View Full Version : Turner Interview: Jim Becker

Mark Cothren
05-04-2006, 10:52 AM
Name: Jim Becker

DOB: 5 March "in the late 1950s"

Physical description (G-rated, please)
Ordinary, extroverted, slightly overweight fellow about 5' 11" tall with a long forehead followed around by even longer hair, usually tied back and getting quite gray in places. Recent "fatherhood" adds "sleep deprived" (among other (!) deprivations...) to the description as well as additional opportunity for more gray hair.

Location (for how long, previous locations, etc)
Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Present residence since November 1999. I've been in SE PA since leaving "Happy Valley" (Penn State) back in March 1979 with a business degree and hardly a clue.

Family information (brag on your spouse, kids, grandkids, dog, etc)
Dr SWMBO (Alison) is an epidemiologist who does cancer research at a large, well known Philadelphia area cancer center. But soon she'll be joining the faculty of Drexel School of Public Health. Two daughters, Anastasiya (Nastia) age 10 and Alesya age 6, joined the family officially on 22 November 2005 after court in Tyumen, Siberia, Russian Federation.
(http://a-j-adopt.blogspot.com (https://mail.conwaycorp.net/horde/util/go.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fa-j-adopt.blogspot.com&Horde=3ed066a2c6ae4dad5d4691c55e06809c))

Two birds, Tosca age 11 and Spike age 17 run the household...at least in their opinion. Previously married; former spouse (and her partner) are good friends. One brother (who has six kids...) and parents living in central Florida. (of course...)

Vocation (what do you do for a living, and what have you done previously)
Sr Consultant in IP Telephony and Contact Centers with the industry leader, Avaya Inc.

http://sawsndust.com (https://mail.conwaycorp.net/horde/util/go.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fsawsndust.com&Horde=3ed066a2c6ae4dad5d4691c55e06809c)

Equipment Overview (lathe, tools, etc)
Well-equipped serious shop...woodworking is my avocation and mental health activity. Mini Max FS350 J/P, Mini Max MM16 band saw, Jet LT cabinet saw, Performax 22-44 Plus drum sander, Grizzly G1276 combo sander, Delta BOSS OSS, Delta 12" CMS, Oneida 2hp Commercial Cyclone, IR 60 gallon compressor and a whole bunch of Festool tools. Noden Adjust-a-bench workbench. I only have a small assortment of good hand tools, but that collection grows from time to time. And, of course, the lathe mentioned in the next section. While I don't get to do much work these days, I took advantage of things financially while I was still in a DINK (dual income, no kids) situation and bought the best I could afford. I still want a MM sliding saw, but that is probably less likely at this point for any number of reasons.

How many lathes have (or do) you own? Tell us about 'em.
One at a time. My current (and likely last lathe purchase) is a Stubby 750 aquired in February 2004. It's a wonderful machine that really works well for the kind of turning I like to do...bowls and hollow-forms. It's an 850 lb, 2hp, VFD driven, short bed lathe, and has a movable and swivalable bed for super versatility. With the bed in tight to the headstock, it's 16" swing. With the bed moved out, it can handle up to 30" inboard which is nice for
platters and even small table tops.

My previous machine was a OneWay 1018 with a 24" bed extension...also an awesome lathe...that currently lives in another SMC member's shop down in MD.

My first lathe was an HFT 34706. It worked. I bought the OneWay about six months later when I discovered the joy of turning in a serious way.

How many turning tools do you have?
A bunch. Most of my turning is done with the three Ellsworth Grind gouges I own, a few different parting tools and a specialized adaptation of a small spindle gouge that David Ellsworth developed. Hollowing is done with a Jamison captive system, using either the original Jamison boring bars or the Trent Bosch boring bars I subsequently purchased. I also own a few scrapers, spindle tools, etc., which get occasional use, such as spindles for furniture or other special projects.

Tell us about your shop
My shop is most of the first floor of a 22'x44' outbuilding on the property that was originally a three-car garage with a little more space for a "potting shed". When we bought the property in 1999, I immediately claimed the small bay that was used by the previous owners for their tractor, resulting in a 17'x21' shop. A year and a half later, I expanded that to include the middle garage bay and later modified things to remove a short wall that supported the stairway to the upper level. Walls are finished with either T1-11 or painted OSB, depending on which "generation" of shop modification you are looking at. I've been moving my turning stock storage to the upper level lately to clean up the shop a little and will likely more more of my lumber storage up there, too.

How long turning?
My first lathe experience was in about 1995 or 1996 when I took a pen turning class at the then-local Woodcraft...a course taught by our own iniminatable Bill Grumbine. I still have that paduk pen in my nightstand and it's pretty nice in my eyes considering I was a rank newby at the time. I didn't turn again until early 2001 when I bought the HFT lathe and some (incredibly horrible) Delta tools. After a short time, I ordered the OneWay 1018 and signed up for David Ellsworth's most excellent three-day class at his studio not far from here. That weekend in August 2001 "changed my life", relative to turning, that is...and I was totally hooked. (Pictures on my web site of the class)

What got you into turning?
That first time...I was looking for stress relief. Everything else was due to what we all know as "the addiction"...

What do you enjoy most about turning?
Instant gratification; seeing art develop in front of my eyes; the challenge to refine form to make it more pleasing to the eye.

What was your first completed turned project?
A pen. I did a few more of those when I got the HFT lathe, but started doing bowls right away. When I discovered hollow-forms, I was really hooked, especially after some coaching from Marlen Kemmet of Wood Magazine and a fellow named Phil Brennion of Chino Valley, AZ whom I am proud to call my friend.

What is your favorite form that you turn?
Southwestern style hollow-forms

What is your favorite form someone else turns/has turned?
Oh, there are so many...Phil Brennnion's work, Wally Dickerman's work, Andi Wolf's incredible carved pieces, Art Liesterman's puzzle piece series as well as his interesting coloration techniques, Pam Reilly's wonderful boxes, Jack Vessery's wonderful textured/carved/colored pieces, Bin Pho and J Paul Fennell's piercing work...etc.

What is your favorite wood to work with and why?
Any form of burl and cherry.

Have you met or hung out with any turnin' Creekers? Tell us about it.
Yes, I've met a few "turnin' Creekers" here and there, although most of the Creekers I've visited in my business travel have been more flat-work oriented.

What is your favorite individual piece that you have turned, and why?
I have several, but the one I feel the most accomplishment was the turned and carved sculpture I made for a close friend in late 2004. It was a first for that kind of work. Other favorites include my burl-cap bowl on a tripod, a spaulted norway maple contemporary vessel and a 16" bubinga platter with some carved leaves.

What is your favorite piece someone else has turned, and why?
Too many "out there". The favorite in my collection of other folks' work is a ponderosa pine bowl turned by Phil Brennion and oiled similar to the norfolk island pine pieces that Ron Kent is well known for. It was part of the charity auction at the AAW symposium in Orlando a few years back and I was very happy to be the high bidder...I had wanted one of Phil's pieces for so long.

What do you not turn now that you want to - or plan to - in the future?
More carved work and maybe some piercing. I'd like to experiement with dyes more, too.

What brought you to SMC?
Stumbled here in early 2003 when I was getting a little bored at another forum that I was moderating.

Now let's get a little deep... If you were a tree, what tree would you be and why?
Hmm...so many choices. Shlamaca, I think... :D

Pete Jordan
05-04-2006, 11:04 AM
Sounds like you have a great family and a great life! Enjoy

Brad Schmid
05-04-2006, 11:12 AM
Nice interview Jim. Great looking gang you got there!

Ken Fitzgerald
05-04-2006, 11:19 AM
Great interview Jim!.......Sleep deprevation.......wait 'til they start dating!:D

Bernie Weishapl
05-04-2006, 11:34 AM
Nice to meet you Jim. You have a nice looking family and a fantastic life ahead.

Keith Burns
05-04-2006, 12:04 PM
Nice to know a little more about you Jim. Great family, you have so much to look forward to with those girls !

Bob Noles
05-04-2006, 2:56 PM

Thanks for such a great interview. I find you to be a most interesting person and follow many of your posts and advice with great enthusiasim. It is always nice to know even more of a person with your talents.

I have great admiration for your adoption efforts as well as other interests you have shared in many of your posts. I think your many talents are nothing short of excellent and that you really have a good grip on life and enjoy it to the fullest.

Thanks for sharing with us in both this interwiew and your many posts.

Michael Stafford
05-04-2006, 3:01 PM
It has always been a pleasure to read your insightful comments and advice to all of us on the Creek. It seems to those of us who have been following your blog that we know you and your family quite well. It is still nice to hear it from the horse's mouth. I wish you and your family the best always.

John Hart
05-04-2006, 3:22 PM
Nice to meet you Mr. Becker! Shlamaca is one of my favorites too. It always brings a smile to my face! :)

Jim Benante
05-04-2006, 3:28 PM
SMC is a great place and its folks like Jim that make it that way. Thanks for all the attention you give to helping others learn and build Jim.

Cecil Arnold
05-04-2006, 4:00 PM
Nice to know you better Jim--It still looks like you have Pac-Man on your head in that last picture.

Dennis Peacock
05-04-2006, 5:01 PM
Good interview Jim.!!! Nice to know you and your family a little better. :D

Bruce Shiverdecker
05-04-2006, 5:11 PM
Glad you have the important things.


An enjoyable Avocation.

A descent sized shop.

And last but not least, the TALENT to make beautiful pieces from wood!


Jim Becker
05-04-2006, 5:12 PM
It still looks like you have Pac-Man on your head in that last picture.
No, that's an "ex-Rabbit"...likely from somewhere in Siberia. 700 rubles...about $25. Unfortunately it's 1) too warm for the climate at home and 2) something that gives me a neck rash if the flaps are down. A show piece, now, if you will! That picture was taken just outside of the US Embassy in Moscow on 25 November 2005 right after all the final immigration paperwork was completed and it was time to fly home as a real family the next day.

Thanks for the kind comments. Much appreciated. I like these interviews in many respects as they really help us get to know each other in ways not typical to most forum sites. That's why SMC is more of a community, rather than just a forum... ;)

Oh, Bruce is one of the turning SMCers that I actually have met...at a show awhile back.

Travis Stinson
05-04-2006, 6:32 PM
Great interview Jim. Certainly nice to know more about you and your family. Welcome to parenthood!;) :cool:

Jim Dunn
05-04-2006, 6:45 PM
Real neat interview Jim. My regards to the rest of your family. Now, get to turning!

Jim Ketron
05-04-2006, 7:34 PM
Nice Interview Jim!
Great Looking family!

Barry Stratton
05-04-2006, 7:37 PM
Great interview and my hat is off to you and your wife for giving those two beautiul girls a home filled with love! I expect to see pictures of the girls flat and round work in the future.

Thanks for all your advice and help as well.

Jim Becker
05-04-2006, 8:08 PM
I expect to see pictures of the girls flat and round work in the future.

Your wish is my command, but will you settle for the past to start? http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=30308&highlight=Cradle

Corey Hallagan
05-04-2006, 8:25 PM
Jim, have enjoyed your insite and helpful posts for since I joined SMC. You are a permanet fixture here and a important one. Again, congrats on that new family and enjoy them, they grow up so so fast!


Joe Mioux
05-04-2006, 8:31 PM
Jim: even though you seldom post :rolleyes: , I thought your interview allowed all of us to learn a bit more of you and your family

thanks for the interview.


Mark Singer
05-04-2006, 8:48 PM
Congradulations! I love your work....your input to SMC is very supportive and unrelenting! The Shlamaca part really touched me:rolleyes:

Jim Becker
05-04-2006, 8:52 PM
The Shlamaca part relly touched me

My special gift to you, Mark... :) And with any luck we will get to talk about it in person later in the month... ;)

Mark Singer
05-04-2006, 8:54 PM
My special gift to you, Mark... :) And with any luck we will get to talk about it in person later in the month... ;)

Jim , it will be great to see you! I can show you the house I am building close up!

Mike Ramsey
05-04-2006, 9:01 PM
You have a beautiful family Jim!! I enjoyed your interview..
You have turned & carved some beautiful pieces!

Ernie Nyvall
05-04-2006, 9:57 PM
Nice to meet you Jim and get to know a little more about you. You have a very nice looking family and btw congrats on that.

I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions and have learned a lot from them.

Oh yea, did you ever finish that dyed NE vase you were working on? Did you post it and I missed it?

Thanks again for everything.


Andy Hoyt
05-04-2006, 10:25 PM
Hey Jim! - Just read on the AP website that that there's a whole boat load of schlamacca headed stateside. Port of call - Bayonne, New Jersey.37870

Karl Laustrup
05-05-2006, 5:57 AM
Thanks for the insight into your life Jim.

Now if we can just get you to open up and post more!!! ;) :D :D


Jim Becker
05-05-2006, 9:15 AM
Oh yea, did you ever finish that dyed NE vase you were working on? Did you post it and I missed it?

It's still a work in progress. I have a few coats of shellac on it, but I'm not overly happy yet...it needs a lot more work. Unfortunately, I've had zero time in the shop to attend to it. I'll revive the thread when I actually get back on the job!

Stu Ablett in Tokyo Japan
05-05-2006, 10:41 AM
Nice to get to know you better Jim, and I certainly admire your work.

One more, thing, you are doing the Lord's work with adopting those kids, God Bless!

Barry Stratton
05-05-2006, 10:47 AM
Your wish is my command, but will you settle for the past to start? http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=30308&highlight=Cradle

YEP, That'll do. Great job!!!

For my next wish........:D

Glenn Hodges
05-05-2006, 11:22 AM
Jim, it is nice to get to know you and your lovely family better.

John Miliunas
05-05-2006, 11:29 AM
Hey Jim, well as always, great to know a little more about someone who throws a post out here every now and again! :rolleyes: :D To say I'm impressed with your turning and general WW skills, would be an understatement but, the one thing which still stands out about you, is what you did for me as a WW a number of years ago. Let's see if you remember this: I was still very green to WW and to turning, especially. You had a steady-rest you were trying to sell on the forum and I decided it would be a nice add-on to have. So far, not that big a deal. What was a big deal to me is that you gave me a very meaningful insight into what it was being a real part of a WW community, such as the Creek. In this case, it was trust. You sent the unit along to me long before you took payment for it. :) This, my friend, was my first real lesson in the spirit and belonging to such a WW community. I have since seen and been the recipient of such spirit many times over here at the Creek but, for me, you're the guy who started that. I've never forgotten that and have tried to bring it forward whenever possible. Thanks! :) :cool:

John Hart
05-05-2006, 11:39 AM
That's a nice story J.M. :)

John Miliunas
05-05-2006, 11:49 AM
That's a nice story J.M. :)

Thanks! Coming from the king of "bringing it forward", that means a LOT! What a fantastic group of people we have out here!!! :) :cool:

Nick Englesby
05-05-2006, 12:56 PM
Zdrastvuytye Jim,

Ochin priyatna!



Jim Becker
05-05-2006, 1:31 PM
Спасибо, Ник! (Spaciba, Nick!)

Pete Jordan
05-05-2006, 4:29 PM
Say what???

Jim Becker
05-05-2006, 4:34 PM
Say what???

I said, "Thank you, Nick"...

Curt Fuller
05-05-2006, 8:49 PM
Great interview, fine looking family, beautiful turnings, but what the heck is schlamacca?

Oh, and nice frog too.

Jim Becker
05-06-2006, 10:10 AM
... but what the heck is schlamacca?.
You'll have to ask Mr. Hart and Mr. Singer... ;)

John Hart
05-06-2006, 10:39 AM
Perhaps history can lend a hand - Cinco de Mayo last year:

Dave Ray
05-06-2006, 3:31 PM
Great interview Jim. I already knew you were a great woodworker and a very generous one with your time, advise and experience, however I really grew to admire you thru your efforts to adopt the girls. They are beautiful. I hope and pray God continues to bless you and your family.

Dale Thompson
05-08-2006, 9:27 PM
You are truly an artist and a man of compassion and wisdom. :) It is my PRIVILEGE to share "The Creek" with persons of your quality! Thanks for your story. :) :)

Dale T.

PS What's a great guy like you doing with the dubious handle of "Moderator"? :confused: ;) :D

Jim Becker
05-09-2006, 9:25 AM
PS What's a great guy like you doing with the dubious handle of "Moderator"?

It's really a reflection of my posting in moderation... :D :D :D :eek:

Don Orr
05-10-2006, 8:43 PM
Nice to meet you and learn more about you. Your work is outstanding.

Take care,