Fast forward 20 or so years, and my woodwork was mainly for DIY. I have fond memories of straddling a pine door (I didn’t have a Workmate), and being hit by the fresh smell as the shoosh, shoosh of a sharp plane removed the edge in satisfying curls of shavings. I have less fond memories of trying to hang the door.
I then had the opportunity to attend a wood-turning course at my local college. In the first session, I was given a foot (300 mm) long, one inch (25 mm) square piece of pine, a round-nosed scraper – a type of chisel that has a round nose and scrapes the wood off – and I was shown how to use a lathe. Thirty very happy minutes later, and I had a pile of woodchips and a rough, round piece of wood with lumps in it. I was hooked.
My first project was to make a bowl. I used a lump of wood I’d found in a skip. It was pale yellow and heavy. After extensive research, (this was before the internet was really useful) I decided it was probably ramin. A wood I had not come across before – or even since.
The second project was to make four matching spindles or legs – which was a lot harder than I’d thought – even with the help of a template and spring calliper. Looked at together, the legs are obviously not identical. However, at the corners of a stool, they match. I used ash for this project, and it’s still my favourite wood – for smell, look, feel, and joy of working.
For the final project, I made a standard lamp from sycamore and elm. The light colouring of the sycamore contrasted well with the dark of elm. But I discovered elm is hateful to turn – it’s ‘fluffy’ – it does not cut nicely, and is hard to make smooth. I also learnt a lot about design in that project – just because straight lines and balls look simple, they are not easy to make!