View Full Version : Turner Interview: Barry Stratton (extra pic added)

Mark Cothren
07-21-2006, 1:00 PM
Name: Barry Stratton

DOB: 5/16/1961

Physical description (G-rated, please)
5’ 10”, about 230 lbs, brown hair flecked with age and experience (okay, its turning gray), blue eyes when I’m happy, ice gray eyes when I’m not. I played all the usual sports growing up – baseball, football, basketball, hockey – and have the healed broken bones/knee/back problems to prove it. I was a competitive power lifter in college until a dislocated knee and shoulder (yes, at the same time) made me see the benefits of cold beer.

Location (for how long, previous locations, etc)
I’ve been an Alaskan for 44 years and lived in or near Clear AFB, Eagle River, Palmer, and Fairbanks. I’ve been in Anchorage since 1986. There was a brief stint in Springfield Nebraska in the mid 1960’s (all I remember was hanging out in the basement due to tornado warnings! We got ice cream and watched TV!!!)

Family information (brag on your spouse, kids, grandkids, dog, etc)
I’ve been married to a wonderfully beautiful, intelligent, loving, TOLERANT woman since 1996 who accepts ALL my quirks and faults with a smile. The oldest is a “James Bond Girl” graduating from High School in 007. I have to tell you she is the best kid you will ever meet. If I could have hand picked my step-daughter I would never have done as well! Sweet, kind, patient, always a smile, sees the best in all – A true joy to be around! The youngest just turned 7 and will be in 2nd grade this fall. She has inherited her mother’s beauty, intelligence, and skills along with her grandfather’s youngest son’s stubbornness, warped sense of humor, headstrong attitude, and physical resilience.

We have a great dog, Misty the Rottweiler, who plays her role well. She has that typical Rotty “look” – “where is the money you owe me”, takes voice commands from the youngest, and relishes her role as family friend and protector. We are also allowed to provide food and shelter for two cats Sophie (the mom) and Simba (the son). Simba had a “problem” several years ago that resulted in his plumbing being rearranged so that he now resembles a “girl” cat from the outside.

Given that I live in a house of females AND what happened to Simba, I try to be on my BEST BEHAVIOR at all times. I must note that I “try”, but I am what I am!

Vocation (what do you do for a living, and what have you done previously)
I’ve worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game since 1979. My entire career has been in the cold and slimy (fish) divisions. I’ve been fortunate to work all over Alaska – from Norton Sound to Bristol Bay, Prince William Sound, Resurrection Bay, and all of south-central Alaska managing and researching fish targeted by commercial, recreational, and subsistence users. Some of the duties I’ve had were amazing!

Tagging salmon in the ocean and then recovering the tags in rivers and streams, tagging fish in fishwheels, observing/participating on gillnet test fisheries, walking streams counting fish, flying streams counting fish, floating streams counting fish, etc….. I’ve done my share of enforcement patrols and issued citations when the need arose. I have even seen a bear or two in the wild. I cannot believe to this day that I have been paid to do many of the things I have done!

I love to hunt and get out as often as I can with my rifle and handguns. Chasing mountain goats is my greatest joy and simpler than it appears. Mt. goat hunting is nothing more than “up, then down”. I’ve been lucky to chase most things up here as well as a making several trips to New Zealand, Texas, New Mexico, and Montana. I fish when the mood strikes or the girls want to, but not as much as I used to.

Long ago I ran some trap for fun and pocket change. Coyotes are an excuse to get out in the winter and get some exercise with the 220 Swift. All of my family is proficient with firearms except for the youngest, but she desperately wants to learn so have begun the process of passing that tradition along as well.

I have been eligible for full retirement for a couple years. We plan to take advantage of that next summer once the oldest graduates. To that end, we already own 5 ¼ acres of heaven in extreme west central Minnesota complete with house and an 18 x 24 SHOP!!!!!!!! So, you Midwest Creekers can expect a visit once I get settled.


Equipment Overview (lathe, tools, etc)
I’ve got a sparse collection that includes a Jet mini-VS lathe, Ridgid tablesaw, very cheap Ryobi router w/even cheaper table, cheap Delta drill press, and a Dewalt 788 scrollsaw. Also have the usual tailed hand tools.

How many lathes have (or do) you own? Tell us about 'em.
Uno. The Jet Mini VS purchased thru amazon and miraculously shipped for free!

How many turning tools do you have?
I own the cheap (noticing a pattern?) Harbor Freight spindle set along with a Benjamins Best 3/8 bowl gouge and 1” round nosed scraper.

Tell us about your shop
My “shop” consists of the above tools crammed into ½ the garage. I share “my” half of the garage with the chest freezer, filled with everything Alaska is know for and more: moose, deer, salmon, halibut, black bear, berries, frozen waffles, etc…. If you root around a little you’d probably find a coyote skull or two waiting to be boiled up and cleaned.

How long turning?
About 3 whole months!

What got you into turning?
You folks did. Seeing the amazing stuff you post everyday made me think I could do it. The bombing of Ken pushed me into the vortex. It has been a wonderful experience.

What do you enjoy most about turning?
I enjoy the smell (even oak), the excitement of the flying curls, and the feeling that all is right in the world when the lathe is on. I know, corny answer, but you asked!

What was your first completed turned project?
My first completed project was a large pile of mountain ash shavings. I think a bonker was in there somewhere as well. My dad is using it to bonk fish this summer!

What is your favorite form that you turn?
At my skill level, my favorite form that I have turned is one that is round-ish and does not require copious amounts of CA to hold it together!

What is your favorite form someone else turns/has turned?
The hollow forms and NE bowls you folks post completely amaze me.

What is your favorite wood to work with and why?
Turning or in general??? For turning, I’d have to say walnut. I love the smell, I love the subtle variation incolor, and I love the price!

Have you met or hung out with any turnin' Creekers? Tell us about it.
Unfortunately no. You folks in the Midwest better hide though, `cause once I move down there – ROAD TRIP!

What is your favorite individual piece that you have turned, and why?
An Osage Orange pen/pencil set because my wife latched onto them up for her own.

What is your favorite piece someone else has turned, and why?
Other than my own, I do not think there is a turning I have seen that I did not like. I am constantly amazed at everything I see posted here.

Now that I have some understanding of how it is done, I am truly in awe! Each and every pen, stopper, cup, bowl, NE, HF, death triangle bowl, ort, etc… is an amazing reflection of the one who made it.

What do you not turn now that you want to - or plan to - in the future?
Something that looks round, has no sanding or tool marks, and has a good finish!!!!!!

What brought you to SMC?
Surfing the web. I lurked for a while and was really impressed by the friendship, support, encouragement and freely given advice here. When you folks “bombed” Fitz it made me realize “I’ve got to be a part of this”. I signed up, donated, and started posting. John Hart was the first of many to offer kind encouragement. I sincerely hope to be able to give something back to you folks someday in return for ALL that you have given me. This is truly a community that I am honored to have a small part in.

Got any nicknames? How'd you get it?
“Bear” has been my nickname since I was a kid. I like to think that it has to due with my slow, easy going, plodding nature that can turn deadly when threatened. But I must admit it is most likely to my ability to eat copious amounts of anything and sleep for months on end!

Many tried, but all failed to get the usual “Straw”, Rasp”, Blue”, and/or Cran” berry to stick. One guy got real creative in 2nd grade and tossed “Dingle” into the mix. I believe his jaws are still wired shut and the doctors think the limp may be permanent!

Now let's get a little deep... If you were a tree, what tree would you be and why?
Tough question…….I’d have to say a stout and burly maple tree that provides sanctuary to a healthy population of beetles. That way when I got old and past my prime, I could get cut down, folks could work their spinny magic on the blanks, and I’d be able to live forever!

Tom Sherman
07-21-2006, 1:43 PM
Barry that was a great interview thanks for taking the time to share some of you colorful history with us. I can appreciate the fact that you have to be on your best behaviour most of the time being the only other male in the house and sympathize as well. My wife and I have talked many times about coming to Alakaska, but never have put the horse in the right place, maybe someday. Thanks again Barry

Keith Burns
07-21-2006, 1:45 PM
Wow Barry ! I had always pictured you living in a shack in the summer and an igloo in the winter ! Great interview and it is a pleasure to know the true story about you.

Mark Cothren
07-21-2006, 2:09 PM
Is that a great looking house/yard, or what??? :cool:

Michael Stafford
07-21-2006, 2:30 PM
Barry, a great interview. I see you have a great sense of humor. And you live in your own slice of heaven, huh? It doesn't get any better than that.:D

Corey Hallagan
07-21-2006, 2:32 PM
Great to know more about you Barry. I have enjoyed being a fellow noob with you. Your doing great work! Keep'em coming.


Stu Ablett in Tokyo Japan
07-21-2006, 3:06 PM
Very nice to get to know you more Barry!

Hey guys, have I told you all that Barry is a CLASS ACT?

Well if you missed it I'll say it again "Barry is a CLASS ACT!" :D:D

He sent me the Grizzly stuff I ordered for my old C-man lathe, and in the one package he included a nice scroll saw project, really nice, my wife loves it!

I sure do envy you living out there in the great white North West ;), Yes, even the winters, I'm a Canuck after all.... :rolleyes:

I just noticed, you were born the same year as my older brother, and our birthdays are almost the same, I was born on May 11th 1964.

Yep, great to get to know you better, and I'm sure proud to call you friend!


Travis Stinson
07-21-2006, 5:51 PM
Wonderful interview Barry. It's a pleasure to know you better. Sounds like you lead an exciting, fulfilling life!
Oh yea, nice spread.;)

Andy Hoyt
07-21-2006, 6:01 PM
Glad to learn more about you Barry. Sounds like a robust and rewarding life you're living up there.

Eagle River, huh? Do you know of the Bullock or Sanders clans? Old frends of mine that I've sadly lost touch with.

George Conklin
07-21-2006, 6:23 PM
Wow!!! I have read a lot of great interviews here and your's is nothing less!!!
What a life. I've always wanted to go to Alaska. I'm afraid if I did go, I'd never come back.
I can imagine my wife going to the freezer to get something to thaw-out for dinner and pulling out a dog head:eek:. All the Yotes aroung these parts are pretty scrawny and sick looking.
Nice to get to know you a little better, Barry.

Dick Parr
07-21-2006, 8:00 PM
Great interview Barry, I'm glad to get to know you better.;)

John Miliunas
07-21-2006, 8:17 PM
So, tell me Barry: Do you like the outdoors??? :D I can almost see you out there, next to a stream with a paddle wheel turning a lathe and you trying to make a bonker with your fillet knife!!! :D Hey, great interview and I certainly hope you plan on making stops in Wisconsin as part of your Midwest tour!!! :D :cool:

Barry Stratton
07-21-2006, 9:47 PM
WOW. Thanks gang, didn't expect this warm reception to my rambling!

And for some reason I am getting the idea that you like our "retirement spread"????:D

The pics include a mid-May day in Prince William Sound (waterfall) black bear hunting, me packing out a moose hindquarter, the retirement shack (sorry, no igloo) in Minnesota, snowmachining (Mt McKinley in the background, was -20 that day), and my youngest and me with her sunflower plants.

Yes Andy, I know them. Yes John, I kinda like the outdoors (is Wisconsin actually part of the USA????), right back at you Stu, and to all of you, I am proud to have you as "e-buddies". THANK YOU for all your help!

Later .......

Stu Ablett in Tokyo Japan
07-21-2006, 10:07 PM
................The pics include a mid-May day in Prince William Sound (waterfall).................

Not that waterfall again............... :eek:


Bruce Shiverdecker
07-21-2006, 10:18 PM
Thanks for sharing your inside with us, Barry. I know exactly what you mean about Turning making you feel that "ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD!" For those who have never felt that feeling are truely missing one of the Great Wonders of life.


Bernie Weishapl
07-21-2006, 11:17 PM
Thanks for sharing buddy. It is nice to get to know you better. My cousin and a old army buddy I stay in contact with lived in Alaska for many years. I have a lot of FAA buddies up there also.

Curt Fuller
07-21-2006, 11:27 PM
Great interview Barry. You're living my dream. Since I was a kid I wished I could be a 'game warden'. Sounds like a fantastic life you have up there.

Ken Fitzgerald
07-22-2006, 1:27 AM
Nice to know more about you Barry! I turned down a job opportunity to go to Alaska nearly 30 years ago. The company was only willing to pay a differerential of about 20% to live there. I contacted some folks there and they said 20% wouldn't cut it so I turned it down. I'd still like to visit there!

Vaughn McMillan
07-23-2006, 7:27 AM
Really liked the interview Barry, and it's great to see a slice of your life up there in the FAR north forty. Looks like you have a neat combination of a job you love, a great family, and a wonderful place to live. Thanks for the insight.

- Vaughn

Don Orr
07-24-2006, 3:51 PM
Real nice interview Barry. I had fantasies of a life like yours as a youngster. Hope you enjoy retirement when you head South and East. Thanks for the nice photos to drool over.

Dennis Peacock
07-24-2006, 5:34 PM
Great interview Barry and very beautiful pictures of the surroundings..!!!!! Nice to meet you even more.

jonathan snyder
07-28-2006, 7:52 PM
Hi Folks,

I had the good fortune to buy Barry lunch yesterday. I bumped in him here on the Creek. We quickly realized we are both woodworking biologists! I had the pleasure of seeing one of Barrys olive pens, it sure was nice, makes me want to get into turning (but I have a big enough learning curve in front of me with flat work).

Barry really summed it up when he said folks here on the creek are "the nicest bunch of guys you will never meet."

I hope to meet some more of you creekers.


Ernie Nyvall
07-28-2006, 8:30 PM
Nice to meet you Barry and get to know a little more about you. Good interview and I'm jealous of your view.


Steve Clardy
07-28-2006, 8:42 PM
Nice writeup Barry!