of bonsai. At one time I had 30-40 of them. That was my passion for years. I tappered off only because I retired and had no way to take care of them when we were traveling so much. I only have three now, with a whole bunch more planted in the yard that I can always put back in pots if I decide to.

Keep up the turning! And your posts are always interesting.


Don Orr
05-10-2006, 9:06 PM
Wow, nice to meet you John. Real nice interview. I like your sense of humor tossed around in there. Hard to believe you've only been turning a little over a year with the quality of your work.

I am familiar with your lathe also. It has some nice features but can be a little noisy.

Keep up your posts as we all enjoy them so much. They usually inject a bit of humor when we can really use it.

Take care and keep turnin !!


Christopher K. Hartley
05-11-2006, 6:40 PM
Great interview John!

Having been born and spending my first 18 years just east of Cleveland, I know why you want to move out.:eek: :D

Glad to get to know you better John.;)

Dang! Small World! I grew up just south of Cleveland and I did get out 40 years ago. John, great interview.

John Hart
05-12-2006, 5:54 AM
Thanks again for all the nice comments everyone. It's nice to feel like there are friends around....even though you're all just virtual imaginary friends!:D

Spending an extreme amount of time getting ready to move these days. The bank papers will be done within the next week and I'll be tearing the shop apart starting this weekend. :( ...But, there's a better life on the horizon for sure!!!:)

Barry Stratton
05-13-2006, 11:51 PM
Just let us know if you need help any John, and we'll throw some virtual imaginary assistance and muscle behind you!:D

I'm sure you'll enjoy the new place, it sounds fantastic! Wide open spaces, lots of land, and plenty of room to play WITHOUT waving to the neighbors when you wake up in the morning.

We own 5 1/4 acres in western Minnesota complete with a log sided house and a 24X36 barn/shop. Did I mention it is on a lake? Two neighbors within 1 mile. Can't move til NEXT summer......leased out at the moment....