Taking turns with wood

THERE’S something about the smooth feel of turned wood which makes it a pleasure to touch.

It’s why wood turner Barrie Webb always encourages visitors at craft shows to pick up items they are looking at.

“You need to pick it up and hold it to appreciate it properly,” he said.

Wood turning - the art of creating shapes and designs on a lathe - is a skill which plenty of people still want to learn.

Barrie, 72, was a joiner and cabinet maker and is a member of Harworth Wood Turning Group, which has around 30 members.

He has just retired from the post of secretary but continues to give help and advice to newcomers, along with chairman Keith Richmond, 75.

Keith was one of the founder members of the group, which was set up about 15 years ago and meets fortnightly at Turner’s Retreat, on Snape Lane.

He worked as a painter and decorater but wood turning has been his hobby for 40 years.

“I worked at ICI in the paint shop which was adjacent to the joiners’ shop and everything they made came to us to be painted, but they also had a lathe so I used to watch,” he said.

“A lot of the lathes now are computerised but back then they were belt driven.”

The first thing Keith, of Armthorpe, ever made was a bowl, which he still has.

“I thought it was really good at the time but now I think what a load of rubbish!”

Barrie, of Hellaby, worked as a bench joiner at John Baker and Sons in Rotherham, where he did his five-year apprenticeship.

He then worked on buildings before joining the fire service for 30 years.

But his love of working with wood prompted him to set up his own business making grandfather clocks.

He said: “I’d done turning in woodworking classes at Maltby Grammar School. We had a strict teacher who wouldn’t let you take anything home if it wasn’t perfect.”

“Techniques and tools have improved a lot since then.”

Harworth Wood Turning Group is very much ‘hands on’ with members making their own things, rather than just sitting and watching a demonstration.

Keith said: “We like people to actually have a go at something while they are here so they can get advice from other members.”

“Some people are a bit shy about their own work so they might prefer to watch other people, pick up some guidance, and then go home and try it for themselves.”

Keith said his favourite piece of work was a rocking chair he made and gave to his niece when she was setting up home.

He said: “You can make anything from wood, the only limit is your imagination.”

“It’s good to go round craft shows and get ideas from what other people have made, or you can buy books.”

He said most types of hard wood could be turned and people have even made items out of driftwood or other wood they have found. Snake wood is the most expensive in the world and ivory wood is commercially the rarest.

New members get their first two meetings free and after that it’s £3.50 a session. Membership is £15 a year.

For more information call Keith on 01302 832343.