Turning Archive 2005

Ruminations on "Connections" (long)

Dominic Greco in Richboro, PA

One of my favorite shows on PBS was the mini series called “Connections”. The premise of the show was to demonstrate the author’s theory on the connections between historical events, sociological changes, and inventions. One small example; the search for a synthetic means to get the color “Prussian Blue” leads to the discovery of carbonated water, and then to the discovery of chemical fertilizers. This show made quite an impression on me, and every once in a while I start to apply the “Connection Theory” (as I call it) to my life.

During a particularly long drive home, I started to think of the connections we have as woodworkers. Mostly the “cross over breakthroughs” that are sparked by applying knowledge gained from some other discipline.

Allow me to provide an example.

When I first became interested in turning, all I knew were bowls. I saw pictures posted on the Internet and wanted to make something like that. So I took a class (with Bill Grumbine) and worked on the form. Eventually was able to “successfully” turn a bowl. (The term “successfully” means it didn’t blow up on me).

After turning several dozen bowls, I decided I wanted to try something different. So I chose to turn boxes. Having only turned bowls, my spindle turning, and hollowing skills were amateurish at best. After producing what could only loosely be referred to as a “Turned Box” (saying they put the “UG” in ugly is being kind), I decided I needed to concentrate on building up my skill set. Little by little I became more comfortable with the tools used in this discipline. I didn’t become an expert, but I felt much more comfortable using them.

After that, I decided I wanted to make some more bowls and needed a way to enhance the rim of a rather bowl. Wally Dickerman suggested I glue on a rim of segmented pieces. I ended up making a sled to accurately cut the segments. Through this, I got exposed to segmented turning and eventually made some bowls totally comprised of segments.

Then it was peppermills, and potpourri bowls. The peppermills required some spindle work, and drilling (which also lead me to the construction of my steady rest). I used what I learned from hollowing boxes on the potpourri bowls.

Some time later I became interested in pens. But working on small spindles like this takes a delicate hand. Being a brave (and somewhat adventurous) soul, I decided to work on my skew skills. After several million catches, I became more comfortable with using a skew. This skill helped when it came time to turn small spindles for the boxes I was making several months ago.

For the sake of brevity (you call this “brief” Dominic?), I’ve neglected to mention the other areas I’ve stumbled into. But hopefully, you get the general idea. From each experience, whether I knew it or not, I learned something.

See where this is going?

The hypothesis I present is that by narrowing our focus when we are novices (and maybe even further along the line), we possibly eliminate an area that might contribute to our overall growth.

When I say other areas, I do not mean to apply this only to other turning techniques. Think about the techniques that have "come out of left field". How about the using prismatic markers to add colors to a hollowform (Art Liestman), or adding crushed stone inlays to a platter (Stephen Hatcher I believe), or using a wood-burning tool to decorate the exterior of a turned item (ala Molly Winton)? Who would have thought of applying these inventive techniques to turned wooden objects?

What do you think?

See ya around,

My ugly mug


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