Posts Tagged ‘polelathe course’

The aim in running a ‘workshop’ course is to provide a day for ‘Improvers’, loosely described as those with some experience, who want to further their skills or perhaps are planning to make a lathe but haven’t quite got there yet.

The idea seemed to work well and we’ll be running the workshop again next year. Two of those on the course, Adrian and Jerry had already built their lathes and were keen to acquire additional skills.

For improving skills I had assumed, rightly as it turned out, that sharpening, quality of finish and the skew chisel would be key topics.  Making the free rings on a traditional baby rattle encapsulates most of these skills, especially when you use the skew chisel for the rings and after I had demonstrated the process I was pleased to see some being ‘rattled off’ if you will excuse the horrible pun!

I also set up two of my own lathes alongside the more traditional museum lathes to show the merits and abilities of the differing styles. My original lathe was based upon Mike Abbott’s polelathe2000 style, though made entirely from builders softwood sourced from a skip, and at a cost of around £5. Seven years later it’s still going strong as Adrian demonstrates.

Next to it is my current lathe, christened the ‘bolelathe’ as it’s designed to allow me to switch between spindle and bowl turning very easily. Reflecting my current access to work it’s sourced entirely from the firewood pile rather than the skip having a single oak bed and 4 birch legs. A big bonus is that it’s heavy enough and stable enough to hold my coffee mug and breakfast bowl at the same time!

I was not surprised that turning bowls generated so much interest and enthusiasm. I’ll be putting some more thought into a course, perhaps turning a simple small bowl, eggcup or goblet? Amazing how things change. This time last season I was still pretty cautious over teaching courses and I haven’t completely got over that yet.

I hope the participants were as pleased as I was with the their progress on the day, Jerry seemed to have a production line going by the end.

It’s not just about the training and the course, but also spending time with others who are at a similar level but perhaps have different skills and challenges. I’ve found the local groups run by the APT&GW (Association of Polelathe Turners and Greenwood workers) are a great way to top up these skills and keep on improving. Joining (it’s only £15 a year) will get you an invitation to join your local group, as well as the issues of the eponymous (I just wanted to write that word) Bodgers Gazette and of course the annual Bodgers Ball!

The next event at the Weald & Downland Museum is the Autumn Countryside show – October 8th and 9th – there should be plenty of polelathes on hand amongst other greenwood crafts and I’m hoping to see some of the participants of the recent courses there over the weekend.


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Last weekend I ran the last two polelathe courses for this season at the Weald & Downland museum. The forecast was not brilliant so we opted to go undercover in the brick drying shed just in case – though in the event the weather was not too bad. A bit of a challenge to work in the drying shed as it  was not built with polelathes in mind, but the timber framed surroundings matched the woodturning.

On Sunday we had a full complement of six, as we normally do, for the ‘introduction’ to polelathe turning’ and to my delight eveyone did very well producing at least one turned item. I could not have asked for a better group and the day went very quickly.

The course is a good introduction if you are thinking of building a lathe – I should know, that’s how I started out.  With two of my own lathes as well as the museum’s older style there was plenty to stimulate plans for lathe building.

Neil was booked onto the course by his wife after I met them and they saw the polelathe at the Swan Barn farm open day in Haslemere at the end of July. At the end of the day we thought it only right that she should suffer a little as well and try the lathe – though it doesn’t look to me that she suffered too much!

Just occasionally you get someone who has a flair for working with wood and that happened on this course. Sarah had been keen to try the polelathe for a while and finally managed to  get on a course.  As a working woodcarver she had no problem with the chisels. Clearly a perfectionist, the skew chisel did pose a challenge but once she relaxed into the rhythm  a rolling pin and a door wedge were rapidly made and then she started work on a chair!

Having run the last course for the year it felt a little like the end of term!  But planning is already underway for next year’s courses and some new lathes for the museum so we’ll be making the most of the winter.

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Somehow while I wasn’t paying close attention my calendar seems to have filled itself to the brim. So much so that for the last few days I’ve been teaching 3 polelathe courses and demonstrating at a show at the Weald & Downland Museum – not that I am complaining – it’s just been a little hectic. Now I have a few days to recover,  but also a list of urgent jobs to do, and to prepare for the New Forest Show.

As a rule I’ve not been doing much teaching, preferring to concentrate upon demonstrating and making turned items for sale. Jonny was the original Tutor at the museum and he started me off a few years ago.  I’ve  not seen him very often and knew he was not well but recently he’s become very ill – so I’ve only just taken the courses on and   have had to shoehorn them into my calendar. The first course on Saturday was  a one day introduction to Polelathe Turning and Greenwood working – or is it Green Woodworking I’m never quite sure.  All of the students (five on this course) did very well and left having made a simple turned item on the polelathe. Enjoyable, but I always find teaching hard work and still a show and 2 more courses to go.

The Rare Breeds show on Sunday is the largest show of the museum calendar and this year it attracted well over 5,000 visitors. Avery busy day. It was good to be able to spend the day turning after running the course on Saturday and I was able to start early having spent Saturday Evening setting up my demonstration.

For a one-day show it’s very busy with animals and visitors arriving early -another reason why I setup the evening before. to avoid the chaos.

Though by the evening peace and quiet returns.  No rest for me yet as I will be back on Monday and Tuesday for two more polelathe courses.

The weather on Monday was a scorcher! I knew that I would have 6 students from London Metrolpolitan University on Monday and Tuesday, but no more. In the event it turned out that they are all students on various furniture restoration courses from what was the London School of Furnishing, until it was rebranded. Greenwood working with froe, axe, drawknife and the polelathe was a new and different skill from their more typical maquetry courses!

We had a lot of fun, and despite the sweltering weather everyone managed to make a turned item  – with a clear predilection for clubs, bats and mallets…….hmmmm.

I was warned that the Tuesday course would be a lot more competitive. Perhaps the hot weather calmed things down but after an energetic start they all settled into a good pace. The museum was very quiet for most of the day with the polelathe course as the main attraction for visitors. Even the ducks seemed very interested in our progress.

The enthusiasm even extended to a quick try in the sawpit with Simon banished into the pit as bottom dog and Adeline getting to try being Top Dog.

The museum has a set of lathes, most of which were built some years ago to a traditional design and are only used for teaching, so they don’t benefit from regular use and they could do with a little tweaking up over the next few months. We used 5 of the museum lathes and one of mine for the course.

We did well in the afternoon and one again the theme of clubs, mallets and beaters seemed prevalent

though we also had spurtles, a honey drizzler and even a mushroom. No doubt the good weather helped but everyone seemed to have a good time on the courses – though it was hard work doing so many courses and a show in close succession.

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