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Thread: SMC Turner Interview - Gary DeWitt

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Benton Falls, Maine

    SMC Turner Interview - Gary DeWitt

    Name: Gary DeWitt

    DOB: Older than dirt. When God said let there be light, I flipped the switch.

    Physical description: Tall, bald and handsome. OK, medium, balding and average.

    Where is home?
    Beautiful downtown Burbank (for those of you old enough to remember Johnnyís epithet). At the time that phrase was first uttered, the town was in retail decline. To paraphrase John Astin in ďNight CourtĒ itís doing much better now. I was born and raised here in So Cal, from the Hollywood hills where I watched ďSpartacusĒ being filmed by WB on the other side of the new Hollywood freeway (5 or 6 years old, there, now you can figure it out), to 2112 Strand, Manhattan Beach, where I had the Pacific Ocean for a front yard, to Torrance and Hawthorne and Pasadena and the last 9 years in Burbank. Iím within a mile of 3 major film studios, more on that later.

    Family information:
    Wonderful wife Peggy, who I met at a Mensa party. I had tested 1 I.Q. point over minimum requirement to join, so I was basically the dumbest guy in the group. A humbling experience. She, on the other hand, was joined up by her mother, who thought she should be dating a more, shall we say select type of people. Obviously her mom had no idea what kind of people frequent that group. We eventually drifted away from them, not wanting to be a part of any club that would have us as members. She tests out more than 10 points higher than me, so she gets to do all the mentally difficult jobs like pay bills, etc. She is a very strong woman who yet knows when to lead and when to follow. Second wife of nearly 20 years now. We have two grown daughters (from my first marriage) who she helped raise as her own, 3 grandchildren so far, 2 boys and a girl.

    Last time I asked this the answer was no, but I'll take another stab at it. Do you belong to SAG? The Screen Actors Guild, yes, I do now, as of Oct. í05. The pay is much better, but the work is fewer and farther between. There are over 100,000 members of the guild, 70,000 of whom live in So Cal. At any given time, 85% of them are not working as an actor (but they make great ______. Fill in blank with menial or temp job). Not a career choice for the faint of heart, or someone who needs to make a living from it. Iím VERY lucky to be able to do not one but two things I love very much.

    Do you have a website?
    I donít currently have my own site. I recently started selling small turned items on a shared site called, for some reason, Etsy.

    It has a long way to go, and the site in general hasnít reached critical mass yet. When itís more of a household name, I should be getting some sales there. Iíd like to set up my own site, but itís not a high priority.

    Retired is a relative term. Your relatives are the first to disbelieve you are retired (ba-da bump). Basically I bailed out of the corporate world where I had risen to middle management. I was in graphic arts for over 30 years, in both textile printing and paper printing, ending up working for a company that supplied all the major film studios with vhs and dvd packaging and ads. I was the poster boy for the Peter Principle; for you youngíuns, this states that anyone in a hierarchical system will rise to the level of their incompetence. When I got so mad I decided I wasnít going to take it any more, I simply left. The management there was aghast for probably a few seconds, and then promptly hired someone else with half the skill at a quarter the rate and wondered what went wrong thereafter.

    One of the things that happened along the way in my career was that my old skill set, master craftsman at putting together images and type into pages or packaging became obsolete. Itís all done on computer now, and for a fraction of the cost since it can be done so much faster. Itís the scary thing about modern society, whole careers are becoming obsolete faster and faster, so that constant training is critical and our children will have on average not 3 jobs, but 3 completely different careers.

    One of my neighbors is a stand-in, and her husband is a cameraman, and she suggested I go register with Central Casting (a private company - separate from the film studios). The rest is history, as they say, but it will never be written except by me. I now do background acting, which means Iím occasionally seen in TV and movies but never heard from, zero lines. Essential to the atmosphere of the scene (it would look like an end-of-the-world pic without us) but seldom if ever noticed. Iím really enjoying it, working a couple days a week when I can get it, and I have time to turn and possibly build up a little cash flow from that the rest of the time.

    Shop Overview:

    My gar .. er, uh, studio is half of a two car garage plus about 7x18x6í tall storage space. At some point we wound up with only one car, and I somehow talked my wife out of the other half of the garage. Itís under our house, but level with the alley in back, handy for large tool access. Only drawback is noise, I canít really make much, so I buy tools with this in mind. If I get a chainsaw, for instance, it will be electric. In that space, and kind of wrapped around where the car parks, I have a 14Ē delta band saw, a small contractors table saw, a 2x3í router table with lift and micrometer fence (on the way out), a delta drill press, jet dust collector, 12Ē drum sander, dewalt scroll saw (for sale) a 36x72 work bench I built from 2 laminated exterior doors with drawer space below, various power and non power hand tools going all the way back to late 1800ís hand planes. I had a 6x48Ēbelt and 12Ē disc combo sander and a Dewalt planer that I sold off just last week for the space and the new lathe fund. I have no woodworking interests other than turning and occasional home repair projects.

    How many lathes do you own? Tell us about 'em. Even the ones you no longer have. Why did you choose these lathes?
    I own one delta midi right now. I started out with an unknown lathe I picked up at a garage sale but was never able to use, the tailstock was missing a part and I never found out what the make of the lathe was. Finally, I just bought the delta for around $300, figuring it would be good to start with, and Iíd buy a big one if I liked it. Well, obviously I do, and Iím in the market for a General 16Ē VS that I got a quote on from Eagle Tools, all I need to do is sell off the scroll saw and some machinist measuring tools and Iíll have enough. Soon now. I plan to keep the delta midi for sanding and buffing, perhaps for turning small parts now and then when I donít want to break down a setup on the General.

    Folks, shortly after Gary submitted this interview, he did in fact acquire that General Lathe he was pining for. Hereís the proof.

    How many turning tools do you have? Store bought, homemade, favorites?
    I have a couple dozen tools, some store bought and some homemade. I started with a set of 8 from Great Neck, from the local big box store. Theyíre HSS, and seem to keep an edge, so why replace them before they wear out? I also have a Sorby round scraper and a 3/8 irish grind bowl gouge, also Sorby. First tool I made was a captive ring tool out of an old concrete chisel, works well enough. Iíve made some hollowing tools using metal lathe tool bits as well. Also some micro tools from allen wrenches (remember the itty bitty contest?). Next I want to make a hollowing rig like the one I saw in a demo last weekend, itís all laminated Baltic birch ply, no welding required, and the tool handles that go with it are made of ĺ flat stock, to prevent torque. Pretty cool design. Also recently acquired some inline skates and will be making a couple steadies out of the wheels.

    How long have you been turning, and what got you started in the first place?
    Iíve been turning for about 2 Ĺ years now. It all started with this yankee guy named Norm on public television years before that. I always liked to work with my hands anyway, and now that cars are difficult to work on and the tools and materials for wood are financially within my grasp (ďhoney, just think of all the money we could save with the things I can build!Ē), I figured Iíd build up a shop and make some furniture and stuff for the house. Which I did. Then I saw this beat up no-name lathe at a garage sale. Then I got the delta. I havenít stopped since.

    What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?
    Itís not made any more, but Baskin Robbins made black licorice ice cream back in í63 and it was incredible. Much as Iíve petitioned them since, they wonít listen to me and re-issue the flavor. Guess itís hard to sell black ice cream. Dulce de leche and crŤme brulee from Hagen Daz run a close second, but I like ALL ice cream. Too darn much. It will get to the point I can SIT on my lathe for stability rather than use sand bags, if Iím not careful!

    What do you enjoy most about turning?
    The unlimited possibilities for creativity. The challenge of coming up with something new in an art form several thousand years old. The technical challenge of figuring out how to turn something Iíve seen. The Zen zone I get into while doing it.

    What was your first completed turned project? You get bonus points for a picture of it.
    A practice spindle with a bunch of coves and beads. After that, a small bowl. No pics available.

    No points for you!

    Whatís your favorite individual piece that you have turned, and why?
    A bowl I turned and gave to my daughter. It has sentimental value; sheís still using it today.

    Whatís your favorite form that you turn?
    Iím starting to like bowls more now that I have the hang of turning them. I like all kinds of turning, itís hard to say. Hollow forms are currently my least favorite, because theyíre still difficult to do well. Iím sure Iíll like them more when I get the hang of doing them.

    What do you not turn now that you want to - or plan to - in the future?
    Larger (over 10Ē) bowls and tall vases. Waiting for that larger lathe. I always have several ideas in mind of something Iíd like to try. So many things to turn, so little time!

    How do you take your Moxie? (Straight up? beer chaser? neat? with corn flakes?)
    With bourbon on the rocks. Iíll make it a mint julep if I canít get Moxie. A Sazerac wouldnít be bad either: Uh, whatís Moxie??

    Whatís your favorite form someone else turns/has turned?
    Tough question. I like all the forms. I guess I especially like eccentric forms, fits my personality.

    Whatís your favorite individual piece someone else has turned, and why?
    Wouldnít want to narrow it down to one piece, or even one turner. One of the pieces that inspired me from years ago was an open segmented form sort of in the shape of a concave sided funnel, with many pieces along the rim missing. It was about 14 to 16Ē across and about 1/8Ē wall thickness, and was so light it seemed to barely hang together. This was at the prestigious L A county museum of art, and seeing that kind of art there surprised me. Sorry, I donít know whoís work it was.

    Whatís your favorite wood to work with and why?
    Olive right now, mainly because I have a lot of it, and the grain is almost as unpredictable as burl.

    Have you met or hung out with any fellow Creekers?
    Nope. Would like to, if there are any in my neck of the desert.

    What brought you to SMC?
    I think I migrated from the newsgroup alt.woodturning, which is still going but frowns on pictures. Some kind of bandwidth problem for some regulars.

    What was your first post about?
    Probably a question. Along with the turning club I belong to, Glendale Woodturners Guild, this forum has been most helpful in solving problems and learning new techniques.

    Actually you dispensed some wisdom, Gary.

    Do you recall the first thread you started? Nope

    For the memory challenged Ė here Ďtis.

    Got any nicknames? How'd you get 'em?
    Not from woodworking. I do have one from acting, acquired on the set of Deadwood. That bunch (several of them belong to the Wild Bunch, Hollywood background specialists mostly on Harleys) just loved nick names, and they thought I looked like an archeologist, so they named me ďbonesĒ. Seems to fit.

    Now let's get a little deep... If you were a tree, what tree would you be and why?
    Bristlecone Pine, because of itís longevity and perseverance.

    If you won the Irish Sweepstakes what part of your life would change?
    Not much right now, other than some really good tools and wood. In the future, Iíd like to move to Hawaii or possibly Puerto Rico, definitely out of this noisy city. I live on the helicopter flight path between Van Nuys airport, a private jet field, and downtown Los Angeles. Several choppers a night, seemingly at very low altitude.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share, and thanks for listening.

    Our pleasure, Gary. Thanks. And now, finally some pics.

    Bones 01.jpg Bones 02.jpg Bones 03.jpg

    Bones 04.jpg Bones 05.jpg
    Only the Blue Roads

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Conway, Arkansas
    Very good interview Gary!!!!! Nice to meet you and also know more about you.
    Thanks & Happy Wood Chips,
    Dennis -
    Get the Benefits of Being an SMC Contributor..!
    ....DEBT is nothing more than yesterday's spending taken from tomorrow's income.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Goodland, Kansas
    Gary a very interesting interview. It is nice to meet and get to know you better.

    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.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Mason Michigan
    Very interesting.

    And yes, I do remember Johnny's move to Burbank
    A few hours south of Steve Schlumpf

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    East of the Mississippi
    Great interview Gary, and yes it is nice to know more about you. I believe the turner you talked about is Bud Lavten. He has a web site and produces some wonderful stuff.
    941.44 miles South of Steve Schlumph


  6. #6
    With all the mustard and Mayo around here we need to figure out a name for guys with green lathes.
    No I do not have a General but my Woodfast is about the same color.

    Great interview.
    Mike Vickery

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Bedford County, Virginia
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Vickery
    With all the mustard and Mayo around here we need to figure out a name for guys with green lathes.
    How 'bout grass? "Yeah, man, I'm into grass".....
    The possibilities are endless.

    Gary, great interview! Good to know you better! That General looks right at home.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Schenectady, NY


    Real nice interview Gary. Good to get to know more about you. Congrats on the new Green Monster!
    Happy and Safe Turning, Don

    Woodturners make the world go ROUND!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Nice to learn more about you, Gary!

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Houston, Texas
    Hi, Gary, nice to get to know you a little better.
    Good, Fast, Cheap--Pick two.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Burbank, CA

    Interview follow-up

    Thanks all for the kind words. Andy had asked me for some pictures in costume, but I was off on vacation last week and unable to add them, so here they are.

    Also, a shameless plug for my next "starring" appearance, coming this Monday night, October 30, at 9PM on Fox on the show "Justice" as the third juror from the left in the front row. Don't miss it!

    First Pic: On the HBO show Deadwood
    Second Pic: Also Deadwood, showing the "dirt" they added and my antique glasses I had to have made up.
    Third pic: Trying to look mean for a National Lampoon movie I've never seen released. Note the fake tattoos on the cheek and forearm.
    Fourth pic: As a pilot on an early episode of Bones, shot at the LA convention center (it's almost impossible to shoot at LAX, due to security concerns)
    Fifth pic: As a medieval warrior of some kind on the Disney "Ranch" just north of Los Angeles on the set of Epic Movie (working titled "Bob Bailey"), a comedy written by the guys who brought you Scary Movie.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled turning program. Get off the computer and go turn something!
    Attached Images Attached Images

  12. #12
    Excellent interview Gary. Nice to know more about you. Will have to check out Justice. Great new lathe... enjoy it!


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    San Antonio, TX
    Very interesting, Gary. Good to know you better!

  14. Interesting read, Gary - enjoyed it!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Roanoke Virginia
    Blog Entries
    Great read Gary never met a movie star before

    Turning comes easy to some folks .... wish I was one of them

    and only 958 miles SE of Steve Schlumpf

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