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Thread: SMC Turner Interview - Jeff Nicol

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Harvey, Michigan

    SMC Turner Interview - Jeff Nicol

    Jeff Nicol.jpg How young are you? 48 years until September

    Physical description (Family rated, please) 5’11” barrel chest with a little bit of “Dunlaps disease” as the belly done laps over the belt! Getting old lets thing slide down to middle and creates a better center of gravity!

    Where is home? Home is in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

    Where else have you lived? I was born in Ottawa, Illinois, then we moved to Grants Pass, Oregon, for a few years, then to Boulder, Colorado, for 1st grade. My dad was a mechanic for Ford Motors and he had the wanderlust, so we traveled around a bit until we came to Wisconsin in 1968. I grew up in a little town of about 1000 hearty souls called Fall Creek which is a few miles from Eau Claire.

    Family information: Took me 4 times to find the best wife a man could ever want! She loves me no matter how much wood I haul home and fill up the yard with! Her name is Bobbie and she is the savior of my life. If I had not met her I would have moved to the mountains out west somewhere and become a hermit. So GOD works in mysterious ways and I thank him every day for bringing us together! We have 4 children between us, 3 girls and one boy ages 21, 23, 25 and 27. They are all doing well and finding their way into the world we live in. Our son is in the Air Force, stationed in Iraq right now, but will be back in August in Idaho at his regular duty base. The 3 girls are all college educated and working hard. We have a wonderful first grandchild who is almost 5 months old and he is the greatest thing! My wife loves being a grandma and I could not be prouder.

    Do you have a website? Yes I have a website: It mostly has just informational things on it now. I had a store page that was wearing me out, so that is now gone, but the cat is already out of the bag and I still do a good business. I have a ton of stuff almost ready to post on it that I hope will give help in many areas of turning to new and old turners alike. We all do things a little different and these tricks and shortcuts I hope will help others in their woodturning adventure!

    Vocation: Well I am retired from wrecking both shoulders on the job as a Commercial Heating and Ventilation Journeyman Sheet Metal Worker. All the pushing, heavy lifting and repetitive motions that go with the job wore me out before my time. I always tried to give 120% and in the end I would not have changed a thing! Hard work and seeing a job through to completion is one of the greatest feelings in the world!

    Shop.jpg Shop Overview: My shop is a 24’ x 24’ garage with a 7’ x 16’ addition to the back. It houses just about every wood working tool you can think of and some I am not sure of! It has a second floor with roughly 16’ x 16’ of usable space up there. I also have a 42’ x 36’ pole shed out in the country that houses my Woodmizer LT 30 and lots of lumber and other toys!

    ContactSheet_4.jpg How many lathes do you own? I own 3 wood lathes and one small metal lathe. No.1 is a Powermatic 3520B, No.2 is an old no-name Chinese generic 12 x 36 that has been retrofitted with a VFD and 1hp 3 phase motor, and No.3 is a Delta 46-460. The little metal lathe is a Harbor Freight mini that I use for lots of tool making and turning ideas into reality.

    ContactSheet_5.jpg How many turning tools do you have? I counted what was easily seen in all the wood curls and I came up with around 90, but there are a bunch of old tools that my cousin bought me at a thrift sale that need some TLC to bring them into the mix, so most likely over 100! Hi my name is Jeff and I am a toolaholic.

    If you could upgrade to another lathe - what would it be and why? If I had the space and the money, I would love to have the big Robust lathe. It has some great features and is made here in Wisconsin! I dreamed of owning a Stubby 1000 in the beginning when I got into turning heavily, so if I ever had a chance for one, I would possibly do that too! I have mentioned it a couple times in posts that I am planning on building a big lathe to turn very large things. It is in the dream state but, who knows, I may win the lottery and all my dreams will come true!

    How long have you been turning and what got you started in the first place? My first attempt at turning was, I believe, in 1977 as a sophomore in high school. I turned a pair of wall sconces for my Mom that were pretty rough but I loved the experience. Then, when I was in the Army from 1979-1985, I was able to buy a Shopsmith and turned a little with that. So, it was about 6 years ago when my Dad and I had a little woodworking shop and he bought the first lathe, the generic Chinese lathe, that I started my obsession with turning!

    What's your favorite flavor of ice cream? I absolutely love Maple Nut and then 2nd is plain vanilla that I doctor up with all kinds of goodies! Must be put in the microwave for about 30 seconds to get some melting started too!

    What do you enjoy most about turning? I think what I most enjoy is the mysteries of what are in each piece of wood. When you start to take the outer layers away, and things appear and change so fast, sometimes it is hard to stop at a certain point because something better could be one cut away! I like the speed at which you can see things happen right in front of you and the smells of all the woods are just an added bonus!

    What do you enjoy the least about turning? Cleaning up all the curls and dust on everything in the shop! Sometimes I hate the last few steps of finishing, that is why I have way to many pieces that are almost done, but not quite.

    What was your first completed turned project? I don’t have the wall sconces I made in 1977 but I do have a small wooden box I turned in about 1979 on my Dad’s old craftsman lathe he had back then. I always forget about it as it has been with me so long and sits on my dresser with junk in it.

    continued next page......
    Last edited by Steve Schlumpf; 05-28-2010 at 4:14 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Harvey, Michigan

    Jeff Nicol interview continued….

    What is your favorite individual piece that you have turned, and why? I think it is a tossup between 2 pieces, both turned from an old rotted hollow box elder log. Here's each piece in a different orientation to show the wonderful red colors in them.
    Box Elder Hollow Log v1.jpg Box Elder Hollow Log v2.jpg Box Elder Hollow Log v3.jpg ContactSheet_6.jpg

    What is your favorite form that you turn? I am really into hollow forms and tall vases right now, but I do love to turn simple utilitarian bowls. I really started out doing tons of miniatures and they still are a big part of my turning! (Photos of miniatures are included at end of interview)

    What do you not turn now that you want to - or plan to - in the future? I want to do some segmented work and do some burning and carving on some of the pieces I have ready for those techniques.

    What is your favorite piece someone else has turned, and why? I have many favorites in the professional arena such as Malcolm Tibbetts work, Ron Kent, Trent Bosch, Robert W Chatelain and many others. But the pieces that gave me the best feelings were the ones turned by my nephew the weekend he spent with me in the shop. He just turned 18 and has a great future ahead of him! I am thinking of getting him a small lathe for his graduation gift to start him out on his own epic journey into life!

    Are there any turners (or others), well known or not, that have influenced your turnings? That is a tough question, I see so many wonderful pieces here on SMC that I want to try and replicate in one way or another. There are so many great ideas out there to attempt and turners who have great skills that I someday hope to emulate, such as the ones I named above. But I think Jimmy Clewes and Richard Raffan were the first ones to push me in certain directions in my turning. But right now I would have to say, and many will agree, that Mr. John Keeton is an inspiration to us all! His commitment and total immersion into woodturning along with the incredible accomplishments in such a short period of time are truly in a word “Amazing”. Thank You John for your great contributions to the turning world!

    Do you belong to a turning club? I did for little while but I had a bit of a personality conflict with the president and decided that I was better off being my own man and offering what I know and my shop to any and all who wish to learn or experience woodturning. I made some great friends from the club and continue those relationships. I think SMC is my club and it has some of the best members of a club that anyone could hope for! Thank you to everyone who has touched my life from SMC and to all of those I have been able to assist in one way or another J!

    What is your favorite wood to work with and why? I am one of the few who truly enjoys working with Red Oak. I love the grain changes, the colors, the burl and most of all I like the sweet to sour smell of the wood! But Sugar Maple would have to be my second favorite and the list is almost endless from there! I love wood!!!! Free is the best though!!

    What brought you to SMC? I was directed to SMC by a good friend of mine, John Borgwardt, who is a member of SMC. He sent me a link to a beautiful lidded vessel with a finial top (I don’t remember for sure, but I think it was Mike Fuson’s work) and I became a member shortly thereafter.

    Do you remember your first SMC post? Not sure about that one, may have been a comment on a turning or one to “Members and their lathes” that was a long time ago and getting close to 2000 posts ago. I could not even find it in a search, so you must have the answer, I hope, right Steve?

    Jeff, looks like you commented on one of Jon Lanier's tea lights:

    continued next page....
    Last edited by Steve Schlumpf; 05-28-2010 at 4:14 PM. Reason: add content

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Harvey, Michigan

    Jeff Nicol interview continued….

    Have you met or hung out with any fellow Creekers? Well, you were the first creeker that I met after I became a member, I already knew John B. from above so that does not count. I hang out with Mike Svoma and have had some quality time with Jeff Fagan also. Richard Golde is one of my regular guests in the wood shop too. I did meet a couple more last year, but my mind is filled with so much clutter right now I would have to go back and check to see who they were. But today Bill Wilcox is coming over around 10a.m. to go over some things and get some info on hollowing and other questions. We met on May 1st at the last art show I did and we hit it off real well. He lives in Hudson, WI., so not too far away for a visit. Matt Ranum and I have been trying to get a visit planned, but he is a very busy guy and we send lots of e-mails back and forth, so I feel like we know each other pretty well already! I wish I had time to travel all over the country and the world to meet lots of you! I think it would be an awesome experience!

    Got any nicknames? How'd you get it? I guess my most used one is “Nick” a play on my last name “Nicol” I have had that since I was in the Army. Now days the most used is “Old Man”. I have lots of young men that I consider my sons that I have had in my life for the last 14 years when I married my darling wife Bobbie. All my son's friends would stay over at our house and I would take them fishing, hunting, fix their bikes, then their cars. Now they are all grown up and spread all over the place, but they consider me a great influence on their lives and a father figure,so I am the “Old Man”!

    Now let's get a little deep (tribute to Andy)... If you were a tree, what tree would you be and why? I think I would be a great big old cotton wood tree like the one in my back yard. It provides a home for many of the critters in the area, is strong and willing to take on all Mother Nature can throw its way. It has lost some of its limbs and still comes back for more! It has craggy rough bark but a soft wonderful inside with great strength built in. Here is a picture of the old monarch!

    If you won the Mega Millions Lottery, what part of your life would change? I would be able to share more of my knowledge with many, many more people! I would be able to buy lathes and tools and donate them to anyone I decided to! It would be great fun for everyone! I could go to all the symposiums and bring along others who would not otherwise be able to attend. I could go on for a long time at the things I would do, but I think the first thing would be to build a bigger shop with every type of tool I have ever dreamed of owning! It would be incredible!! Oh to dream the big dreams!

    Any words of wisdom for your fellow turners? I believe that if you have dreams and desires that you should do all you can to achieve those dreams. I have learned that by being generous and honest with everyone, people remember that, and it will be rewarded in one way or another. Also, being happy with who you are and what you contribute to the world is important no matter how small or how big that contribution is. It has been said that we should try to learn something new each day and I think that is a great way to start each day. It does not matter if it is a new word you learn or how to fly an airplane! All of those new items fit into the puzzle of our lives and builds upon who we are!

    One day at a time!

    ================================================== ==========================

    Here are a few of Jeff's miniatures!
    ContactSheet_001.jpg ContactSheet_12.jpg

    Jeff enjoying another of his interests!
    The blue walleye c.jpg

    At the end of the day… Jeff with his grandson, Brady Thomas Bibeau
    Brady Thomas Bibeau.jpg

    Jeff - thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer all the questions! Great to get to know you a little better!
    Last edited by Steve Schlumpf; 05-28-2010 at 11:15 AM. Reason: add content

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Lewiston, Idaho

    Thanks for the interesting interview!

  5. #5
    What a great interview. Jeff you obviously bring so much to SMC and cant be thanked enough, really. Thanks for all that you do!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Washington's Coast
    Very enjoyable. Thanks.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Front Royal, Va.
    Great interview "Old Man". Glad to know a bit more about you.


    "Soldier On"

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Bloomer, WI
    Great interview, Jeff. Jeff took me under his wing when I joined the local turning club and has been a tremendous mentor ever since. He is truly one of the "good people" in this world. Thanks, Jeff.
    Mike Svoma

    "There is nothing sexier than a woman in camoflage"

  9. #9
    Fantastic interview!! Thanks, Jeff, for taking the time and giving us all a picture of your world, and thanks Steve, for making the effort and taking the time to put it all together with the pics.

    Jeff, you probably do not fully realize the impact you have had on many of us. Besides the tools you have made for me, the wood you have shipped me, and the dozens of emails we have exchanged, your work and helping attitude have really been an inspiration. I am quite sure you have left your mark on more folks than you know.

    Keep the ol' body goin' and don't quit movin'!! That's when old age sneeks up on you!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Svoma View Post
    Great interview, Jeff. Jeff took me under his wing when I joined the local turning club and has been a tremendous mentor ever since. He is truly one of the "good people" in this world. Thanks, Jeff.
    I agree with Mike's post to a "T". With all the bad guy's in the world it is very refreshing to meet one od the "good guy's" and Jeff is one of em.
    Great guy who is willing to help others.
    Enjoyable interview thanks.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Goodland, Kansas
    Great interview Jeff. Thanks for sharing and being old well you got a ways to go Kid.

    Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

    To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Evansville, IN
    You never can tell what people are thinking or what they are about. There is so much hatred in the world these days that sometimes a person does not know who to trust or be freinds with.

    Excellent interview and I aint nobody but your someone id like to meet.

    God Bless

    "To me, there's nothing freer than a bird, you know, just flying wherever he wants to go. And, I don't know, that's what this country is all about, being free. I think everyone wants to be a free bird." - Ronnie Van Zant

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Buffalo, NY
    Good interview. It is great to know more about you, Jeff. Thanks for sharing.
    It’s only work if somebody makes you do it.
    A day can really slip by when you're deliberately avoiding what you're supposed to do.
    Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, a dark side and it binds the universe together.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    torrance, Ca
    Nice interview, nice to meet the man behind all those posts.

  15. #15
    Excellent interview Jeff,
    Nice to know more about you!
    I hope we have the chance to meet in person one day (soon).
    Change One Thing

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