They said that having a hobby would be good for me - relieve the stress they reckon, take my mind off the demands of my job in the Police Service. Woodturning would be good they said, something to do when you retire at the ridiculously early age, something to do with your hands and even earn a bob or two. Something to do when it was too wet and cold to play golf!! Yes, take away the tensions of the modern day and I would live to enjoy a long retirement with much less risk of hypertension and / or heart attack.
So I took their advice, I bought a lathe and all the accessories and began to tread the path towards a stress free existence with shavings and dust.
Oh happy days, it felt good to feel the creative urge rush from brain to hand. Iíll look younger by the day. But whoís kidding who?
How come Iím so stressed out after a day of turning? How come I suffer palpitations and a sore chest when faced with dicey situations on the lathe. You donít know what Iím talking about? You donít believe me?
What about when you are parting off that piece so carefully turned and finished that cost the best part of £30 for wood alone? The light is just starting to show through your cut and you know that a shaving or two more will do it, but a shaving or two too many will have the work bashing itself to pieces on the headstock or toolrest. At that point in time I am about as stressed as I can get. My arm muscles are all tensed. Iím scared to breath and my chest muscles hurt. I have to step back, remind myself why I am doing this and take several deep breathes before going back to it again.
And how many of you have taken the completed work of art from the lathe to give it that final wipe over with clean cloth only to score it with a fingernail or knock it against the tool rest or even drop it, always onto something hard or rough such as the concrete floor. Just as bad is seeing for the first time the sanding marks that you missed before finishing. Not so bad if the foot is still on the highly figured platter, but if you have just taken it off the button jaws having removed all traces of how it was held and you are now chuck markless, you could have a problem!!
Have you ever made pens, I make quite a few and its then old story, the more highly figured the wood the easier it will sell. The skew is on the way back for the final finishing cut, the last three barrels have flown apart after making that familiar click click click sound and the wife has opened the workshop door yet again because dinner has been ready for 20 minutes. You have only finished five when the order was for twelve by yesterday. The adrenalin is fair pumping.
Try turning that oblong blank and folding over the corners. The skill is in getting the ends and sides of uniform thickness. Most of the turning here is by sound only because you are working air most of the time. My arm muscles start to lock up again, my chest begins to hurt and I stop breathing. I donít think that is meant to be good for you.
If you are sanding a rough edge burr that you have just worked on for three hours and your knuckles have been severely rapped once or twice and the congealed blood mixing with the dust and shavings changed the colour of the work and looks obscene, any thoughts of running smiling through the meadow is far from your mind.
What state of mind are you in when the object of your attention decides to jump off the lathe at 2000 rpm and fly past you face, or suddenly hit your visor or whack you in the shoulder and finally embed itself in the wall on the other side of the workshop? By the time that you have picked it up and re-chucked it and told it what you think of it Iím pretty steamed up I donít know about you.
I have a pretty solid lathe fixed on 4Ēof mahogany and bolted to the floor, pretty good at absorbing any vibration from unbalanced wood, but if the speed control has been left on high after the earlier pen making it does tend to rattle and vibrate a touch and has even been known to pull the far bolts from the floor. I try desperately to hold onto the roughing gouge and keep my feet on the floor whilst I reach for the off switch, thatís stress free??
When preparing large pieces for the lathe I sometimes use a chainsaw. Itís important to understand that I do not understand and am somewhat wary of all things mechanical so the sudden noise and all those wood chips can be off putting. I know one or two people who now canít write shorthand because the carving tool on their angle grinder has sliced the tops off their fingers, and when bandsaw blades break it gives me such a fright. Suffice to say that this part of the turning process is no less exhilarating!!
And now Iím into craft shows and all that they entail. The need to have sufficient stock without sufficient time, the need to extend the overdraft to buy the woods and parts for pens and clocks that one must have, the concern when you havenít paid for your stall price after two days trading and the turner down the hall has been doing a roaring trade, the decisions to make platters because they sold well last time only to find that everyone wants salad bowls, and guess what the other turner has.
They said that I should take up woodturning, take my mind off the job they said, relax and relieve the stress they said, live longer and healthier. Whoís kidding who. Pass the Valium, Iím off to the workshop again.