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Thread: What was your "Ah-Ha" Moment?

  1. #1
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    What was your "Ah-Ha" Moment?

    It seems to me that, for most of us, this craft starts as a passing interest -- something we see as practical or an occasional recreational activity -- and at some point it blossoms into a passion. I'm interesting in hearing about your "Ah-Ha" moment, the turning point for your life as a woodturner.

    Was it a specific piece of wood? Your first natural edge piece? A green-wood turning? Gluing up a segmented bowl?

    Or was it spending a few hours watching an experienced woodturner spin something in a lathe? A live demonstration, perhaps? The purchase of a top-notch tool? Or, just a moment of realization you had one afternoon trying different techniques in your shop?

    I'm betting this discussion will develop into some truly amazing, insightful anecdotes and observations.
    Russell Neyman.

    Writer - Woodworker - Historian
    Past President, Olympic Peninsula Woodturners
    West Puget Sound, Washington State


    "Outside of a dog, there's nothing better than a good book; inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

  2. #2
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    Jan 2004
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    Lewiston, Idaho
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    I came home for lunch and while I was here, the FedEx guy delivered "The Bomb". My nearly finished shop waited nearly 2 1/2 years for completion. The idiot turners at SMC got their revenge.
    Ken

  3. #3
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    I remember the exact moment things changed. For two or three years I "tinkered" with turning on a Shopsmith Mark V quasi-lathe I inherited, using a cheap set of Craftsman tools that came with it. The results were so-so, and I got just as much gratification from making conventional gift boxes and furniture for the house.

    The first day I moved into this neighborhood, a passerby who was walking his dog -- Dave Masters -- stuck his head in to look at my equipment and welcome me. He noted my somewhat crude turnings, and invited me to join him at the Olympic Peninsula Woodturners meeting. I didn't know many people in the area, so I said sure. What I saw on the club's Show & Tell Table made my head spin! I was, truly, impressed. I could see the possibilities but had no idea how to get to that level. I imagine that is the same sensation most neophyte woodturners have. But that wasn't the turning point.

    I struggled along for another few months, realizing the shortcomings of the Shopsmith. I did, for awhile, get my hands on a Central Machinery copy lathe, but it was still too lightweight and undersized.

    Then I stumbled upon a deal I couldn't pass up: A 14-inch variable speed Jet that was being sold for almost nothing, and the deal included a large One-Way chuck and plenty of bowl blanks. One piece of wood was a large piece of freshly-cut madrone. A very sharp, well-shaped fingernail grind Sorby bowl gouge was also in the deal.

    So that was the moment: I couldn't wait to get the machine home and set up. I mounted that soaking wet blank into my new chuck and, using my first-ever bowl gouge, sent ribbons of pink-and-yellow shavings flying across the shop. It was fun, graceful, and magical. It was like I was flying and I was hooked! Haven't looked back since.
    Last edited by Russell Neyman; 05-29-2015 at 3:52 PM.
    Russell Neyman.

    Writer - Woodworker - Historian
    Past President, Olympic Peninsula Woodturners
    West Puget Sound, Washington State


    "Outside of a dog, there's nothing better than a good book; inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fitzgerald View Post
    I came home for lunch and while I was here, the FedEx guy delivered "The Bomb". My nearly finished shop waited nearly 2 1/2 years for completion. The idiot turners at SMC got their revenge.
    That wasn't the sort of "ah-ha" I was looking for, Ken, but I'll make note of it.
    Russell Neyman.

    Writer - Woodworker - Historian
    Past President, Olympic Peninsula Woodturners
    West Puget Sound, Washington State


    "Outside of a dog, there's nothing better than a good book; inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

  5. #5
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    It was then I started turning. I do enjoy and don't do enough of it recently Russell.
    Ken

  6. #6
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    Belden, Mississippi
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    Learning how to sharpen my tooling. What a difference.
    Bill
    On the other hand, I still have five fingers.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fitzgerald View Post
    It was then I started turning. I do enjoy and don't do enough of it recently Russell.
    Me too! Since I became president of one of the larger AAW chapters, the majority of my "allotted" lathe time is taken up dealing with club issues. Don't get me wrong -- I love the club and the role I play in elevating the craft -- but I can't wait to get back to having more time spinning things.
    Russell Neyman.

    Writer - Woodworker - Historian
    Past President, Olympic Peninsula Woodturners
    West Puget Sound, Washington State


    "Outside of a dog, there's nothing better than a good book; inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Green Valley, Az.
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    1,202
    I'm sitting here looking at my first ever bowl, a walnut nut bowl,...turned 79 years ago in high school shop. That was in 1936 and I was 15 years old. That started a spark that is still there at age 94. That summer I bought a cheap Sears lathe and a couple of tools after making a few dollars at a summer job. Lots of things happened after that to put an end to my turning. After high school I went to Alaska. When WW2 started I joined the Navy. Couldn't pack a lathe in my sea bag. I never forgot my strong desire to turn more bowls but it wasn't until around 1950 that I bought my 2nd lathe. After that it was on to bigger and better lathes. My present lathe is my 9th. I've just finished getting it set up in my new shop. Yesterday I applied the first coat of finish to my first HF turned in my new shop. I'm just as enthused now as I was 79 years ago after my first bowl. What a wonderful lifelong hobby woodturning has been.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wally Dickerman View Post
    I'm sitting here looking at my first ever bowl, a walnut nut bowl,...turned 79 years ago in high school shop. That was in 1936 and I was 15 years old. That started a spark that is still there at age 94.... What a wonderful lifelong hobby woodturning has been.
    That's a great story, Wally. Do you think you could bring that bowl with you when you come to our 25th Anniversary Party in October?
    Russell Neyman.

    Writer - Woodworker - Historian
    Past President, Olympic Peninsula Woodturners
    West Puget Sound, Washington State


    "Outside of a dog, there's nothing better than a good book; inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    E TN, near Knoxville
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    9,589
    Knowing nothing about turning and with no research, I drove to Home Depot and Sears to get what I needed to make something round to help my son, a first-year architect student. That done, the lathe sat unused for maybe 6 months until I noticed it and thought "Hmm, I'm gonna make me a bowl." With no turning wood at hand and no idea where to find some, I glued up four pieces of rock hard 4/4 red oak boards and made me a bowl! It was ridiculously quick and easy and so instantly gratifying I was hooked.

    (Didn't take two weeks before I realized that lathe would not "cut" it and started sliding down the slope towards today with four lathes and a new shop full of tools and two lifetimes worth of wood on hand. I infected a friend with a gift of the first lathe so the saga continues.)

    John K Jordan

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Chicago Heights, Il.
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    2,136
    I was at a Chicago wood show somewhere back in the 1980's. I just watched Nick Cook demoing and started down the vendor isle. There were four guys sitting at a table representing a wood turning club which would become the Chicago Woodturners. I believe I was the 13 th member. We would sit around A large table and each member would critique your work. It was brutal, but made everyone work hard to present their best. I was hooked. I'm now on my sixth lathe an long bed American Beauty.
    Member Illiana Woodturners

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Kapolei Hawaii
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    Started many years ago, with a Craftsman cheap lathe I got on sale, along with the set of tools they sold. I turned hundreds of pens, because the lathe was such a piece of junk, I couldn't turn anything bigger than a pen. For years I unknowingly suffered with the POJ lathe, and you know what? I was happy as a clam because I was turning stuff that people just loved. The lathe motor finally blew, and a replacement was 90 bucks. Um no. Not buying a 90 buck motor for a 120 buck lathe. Few months lather I had to buy a Jet mini that was on sale (199) at the local Woodcraft. Anything else was just not in the budget. Took it home turned it on and WOWEEE. This is nice! Is it really running? So smooth. Everything I turned was a true joy. I actually could turn a small bowl. It's been down hill ever since. (Into the vortex)

  13. Always loved working with wood since the Jr. High days in woodshop where I made a footstool with curved legs and joined with dowels. Fast forward a few years, and the accumulation of a number of woodworking tools, and a garage shop. Always loved to watch Norm Abrams build beautiful furniture on New Yankee Worshop TV series.

    One day he made a table with turned legs........I had never used a lathe in my life, but seeing him turn the legs, I said to myself........."I can do that!" So along about 2006 I bought my first lathe, and turned two sets of table legs........the lathe sat silent in my smallish shop for the next two years. One day I said to myself, I don't have room for a machine that is not being used, so either sell it, or learn how to use it!

    I am a tool guy........I hate getting rid of any useful tool, so I found out that there was a local AAW chapter fairly near where I live, and made arrangements to go with the club president to my first meeting there in January of 2009.......I had made my first bowl, even without a bowl gouge, and it was not bad............went to the meeting and got hooked on turning.

    Now, I am about to get my 4th lathe delivered next week, am vice president of that club, and a member of another club, do demos and have my turnings in two galleries, and have my own website........wow, Norm Abrams did not know what kind of influence he was having, huh? Looking forward to what lies ahead and to the opportunities that will present themselves as I go forward!

    Sawmill Creek has been a great influence and such a great place to meet, albeit virtually, many people I now consider friends in the spinny side of the wood working vortex. Thanks to so many of you here for your guidance and encouragement along the journey!

    One of my "ah-ha" moments was when, all on my own, I figured out riding the bevel........that was before I found SMC, or the local club..........it was the sweetness of the results and the ease of making curlees fly that turned me from frustration to joy in turning.
    Last edited by Roger Chandler; 05-29-2015 at 7:37 PM.
    Remember, in a moments time, everything can change!

    Vision - not just seeing what is, but seeing what can be!




  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Wally Dickerman View Post
    I'm sitting here looking at my first ever bowl, a walnut nut bowl,...turned 79 years ago in high school shop. That was in 1936 and I was 15 years old. That started a spark that is still there at age 94. That summer I bought a cheap Sears lathe and a couple of tools after making a few dollars at a summer job. Lots of things happened after that to put an end to my turning. After high school I went to Alaska. When WW2 started I joined the Navy. Couldn't pack a lathe in my sea bag. I never forgot my strong desire to turn more bowls but it wasn't until around 1950 that I bought my 2nd lathe. After that it was on to bigger and better lathes. My present lathe is my 9th. I've just finished getting it set up in my new shop. Yesterday I applied the first coat of finish to my first HF turned in my new shop. I'm just as enthused now as I was 79 years ago after my first bowl. What a wonderful lifelong hobby woodturning has been.
    One of the coolest woodworking stories that I've heard in a long, long time Thanks for sharing and congrats on getting a new shop!

    David
    Life is a gift, not a guarantee.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Fort Pierce, Florida
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    3,497
    I grew up with my dad having a basement shop where he made violins and gun stocks along with some gunsmithing. I have worked with my hands most of my life either for work or play. I knew that I wanted to get back into woodwork when I retired as you need to keep active mentally and physically. I was going to make furniture and started equiping a shop. My first project convinced me that I was on the wrong track - furniture needs two people at least at times.

    Then I found a magazine promising that I could get into wood turning for $600. I bit and got a Jet 1220 (the magazine recommendation) and a set of Harbor Freight tools (the better set, again the magazine's recommendation). I turned the spindles for a shaker table and was hooked. Easy projects that I could do despite my health with almost instant reward. Plenty of problems to solve to keep the engineer in me happy.

    I'll never be a production turner, I just want to learn and grow and express my art.
    Retired - when every day is Saturday (unless it's Sunday).

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