View Full Version : SMC Turner Interview - Mark Pruitt

Andy Hoyt
11-04-2006, 10:11 AM
Name: Mark Pruitt

DOB: 8/4/59, tail-end Boomer

Physical description:
5’10” and about 210 pounds. Too fat, but how do you resist sweets when they’re in your face all the time?

Where is home?
Bedford County, VA, a few miles outside of Lynchburg. I’ve been here two and a half years; previously lived in Birmingham AL all my life except during college. Birmingham used to be a fun place too but it became so congested that I was more than ready to escape. I do miss my friends there terribly, but you couldn’t pay me enough to move back. (Well, maybe a couple million—HA!)

Moving to the outskirts of a city one fourth the size of Birmingham was a culture change to say the least. I’ve had to make some adjustments and learn to live with the inconvenience of being further away from “a real city,” but all in all it has been a great move and I would unhesitatingly do it all over again.

Family information:
Susan and I have been married for almost eight years. Our only “boy” is a 6 year-old miniature schnauzer named Zach, who is quite convinced that he owns not just the house but the planet it sits upon as well. To be so small, he has a bark that’ll put you into orbit.

49507 49508 49509

I am a full time Clinical Chaplain with a large health care organization in Central Virginia. We are a Level Two Trauma Center and have one of the busiest emergency departments in the state. I serve the ED and also our cardiology / cardiovascular services, which has national recognition for its speed in moving patients who are in cardiac arrest from the point of entry to the lab where they receive life-saving interventions. I may be a strange character for this, but I get a certain kind of rush out of being able to help families move through these kinds of crises.

So, what do you consider to be a “good day” at work?
That’s the question I keep asking myself and I don’t know the answer. But I do like my work.

Do you have a website?
Ha! It’s all I can do to keep up with what’s going on without having a website to keep current! Maybe someday, but that’s way, way down the list.

Shop Overview:
“Two car woodworking shop” is the description that the LOML gives it. It’s the garage of our house, and while I envision being able to actually park one vehicle in it someday, heaven only knows if that will ever happen.

The shop itself: Machinery includes a Delta LT Unisaw with the long extension rails and aux. table on a mobile base; a Grizzly 8” x 65” jointer; Grizzly floor drill press; 12” disc sander; Delta 12” CMS; shop-made router table housing a PC 7518; DeWalt 735 planer; Delta mortiser; Delta 14” BS; 26 gallon air compressor; 3hp dust collector (LOUD!); Leigh dovetail jig; Kreg jig; Slow Speed Grinder w/ Wolverine jig, Skew and Varigrind attachments.


Standard collection of portable power tools, mostly PC but also Senco, Bosch, Freud, and a couple of cheapo cordless drills that have worked surprisingly well. Two Ridgid shopvacs, one dedicated to the CMS and plugged into a switch that turns it on when you pull the trigger on the CMS. My “workbench” is a laminated maple slab that is presently sitting on a pair of sawhorses. I have completed the leg assembly and need to mount the two vises and aprons and it’ll be good to go. If I could “turn” the rest of this bench, it would be done by the end of the day. That’s how “spin crack” has affected me.

How many lathes do you own? Tell us about 'em. Even the ones you no longer have. Why did you choose these lathes?
My first “lathe” was a Sears Router Crafter. I thought it was a neat concept, but two things discouraged me – the amount of time it took to turn a spindle with only a minimum of features, and having the constant scream of the router going for all of that time. I became frustrated with it and it sat in a box for 15 years or so before I finally realized I was never going to use it again. I gave it away. Equally frustrating was the Sears Bowl Crafter, for the same two reasons. I let it go as well.

My first “true” lathe, which I still own is a Harbor Freight 34706. I bought it not really knowing whether I was going to be any good at turning or even how well I would enjoy it (more on that later), but it was priced low enough that if I didn’t find it to be worth keeping, I wouldn’t lose much in reselling it. I have also recently purchased a Rikon mini, and posted it (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=44786)after being thoroughly taken to task by the esteemed MOA for failing to post it within the required…..Hey, what IS the limit? I just read the TOS and I don’t see it. You’re pulling my leg, Hoyt!


How many turning tools do you have? Store bought, home made, favorites?
Eighteen. The 8 piece Harbor Freight set, two Sorby bowl gouges ¼” and ½”, a Crown inbound bowl scraper, a Pinnacle hook nose scraper, two Sorby beading tools, a Crown square scraper, a Sorby thin kerf parting tool, a Sorby multi-tip hollowing tool, and a Sorby bedan tool. I have also just ordered the Sorby texturing/spiraling tool and am awaiting its arrival. At this point, the ½” bowl gouge has by far been my favorite. I love its stoutness and rigidity, and the various cuts it is capable of making with the swept-back grind I gave it. The multi-tip hollowing tool has also been very enjoyable to use, and I’m only beginning to learn about turning hollow forms. The ¼” bowl gouge has been somewhat disappointing, as it seems not to have enough rigidity to perform some things I ask of it. My chuck is a Oneway Talon, and as frequently as I change jaws on it, I really ought to buy a second one. Always something more to spend money on!

Given my preference for visual learning, videos have proven to be some valuable turning “tools” as well. I’m not sure that I would have even tried to learn woodturning if I were not able to watch it. The videos by Raffan, Del Stubbs, and of course our own Bill Grumbine, have been incredibly helpful.

Wait a minute. There you went with a stealth gloat again. You ain’t getting past me, Pruitt! As the MOA, I see everything!

Yeah, I know. I’ll post a pic after the spiraling/texturing tool gets here. Gee whiz…… OK. Break time. I’m going for some coffee, be back in a bit.

And on that note let’s break for a commercial interruption.

Andy Hoyt
11-04-2006, 10:11 AM
How do you take your Moxie? (Straight up? beer chaser? neat? with corn flakes?)
I take my Moxie by osmosis (http://www.drinkmoxie.us/). I just think about it and I’m cured!


Cured of what?
Any desire to try it. I’ll stick to other favorites, thanks.

Andy Hoyt
11-04-2006, 10:12 AM
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

How long have you been turning, and what got you started in the first place?
That one should be simple, but it’s not. I bought my Harbor Freight lathe in November of 2002, and had it for an entire month before trying to turn anything – that’s how intimidated I was. I had been into woodworking since 1986 (actually earlier if you count two years of shop class in HS), but had shied away from the lathe. In late 2002, I was having this internal struggle going, with part of me saying “I’d like to get into turning” and the rest of me saying “leave it alone.” At the prodding of a good friend, I took the leap.

In December ’02 I began my first turning project—two candlesticks, and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, the Holiday season distracted me and in early ’03 my focus turned to constructing a new router table. Then, a friend of mine commissioned me to build a bookcase for her, and shortly after I finished it, a new job opportunity presented itself and I was packing tools instead of using them.

Finally, in late April of this year, I found myself looking at my lathe while waiting for glue to dry and asking myself if I was going to get serious about using it or not. I bought a chainsaw, went out and rounded up a few logs. In May, I chucked a blank into the lathe and turned my first bowl. Given the compliments of my wife and the positive feedback of a few Creekers when I posted it, I figured that maybe I can do this after all.

At this point, you’re probably scratching your head and wondering, why is this guy so doubtful of himself. Those of you who have met me have doubtless noticed that I have some significant injuries from a fire, including very severe injuries to my left hand. I watch other turners do what they do, and I sometimes have the added step of using my imagination to modify holding methods to accommodate my own abilities. (Notice I said “abilities” not “disabilities.” It’s all about what you can do, not what you can’t do. You simply must think that way. Teach that to your children. They’ll thank you down the road. OK…exit soapbox.) I could have blown turning off and never tried it, but that’s just not me. I had to try, so I did and doggone if the Vortex didn’t just suck me right on in, wallet and all.

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Ice cream? I just finished a cup of coffee! Well, um……let me think. Ben ‘n Jerry’s “Everything but the…” is one of my very favorites. All kinds of good stuff swirled into it and you just never know what the next bite will bring. Peanut butter, chocolate, nuts, Heath bars, it goes on and on… B&J’s NY Super Fudge Chunk is another really good one. Their Peanut Butter Cup ice cream ain’t bad either. Another favorite is Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip. But what blew all of those wonderful flavors away was an Ice Cream Cake that the LOML brought home from Cold Stone Creamery on my birthday last August. It’s called “Peanut Butter Playground (http://www.coldstonecreamery.com/cakes/signature_cakes.html)” and it is some absolutely incredible stuff.

What do you enjoy most about turning?
Occasional violent catches notwithstanding, there is something peaceful about it. There’s a way to become completely “zoned” where the only thing in the entire world is yourself, the lathe, the tool in your hand, and the little (or not so little) piece of creation in front of you, taking on a whole new form and a whole new life.

What was your first completed turned project? You get bonus points for a picture of it.
The aforementioned candlesticks were never completed. I still have them; completing them would be no more difficult than buying a couple of brass inserts and drilling the holes for them. I simply must find a Round Tuit.

First completed project: a small bowl, turned from poplar, 4” diameter x 2 ½” deep. I posted it here (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=36866)


What is your favorite individual piece that you have turned, and why?
That would be this HF (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=44010) Evidently I did something right, as it continues to get compliments. It’s my favorite for many reasons – it was a move into new territory, I got a decent form with a small footprint, and I got the finish “right” (something I don’t always do!!!). I showed it to one of my nursing unit managers who immediately said she wanted to purchase one from me. Gee whiz….what do I say to that??? I’m not an expert or anything close….


What brought you to SMC?
I found SMC in 2005 after it was mentioned in another forum. I lurked for a few months and was impressed by the level of knowledge and skill. I also appreciated the fact that there was no “flaming” and that people here show respect for each other. I joined in February of this year.

Do you recall the first thread you posted on SMC?
Nope. I skipped that one and went straight to my second (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=33446).

Excellent move – selling off that tablesaw to make room for new spin gear is laudable. But sorry – here’s the first (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=32657). Ugh! Flatwork! Thought you said you sold it?

What is your favorite form that you turn?
Well, either bowls or….what else….oh yeah—bowls.

What do you not turn now that you want to - or plan to - in the future?
Near future: Pens, maybe. I haven’t gotten into pens yet. I hope to do something with it in the next few months. Pens don’t drive my passion like bowls do, but you can’t just diss something like that without even trying it! Who knows, maybe it’ll hook me.

Distant future: Coring, most definitely. Maybe a McNaughton Center-Saver System. It kind of frustrates me to see how much of a blank becomes waste, especially when I paid good money for it. The McNaughton tool would put that frustration to bed. But that puppy’s so expensive, I think a new “BIG” lathe has to be my next priority.

More distant future: Segmented bowls and vases. I have a couple of books on that subject. Every now and then I’ll pick one up, read a little, and think “Yup, I’m gonna tackle this stuff someday.”

What is your favorite form someone else turns/has turned?
THAT one is very hard to answer. So much beautiful stuff is displayed here on SMC. If I just had to pick a favorite, I’d still be stuck between two—the hollow forms that Travis and others are creating, and the segmented vases that Jim King has recently posted.

What is your favorite wood to work with and why?
Free wood. Because it’s free. I’ve turned several species of wood – poplar, walnut, pine, maple, oak, mahogany, cherry, bubinga, padauk, and I forget. The maple was the most pleasing, because it seemed to cut so cleanly. Maple has also been one of my favorites for “non-lathe” work, for much the same reason. I’m about to turn some zebrawood, bloodwood, and purpleheart. I’m eager to see how I do with them.

Have you met or hung out with any fellow Creekers? Tell us about it.
Susan and I made our way up to Bill Grumbine’s Five Barns Picnic (http://simplyturning.com/wc/5barns/) in July. I had the pleasure of meeting several Creekers there, and it was a milestone event as far as my woodturning is concerned. Joe Fisher was especially helpful to both Susan and I. And I was pleased to meet Jim Becker, Tyler Howell, and a host of others—if I tried to name them all there’s no way I could remember everyone. I was a little disappointed that the MOA did not show up. Me too! Locally, Don Fuss is a Creeker I’ve met who also enjoys woodturning. Joe Marotta is another Creeker I’ve met locally. But you know, I’ve not gotten any pics, so I guess we really didn’t meet? I also recently had a brief but enjoyable visit with Tom Sherman. I’ve noticed a whole slew of Creekers in the eastern part of Virginia but have not met them personally. Hopefully one day I will.

What if your favorite piece someone else has turned, and why?
This piece (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=41918) by Ted Calver comes to mind:

….as well as this one (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=43690) by Travis Stinson:

……and many, many more. I seem to find new “favorites” all the time.

Rumor has it that you're sharing your lathe with Mrs. Mark. What's that like?
Ever since I bought my lathe in ’02 Susan has said from time to time, “I want to learn to turn bowls.” The trouble has been that she has so many irons in the fire she can’t figure out which one to pull out next. She’s been a nurse, a Certified Nurse-Midwife, a Professor of Nursing, a consultant, and that’s just the professional stuff. She also enjoys hiking, biking, and volunteer work. Her load lightened considerably when she finally earned her third (and hopefully last!!!) Master’s degree this past May. It seemed to me like a good time to see if woodturning could fill the “time void” left by her no longer being in school. This has not been as successful as I would have liked, but I can be both patient and persistent. She most definitely has the interest, and she was able to put in some spin time at Five Barns in July. Right now, she’s spending a lot of time working on her ordination stuff, but is almost finished. The sooner I get her abysserated, the better! She already has her first turning tool, a 3/8” P&N spindle gouge which is writhing in agony as it sits idle, waiting for its owner to caress it and put it to good use. Her biggest challenge with woodturning will be having to stand still while at the lathe. :p:eek:

Got any nicknames? How'd you get it?
None…I guess “Mark” is easy enough that no nickname has ever been needed.

Folks – This guy needs a nickname. Let’s get to it!

Now let's get a little deep... If you were a tree, what tree would you be and why?
A cedar, because they are so gorgeous when covered with snow in winter.

If you won the Irish Sweepstakes what part of your life would change?
Most definitely, my place of residence. We like our house, but what we would really like would be privacy – the kind that would come with a wooded, 10-acre piece of land with an A-Frame house right in the center; and a detached 1500 sq. ft. building for a shop.

I doubt that much would change about my work; at least not for a while; except for the fact that I would no longer be dependent upon it to pay the bills! And there are at least one or two non-profit organizations that would become happier as well. ;):)

You’re an inspiration to all of us, Mark. Thanks very much for sharing your story.

Ken Fitzgerald
11-04-2006, 10:28 AM
Excellent interview Mark! Nice to know more about you! And.....I'm with you.......it's not what you can't do........it's what you can do and what you do with it! Keep "preaching" that philosophy!

Bernie Weishapl
11-04-2006, 10:29 AM
Mark very nice interview. It is really nice to get to know you better.

Curt Fuller
11-04-2006, 11:41 AM
Great interview Mark! It sounds like you live an interesting life.

Keith Christopher
11-04-2006, 3:03 PM
Glad to get to know you better Mark !!!!

Tom Sherman
11-04-2006, 6:26 PM
Great interview Mark nice to know more of the story behind the man.

Travis Stinson
11-04-2006, 7:03 PM
Nice to know more about you Mark. I'm looking forward to seeing where you work goes. I admire your outlook on things, keep it up!:)

Barry Stratton
11-04-2006, 10:35 PM
Nice interview Mark and "THANKS" for the job you do!

George Conklin
11-06-2006, 9:08 AM
Wonderful interview, Mark. I appreciate the work you do. Thank you.

Don Fuss
11-08-2006, 7:41 PM
Great interview, Mark!

Jim Becker
11-08-2006, 8:16 PM
Excellent interview, Mark!

Don Orr
11-09-2006, 9:48 AM
Very nice interview! Nice to get to know you a little. Thanks for doing the work you do. I know how important it can be. The Chaplain at the hospital where I worked at the time officiated at our wedding. Great guy with an often difficult job. Really takes a dedicated, special person. You know, someone with a "can do" attitude.
Nice shop also. I'm at almost the exact same point with my workbench as you are.;)

Keith Burns
11-10-2006, 10:56 AM
Great interview Mark, nice to know more about you:) :)

Mark Pruitt
11-11-2006, 11:25 PM
Thanks for all the kind words guys. Woodturning is one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done. I'm excited about delving further into it. Thanks for all the things each of you contributes to SMC.


Kurt Rosenzweig
11-12-2006, 12:24 PM
Nice to meet ya Mark! Is Bedford county anywhere near Richmond?

Mark Pruitt
11-12-2006, 1:13 PM
Nice to meet ya Mark! Is Bedford county anywhere near Richmond?
Kurt, I'm 2.5 hours west of Richmond.