View Full Version : SMC Turner Interview - Bill Grumbine

Andy Hoyt
09-08-2006, 11:36 PM
Name: Bill Grumbine

DOB: October 8, 1958 (we’re running out of shopping days folks!)

Physical description (G-rated, please)
Big. Real big. I have been off the growth chart since the day I was born. 6’ 2”, 400 lbs. - coiner of the term “turning muscle”. Flesh tone hair with a fringe of brown, touch of gray. Full beard. People ask me to play Santa almost every year.

Where is home? (How long have you been there? Where else have you lived?)
Home now is beautiful downtown Helffrichsville. This is nothing more than a spot on the map several miles outside of Kutztown, PA, and until a couple of years ago when the developments arrived, it was only our house and the neighbors across the road, both stone houses built in the early 1800s. We have been here almost seven years now. Before that we lived in the city of Easton PA for 15 years. I grew up a country boy in the Pocono Mountains, northeastern PA, and even with all those years in the city, I never got used to it. Our current home is the location of the annual Five Barns Picnic.

Family information (tell us about your spouse, kids, grandkids, dog, barns, etc)
My lovely SWMBO Lisa and I have been married since January of 1984. We have three daughters, Greta, Sarah, and Emily. Currently we have two dogs; Bubba our large golden/lab mix (95 lbs.) and Rowdy, our small backup Shih Tzu/poodle mix (10 lbs.). Both are shop dogs and love lying on the floor when I am in there, although Bubba is more likely to be found there. We have a bunch of cats too, which are worthless when it comes to our mouse herd that lives with us also. No grandkids yet, but maybe soon. Daughter #1 is making noises about getting married.

Vocation (what do you do for a living and what have you done previously; are you retired?)
I quit my job in 1992 when our youngest was born. We wanted a parent home to raise her instead of sticking her in daycare at eight weeks old, and SWMBO had a much better job than I did, so it was easy. I started a woodworking business in early 1993 and it has been growing ever since. For many years I worked second shift in the basement after dinner. I am technically part time, since I also homeschooled our three daughters. Two are graduated, one of them being in college right now, and I am down to one in 9th grade, so school is a lot easier now – for me, anyway! In the past I have done all sorts of things, wherever I could find work. I am also a counselor/preacher/teacher, with a Masters of Biblical Studies and two years post-masters work in marriage and family counseling. I have been doing this stuff for 22 years.

Shop Overview (size, relationship to house, list of basic tools, woodworking interests other than turning?)
I am currently in my dream shop, although sometimes it is more of a nightmare. It needs a lot of work to get it organized. It is a separate building about 100 ft from the house. It is also SWMBO’s dream shop, since it got most of the dust and dirt out of the house. It is not huge as shops go, approximately 20’ x 30’. It sports three lathes (of course!), a Poolewood Euro 2000, a Vicmarc VL100 mini, and my latest addition, a Vega 2600 bowl lathe. Because of the number of lathes and the relatively small shop, I switched over to a Mini Max CU 300 Smart combo machine, replacing my standalone tools. I also have a MM 20 bandsaw. Unlike many turners I know, I do a lot of flatwork, building custom furniture for people as well as turning components for others. Most of the time it is fun, but I am fortunate to have an outdoor furnace close to the shop where the evidence of all mistakes can be conveniently disposed. The shop is heated and air-conditioned, so I live in the lap of luxury year round.

How many lathes do you own? Tell us about 'em. Even the ones you no longer have. Why did you choose these lathes?
I got my first lathe in 1988. It was a cheesy AMT tabletop machine. It was all I knew about lathes though, having seen one in operation a few years before for the first time. During one of my first turning sessions, I managed to break the tool rest, bend the tool into a hairpin, and scare myself so badly that I put the lathe away for five years! In 1993 I bought a Jet 1236, telling SWMBO I needed a good lathe for all the table legs I would be turning in my new business. I did not turn a table leg until 1999, and that was on the Poolewood! I worked my way up gradually, from the Jet to a Nova 1500 to the Poolewood. I also had a small backup lathe, starting with a Carbatec II and then moving up to the Vicmarc. I started out buying the best I could afford and working it until I could afford another one better. I think I have pretty much reached the top with what I now own.

How many turning tools do you have? Store bought, homemade, favorites?
I have more turning tools than one could shake a custom turned stick at. I have collected them over the years. Some get used frequently, some just take up space. Many are store bought, but quite a few are homemade by others or myself. My very favorite is my ½” bowl gouge. I can do all sorts of things with that tool.

How long have you been turning, and what got you started in the first place?
I mentioned some of this above, but what got me started was helping a friend of mine move in 1984. He had a machine I had never seen before, and he used it to turn a captive ring right in front of me. I said to myself, I am going to do that someday. I had no idea how it would turn out! Even though I got my first lathe in 1988, I count my turning time since 1993 when I got into it and stayed into it. Shortly after I started turning, people started asking me to teach. Then they asked me to teach in my own shop. Then they started asking me to make movies!

What's it feel like to have 900 pounds of John Deere green sitting on your chest?
It feels good to be alive. This question is in response to a comment I made about recent events. I was unloading my lawn tractor at the dealer to have some work done on it, and the ramp of my trailer was on a slight hill. It was just enough to send the top of the tractor straight back and over, with me underneath. It was a small one though, so I don’t think it weighed more than 800 lbs. By the grace of God I got up and walked away with nothing more than a few bumps and scrapes.

What do you enjoy most about turning?
This one is a toughie. I enjoy so many aspects of it. I like hauling the logs home, opening them up to see what is inside, so on and so forth until the finished product. However, if I have to pick, I think there is no more fun to be had than a sharp gouge, a wet blank, and a powerful motor to throw shavings all over the place until they are knee deep in a matter of minutes.

What was your first completed turned project? You get bonus points for a picture of it.
My very first piece (I am pretty sure) was a meat tenderizer. It gave up the ghost long ago when the tenon on the handle snapped from enthusiastic tenderizing. It had a few rough-cut coves and beads in a straight handle, glued into a square block that had the teeth sawn out on the bandsaw. That piece actually dates to 1988 and my first lathe.

What is your favorite individual piece that you have turned, and why?
This is another tough one. If I had to pick it would be a winged cherry burl where I turned the trunk of the tree as a whole, and end grain to boot. It was a huge challenge on a number of levels, and was new for me in a number of different ways.

What is your favorite form that you turn?
I guess it has to be bowls – bowls of all sorts of course. Right now I am doing more in the way of natural edges, and I like very simple shapes. I also like highly figured wood, and I prefer to let the wood do the talking through a simple shape, rather than any augmentation on my part.

What do you not turn now that you want to - or plan to - in the future?
I would like to turn a profit. Ha Ha, I already do that most of the time, but there have been a few times where I have managed to hose myself in an estimate. Seriously, I would like to do more in the way of hollow forms. I do not turn many, I think because my German heritage gets in the way. “For vat can it be used for?” is a common question around here, and I tend to think that way myself. If I ever get the time, I might even do some (gasp!) art turning, like in augmented stuff. I know, I know, I just wrote that I don’t like to do that and let the figure of the wood show through, but sometimes I get some really vanilla type wood here, and I can’t burn it all, can I?

What is your favorite form someone else turns/has turned?
This is a real hard one to answer, and I think I am going to cop out. Truth be told, I get a great amount of satisfaction cruising the different turning groups on the net, going to meetings, etc, and looking at what other people are doing, regardless of what they are doing. Even the newest turners have something to offer all the rest of us in the way of perspective and education. Ever since I have been a member of the AAW and have attended meetings, I have always said that show and tell is the most important aspect of the meeting.

What is your favorite wood to work with and why?
I don’t think I have a single species I could name, but I could narrow it down to maple, cherry, and walnut. We have a huge amount of all three growing locally to me, and it is some of the best quality that can be found anywhere in the world. I like to tell people money really does grow on trees around here.

Are you a member of the Screen Actors Guild?
Not yet, but I love telling people that I am a movie star. It really gets a good laugh, especially when I say that I am a really small movie star. It sends peoples’ brains into some sort of overload trying to figure out what that means. Can I tell a story? You can always edit it out. Last year we were going out to eat with my in-laws at a really good diner that does not take reservations. There were seven of us and it was a Friday night. The place was packed, and I was worried I might turn into a skeleton before we got to a table. I went up to put our name in anyway, and when I told the hostess we had seven, she said she was going to take us right away because a big table had just opened up, and there was no telling how long it would be before another would. I turned and waved the family through the crowd. As we walked to our table, my one daughter, the one hardest to fool with outlandish stories asked how we got in so fast. I turned, and as straight as a judge I said, “I told the waitress who I was and that I had a DVD out, and she said come right on in sir.” “REALLY!?!”, my daughter said? No, not really! I then confessed, and we all had a good laugh about catching the most suspicious of the three so easily.

Have you met or hung out with any fellow Creekers? Tell us about it. And what's with this Five Barns thing?
Not above 300 by now! I have met Creekers from all over the US and Canada through my own travels, and through people coming here for lessons or the Five Barns Picnic. That is an event that started with us inviting people over to our house as early as 1995 – people we had met over the Internet that is. Back in those days everyone on the Internet was an axe murderer or worse, but it turned out that most of them were just regular folks from somewhere else. In our old place we could only host up to 10 people or so, but when we got here, we had lots of room, and we use it. We have had over 100 people at one time from all over the US and Canada here for our picnics. They have come from as far as FL, WA, ME, TX, Canada, and heartland states like WI, MI, etc. We’ve had folks here from every state east of the Mississippi with the exception of MS and LA. People have called me on the phone to tell me that they are passing through, and could they stop to say hello (and not just you!). And of course, when I am on the road, I like to meet folks in their own areas. Probably the most recent official gathering was last April when the nice folks out in WI and MN got together when I was out there demonstrating.

What if your favorite piece someone else has turned, and why?
I think the best answer to this one is to see my answer above.

What brought you to SMC?
I am a charter member, one of the first to arrive here when Badger Pond was being drained. Keith was a participant on the Pond, and when he announced he was starting the Creek, I came along with a bunch of other refugees.

Got any nicknames? How'd you get it?
I’ve been called all kinds of things, some nice and some not. Probably the most enduring, one that goes all the way back to my college days in the 70s, and persists until today regardless of where I go, is Mr. Bill - ohhh nooo!

Now let's get a little deep... If you were a tree, what tree would you be and why?
I knew this was coming. I think I would have to say oak. I don’t even like the stuff for woodworking and especially not for turning, but the oak tree is strong, it can be very large, and grow to be very old. It has great use and utility, even though it is not the prettiest of woods. Once I shuffle off this mortal coil, I would like people to be able to say that I was useful and strong, and lived what I believed, even though I might not have been all that good looking.

If you won the Irish Sweepstakes what part of your life would change?
Probably not that much. I would start to hire people to do the things that I have to do that I do not care to do, so that I could spend more time doing the things I like to do. I have to say here though, that this would never happen since I do not play the lottery. With the odds of winning so remote, I like to say that the lottery is a tax on stupidity. The dumber you are, the more you have to pay. Please note, if anyone reading this likes to play the lottery accept this in the humorous vein in which it was intended!

Here's Bill's personal website: http://www.enter.net/~ultradad/ (http://www.enter.net/%7Eultradad/)

And here's his professional site http://www.wonderfulwood.com/

Both come highly reccommended.

Bill was a bit shy (Bill - Shy?:eek:) about providing some pics. But I stole these off his two websites just to keep Tyler Happy.

46469 46470

46471 46472


Ernie Nyvall
09-09-2006, 8:24 AM
Nice to get to know you better Bill. You are a funny guy.

I've noticed in several pics of you and someone else that you have two stiff fingers. Did you have some sort of accident and how do they affect your turning? :rolleyes:

Good interview.

Ken Fitzgerald
09-09-2006, 8:50 AM
Nice to know more about you Bill!

I had a friend in his 70's who had an artificial leg. He was elk hunting and loading his 4-wheeler when it flipped pinning him. He managed to squirm out from under it. Ron was 5'6" about 130 lbs. Some other hunters drove up in a truck, flipped right side up and loaded it for him. You both were lucky!

Jim Becker
09-09-2006, 9:44 AM
I grew up a country boy in the Pocono Mountains, northeastern PA,

Do tell specifically so those of us who also grew up in that region can visualize things and make a pilgrimage to the Grumbine Mecca... :D

Dennis Peacock
09-09-2006, 10:01 AM
Nice to know more about you Bill. Very good interview.:D

Don Orr
09-09-2006, 10:02 AM
Interview that is. Glad to hear you didn't let that little green beast get the best of you. I count myself as one of the fortunate to have met you at our symposium in Albany last year. Hope you are considering coming back. I've been trying to get our group to get you up here to demo but I guess you are just too popular elsewhere;) . I hope to get to 5 Barns someday.

Loved the first video, looking forward to the second. (Maybe in Albany?)

Take care,

Bernie Weishapl
09-09-2006, 10:49 AM
Bill it is nice to get to know you better. Love the first video and looking forward to the second one also.

As Bill says if ya missed it that is what rewind is for. :p

George Conklin
09-09-2006, 11:39 AM
Great interview, Bill. Love the "flesh tone hair" part.


Barry Stratton
09-09-2006, 11:44 AM
WOW, great interview Bill. Sounds like you are living a dream....with a ton of behind the scenes work to make it happen. A huge WELL DONE for successfully homeschooling your kids as well! You are a man of many talents.....

Karl Laustrup
09-09-2006, 12:39 PM
Bill, thanks for that in depth interview. After meeting you in person it's good to gain a wee bit more insight of who you are.

One of these years I'll get back to the picnic. Until then let us know next time your passing through these parts. Would enjoy another get together. :)


Steve Clardy
09-09-2006, 12:52 PM
Great interview Bill!!

Bob Noles
09-09-2006, 1:27 PM

Great interview and true to form as always :)

You're the best!

Mark Pruitt
09-09-2006, 3:20 PM
Excellent interview from "A man out standing in his field!" It was a pleasure to meet you, Bill. Susie says hi too. BTW, it looks like Tyler has grown a bit?:p


Cody Colston
09-09-2006, 5:02 PM
I am also a counselor/preacher/teacher, with a Masters of Biblical Studies and two years post-masters work in marriage and family counseling


There's a lot more to you than meets the eye and there's err, already quite a bit to meet the eye, if you get my drift! ;)

Great interview and glad to learn more about you. One of these days I'm gonna make it up to your neck-'o-the-woods for a visit.

Wes Bischel
09-09-2006, 7:20 PM
Thanks for taking the time to write up the interview. It's good to know a bit more about the man behind the lathe - so to speak. I'm doing the stay-at-home gig as well - though I don't know that I'm up to home schooling though!:eek: :D I have a lot of respect for anyone that takes on such a huge task.
I had not heard of your recent mishap. I'm glad to hear you were not hurt badly. I guess the question is - how much damage did you do to the tractor!;) :D

I would also say thanks for being a contributor here and elsewhere. Your wit and wisdom helps many even if indirectly.


Bruce Shiverdecker
09-09-2006, 8:23 PM
Evening Bill. Since coming to the Creek, I have been throughly impressed by your offerings. Now, I can be impressed by the MAN! Thank you for giving us an insite to "MR BILL!"


Martin Shupe
09-09-2006, 9:58 PM
I'd like to add that if you like turning, you should get Bill's DVD's. If you want to learn to turn better, you should take some one on one instruction from Bill. Well worth it, IMHO.

Don Baer
09-09-2006, 10:03 PM
Mr. Bill,
Good to get to know ya better. I visit your web page often and enjoy your teachings.

Mark Cothren
09-10-2006, 12:11 AM
Nice interview, Bill! Enjoyed reading it.

Robert Watsek
09-10-2006, 1:44 AM
Bill, you are indeed a man of many talents. I have gotten so much from your first video that I am having a hard time waiting delivery on the second one. Thanks again.


Cecil Arnold
09-10-2006, 10:58 AM
Bill, I've been trying to get to 5 barns for the past three years to meet you and maybe learn something about spinny work. Haven't made it yet so getting to read your interview will have to do for now.

Randy Moore
09-10-2006, 3:29 PM
Bill, I have never met you and have not seen either of your videos, but will get them soon. I want them before I get a lathe so I might learn a little before I do anything. I really do admire you for what you have done both in wood and with your kids.
I hope you didn't hurt the JD too much when you pushed it off of you.
Wish you would come to the Kansas City area. I believe several SMCers here in the area.
Bill I do believe you are a very blessed man.
Tyler , couldn't you find a hole to stand in?:eek: Bill can't be shorter than you!!!!!!!!!:D

BTW, it looks like Tyler has grown a bit?:p

Ed Scolforo
09-10-2006, 5:42 PM
Bill: Nice interview. I was furtunate to have spent a day taking lessons from Bill last May and seeing him again at the Albany symposium. I can tell ya, Bill's a straight shooter and a real gentleman. Thank you, Bill.

Corey Hallagan
09-10-2006, 6:50 PM
Nice to know you better Bill!


Mike Ramsey
09-10-2006, 8:27 PM
Nice to read about you Bill! My daughter tells all her friends that I
know a move star & that I talked to him on the phone ;) , when
her friends come over I have to put on your DVD to prove she's
not lying! After seeing the DVD, for some reason they believe her?

Tom Sherman
09-10-2006, 10:28 PM
Great interview Bill, glad to get to know you better. Kinda nice to gain a little insight on the man that has inspired an immeasureable mountain of wood shavings:D

Bill Grumbine
09-11-2006, 9:59 AM
Good morning everyone! Thanks for all the responses, and kind words. I have answer to the followup questions below.

Ernie, I think it is a genetic thing with my fingers. Whenever a camera shows up, the automatically extend into a V shape and go behind someone's head! :D

Jim, I grew up in Tobyhanna, about four or five miles from the depot, going towards Mt. Pocono. My parents still live up that way.

Don, I had planned to go to Albany this year, but will be in Georgia demonstrating for a couple of clubs.

Mke, kids are funny that way, aren't they? My daughters roll their eyes if they have to hear someone say something nice about their Dad, but I catch them on a regular basis saying something about me being a "movie star" when they think I am not around to hear it.

Followup on the JD incident. I was a little stiff and sore for a couple of days, and I have a huge bruise on the inside of my right knee and calf - and I almost never bruise. It was one of those things that makes me aware of how fragile life is, and how fast it can change. I have been riding and using various tractors for years on a very hilly property, and rollover is something that is very close to the top of my mind whenever I am on one. I thought I was going to be okay rolling off the back of the trailer, but it turned out I was wrong, and it could have been a very expensive lesson affecting a lot of people.

The tractor also did well in the whole incident. In fact, it is almost embarrassing to call it a tractor. We refer to it as the toy, as it is much smaller than the bigger JD400 or teh old Ford farm tractor. I tell people it is a lawn mower with a chair on it. :rolleyes: I broke one of the plastic pins molded into the hood where the support arms go. The service manager said he would look into the cost of a new hood, and I told him there was no need. I already knew it was too expensive to consider, and not really necessary. They are going to drill it out and put a bolt through to hold it. It will be a reminder to be a little more cognizant of slopes and such for me in the future.

If anyone has any more questions, I will be glad to answer them.


Jim Becker
09-11-2006, 6:31 PM
Ah, Tobyhanna. My first six years were just north of there in South Sterling. :D That would be about two doors south of the Rain___ (?) restaurant is now. Of course, that was a very long time ago!