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I write occasional daft emails to fellow members of my woodturning club.  As we get new members, some of them are stupid enough to ask me for some of the older emails.  As time passes and the read them, they will learn never to ask again - but meanwhile I have to dig into my email archives and find old items and then send them one by one to the unlucky recipients.

You would think they would find more useful things to do with their lives than read the sad wittering's of this old fool and try to make something of their lives - but no!  Any that appear here will do so in reverse order, there are many reasons for this, but logic is the main driver.  If there is one thing I have - it is logic.  Not much else to be fair - but I do have logic.

I have only recently worked out how to put the pictures in, so many are still missing.  I will continue to work on it.

86 - KVWT - Turn something nice and then there is Jam for Tea!!

Hello my dusty shavings-covered pals, I hope you have had some fun in your workshops and made a nice mess while creating something beautiful.

Here is an email for August which follows the lovely warm weather we have had recently (followed by the Cloud) and also hopefully a couple of rain-showers which chased you and your lawn mowers back into the garage where you can continue turning.

We are starting, slowly, to mingle again, and mingling is good – albeit odd after such a long time spent not-mingling. Apart from using the lathe, we have all had to turn our attention to other new hobbies. I managed to persuade my wife to let me do my first nude painting last week. The neighbours aren't happy, but the front door looks great!!

So what have we for this edition of my ramblings?

  1. August members evening – thank you

  2. A truly live demonstration

  3. Judges please

  4. September competition

  5. Blankety-Blank

  6. Hug a Wivamac

  7. October Bangles Competition

  8. October Members evening

  9. August Saturday workshop

  10. Many hands make light work

I was in a bar last night when the bartender said to me, “I see your glass is empty. Would you like another one?”

I said, “Why would I want two empty glasses?”

August members evening – thank you

It was a joy to see so many people come out to our members evening. We managed to split up into 4 very uneven teams and make 4 items for judging. It was good to see that the plans pretty much worked, and not only that but the end results were all on the right lines.

I had previously been to see Tony Harvey to try to spend an hour or two with him making the newspaper seed pot maker so that I could measure it and draw up the plans we used at the members evening. (They are also at the end of this email)

We do still need to take care of course – but with all the windows open and the doors too, I think we all felt OK. We were blessed with three “newbies” as well, which is always great to see.

Derek Prout was on hand to sharpen tools (mainly mine!!) but remember he will always be there to help you sharpen yours! We will do another members evening before the year is out to get us back together again!

All that said – before we do get back together again, I purchased a world map and then gave my wife a dart and said, “Throw this and wherever it lands—that’s where I’m taking you when this pandemic properly ends.”

Turns out, we’re spending two weeks behind the fridge.

It also seems that after years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house but deciding I didn’t have the time, in 2020 I discovered that wasn’t the reason!

A truly live demonstration – Les Thorne on Tuesday 14th September

After getting together after so very long we will also be blessed in September with a visit from one of the very best woodturning demonstrators in the UK. I know so many of you know him, but for the newer members, if you have never seen Les Thorne live before, then you will be in for a real treat.

Many of you will know that I normally look in the worldly-wise interspace to find out details about our demonstrators, but I have done this so often for Les that I will not do it this month. You will also be aware that I work part time for Martin Saban-Smith – he in turn is in partnership with Les at the woodturning shop and therefore I get to see Les quite a lot. He sings a lot. He plays loud music and sings a lot. A hell of a lot.

I told him he should sing tenor. Ten or twelve miles away.

Les – complete with his singing voice will be with us to show us his fettling skills with a lump of wood.

I am pretty sure I know what he is going to make – and I know you will be impressed with the dexterity it will require. Les has had many years to practice of course. Many years. Many many years. More years than most. Many many many years!

This is without doubt a demo that should be watched by novices, Les has a knack of making everything possible, and explaining it with panache and clarity. He also asked me to add that he is the very best there is, and very handsome too.

Make it a firm date – and come and see the nub of our new camera setup too, Tuesday September 14th at 7:00pm for a 7:30pm start.

Judges please

OK – here is an emotive subject. Judging, and the monthly competition. We have many members who hone their skills each month by attempting to create a piece for the monthly competition. This is something that I absolutely and passionately recommend because it asks members to extend, to vary and to challenge their skills each time and do something different. In prior years, as a novice, I have entered some shocking pieces into the competition. Looking back on it I am glad I did because I had to push myself for so many pieces, but it helped me to develop as a turner. I count myself as a keen intermediate turner, but one who enjoys the process and the variation. Entering the competition has enabled me to turn my hand (pun intended) to many different styles of turning – some of which I am good at, and some of which I still need to develop. I have favourite tools, the skew is without doubt my very favourite tool of choice for spindle work. I aspire to improve with it, but will never match the likes of Steve Jones, Les Thorne or Gary Rance. We do have some beginners in the club – please bring your pieces along to the Saturday workshops to discuss, and please do enter the monthly competitions.

Judges are of course a vital part of the competition routine, but they are so hard to pin down. At Kennet Valley I think we look upon the judging role as something that should not be taken lightly, but equally, something that must be personal. A piece must appeal to your eye as a judge, it has to offer a reason to be judged enthusiastically. Excellent tool-work and finish is important, but the aesthetic appeal of the piece or perhaps a clever piece of design could overrule these aspects. That decision is in the gift of the judge and the judge alone.

We are always looking for judges, we need to spread the load. Novices should ideally be judged by intermediates or a skilled novice. An intermediate turner should expect to be judged by another intermediate or by an advanced turner. A piece presented by an advanced turner should be judged by an advanced turner. We would not ask a judge to pass judgement in a section which contains a piece they have entered an item into.

Please offer your services if asked to judge, and please give the only thing we can expect – an honest opinion.

September competition

The quest for September is an item made from two different types of wood. It is deliberately open for interpretation, and I am looking forward to seeing where your imagination takes you. One day someone will mix Mahogany and Balsa wood…..


We are blessed with the gift of some spindle and bowl blanks for our Saturday workshops and our next members evening in October. The wood is not for sale – but it will be used by members at our gatherings.

I wonder – we have no-where to store it easily – is there a member out there willing to give it some garage space and to bring it out for Saturday workshops? Let me know if you can.

Hug a Wivamac

I was speaking with Denis Winter after our last members evening and he passed a comment that we had a lot of members gathered around the smaller lathes and only one person using the large Wivamac that our demonstrators use.

A few people have said they are a little nervous of the larger lathe and it is stopping them from stepping up to use it – please don’t think this way. The lathe is larger than the others, there is no doubt about that – but as any good woman will tell you – size doesn’t matter – it is entirely what you do with it.

Because it has more power that the smaller lathers it means it can cope with running slower if needed, especially handy on large bowls. With spindle work speed can be your friend, and it is useful in those case too. The Wivamac is also a lot steadier than the smaller lathes which means vibration and/or movement is not apparent, especially on unbalanced wood.

You should try it, an old girlfriend of mine told me “You don’t know until you have tried it” – so I did, (but it was no good, I still don’t like Guinness).

October Bangles Competition

A quick not about October – Bangles. We are looking for Novices to turn a bangle, intermediate turners to make two bangles, and advanced turners to make three bangles. The only rule is that they must be turned, the rest is up to your imagination!!

October Members evening

Bowls – it will have something to do with bowls. We have lots of bowl blanks and we should use them, and show novices how to use them. We need to come up with a theme based around the turning of a bowl, perhaps texturing the outside of the piece and using some coloured waxes on the texture? Any other ideas would be welcome as it is still undecided.

August Saturday workshop

I didn’t make it – I totally screwed up. It was my 25th Wedding anniversary and we were due to go away for the weekend - which we did to Abergavenny.

I can’t therefore report on what happened as I wasn’t there – hopefully you managed to park and were not interrupted by festival people or visions of Stuart wearing purple loons, a long wig and dark glasses!.

Many hands make light work

At the last members evening you will recall that I asked for a few volunteers to help tidy up and put things away. Not everyone – too many cooks etc. The thing we want to avoid though is the same people doing it every month, either at a members evening or at a Saturday workshop. I know we are glad to see people at the moment and keen to chat – but the lathe-faires do need help setting up the hall and the tools as well as putting it away again.

Between 4 and 6 people could join together and have things set up in no time, and a couple extra on top of that to help us sweep up as well as put things away would always be appreciated.

I am not too proud to shout and ask for help – but it would be so nice if I didn’t need to.

And so to bed

A farmer went to the local bank to borrow money for a new bull. The loan was made and Banker Bill, who lent the money, came by a week later to see how the bull was doing.

The farmer complained that the bull just ate grass and wouldn't even look at a cow. Banker Bill suggested that he have a veterinarian take a look at the bull. Next week, Banker Bill returned to see if the vet had helped.

The farmer looked very pleased. "The bull has serviced all of my cows! He broke through the fence, and bred all my neighbour's cows! He's been breeding just about everything in sight. He's like a machine!"

"Wow," said Banker Bill, "what did the vet do to that bull?"

"Just gave him some pills," replied the farmer.

"What kind of pills?" asked Banker Bill.

"I don't know, but they kind of taste like peppermint."

So I was sat at home at sunset the other evening, sucking on a thoughtful tooth and trying to make a decision about something when I fell upon considering the lofty image of ethereal delight set in the skies before me.

Like most people I first learned about Vincent Van Gogh at school. I am not sure they do serious art education any more in schools which is worrying. Children need to be properly educated, otherwise you just end up with politicians.

If I remember, our art teacher would always start a lesson by getting us to look at an artists work in our text book for 10 minutes, silently, thoughtfully and she would urge us to really consider what the artist might be trying to say, perhaps what they might be endeavouring to capture. Most of all they wanted us to think what the piece meant to us on a personal spiritual level.

Many of my fellow grammar school pupils would use this period of reflection to fool around, to engage in silly hushed games with the person next to them, or to simply fart and then laugh. However, I would always stare at these paintings or these sculptures, magnificent works of art desperately trying to find personal meaning. They were impressive, many of them beautiful to look at but no matter how hard I tried I could not find any part of myself reflected in these works of art. They wouldn’t speak to me, there was no meaning to me.

Then one day in the October of my 15th year, at the top of the page one day it said Vincent Van Gogh and on that day my life was changed forever. I will never forget the vividness, the simplicity that my eyes saw in that moment, and yet every simple detail was so full of subtle complexity to me. I am just speaking personally of course. This wasn’t a stuffy depiction of a people and a world long dead; this art was alive. The starry night capturing the swirling spinning never-ending majesty of the heavens. A personal favourite of mine The Red Vineyard with its workers forced to toil in paradise with a glowing low-hanging sun in the background. It was gently burning in the confines of the page.

Eventually I looked upon Van Gogh’s self-portrait. An amazing picture if you’ve seen it, the artist who spoke to me so much with his work was looking back at me with his own eyes, eyes he was forced to depict and create himself. Truly the finest example, I think you will agree, of the artist baring his soul. It was then I came to realise that the most exact understanding of the human soul that we have all ever achieved is found solely in art.

…so I am painting my toilet pink.

And finally.

I had a job interview today i was told the wage is £10 per hour going up to £30 per hour in 3 months

the guy asked me "When can you start"

I replied "In 3 months.

Phil Boulter

Vice Chairman

Kennet Valley Woodturners

M:07836 274345

H: 01635 826009

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