Woodturning Today: A Dramatic Evolution (A Book Review)
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the AAW, the organization put together a 256-page book, Woodturning Today: A Dramatic Evolution ( Celebrating the American Association of Woodturners 25th Anniversary, 1986-2011.) It is a fascinating and inspirational look at the history of wood turning and where it may go in the future.
History of Wood Turning
It begins by establishing the history of the art, which was as much an everyday craft as far back as records indicate. Lathes made from tree branches and powered by branches and foot pedals provided the power to create useful everyday vessels, such as bowls, plates, and tool handles.
One particularly interesting photo shows a Moroccan turner using a bow-powered lathe. Because one arm is being used to make the lathe spin, one of his feet is used to guide the turning tool!
Furniture making incorporated a lot of spindle work, and early turners used materials other than wood, including bone, ivory, horn, tortoise shell, and brass. Technology caused turning to become part of factory work, but the influx of European craftsmen during World War II had an influence on the development of art as it mixed with the otherwise industrial nature of turning wood.
Turning Wood Has Impact Worldwide
As turners and collectors began to discover rare and exotic woods, faraway rainforests were being impacted by increasing demand. Today, any symposium or woodturning conference will include multiple vendors of exotic woods and alien-looking burls for sale.
Entire industries have sprung up as a result of the increasing popularity of turning wood. Lathes, laser-cut pen inlays, instructional material and specialized tools for everything imaginable are sold by companies focused on turners and their every need.
The American Association of Woodturners
The 2011 AAW annual symposium in St. Paul, Minnesota was the largest to date, with 1700 registered members in attendance, plus a number of their children. Kids are being introduced to the craft both by their parents and grandparents, and by special classes geared just to them, at symposiums and in high schools.
The AAW is active in attempting to get youngsters involved. One grant in 2002 helped to establish a turning program at a California high school. Some AAW members are acting as mentors and coaches in school programs, in the wake of budget cuts which threaten or eliminate school arts programs.
Contributing Essays from Turners
Throughout the book, there are essays and stories from many of the woodturning greats, including Richard Raffan, Malcolm Tibbetts, David Ellsworth, Cindy Drozda, John Jordan, Binh Pho, and many others. There are also essays from those not so famous but nevertheless still influential in the art, including John Hill, Dave Bowers and Sam Scalzo, who are instrumental in youth programs; Kurt Hertzog, chair of the Educational Opportunity Grant committee, which auctions work to raise funds for education; and Kip Christensen, current director of the annual Utah Woodturning Symposium, the longest running wood turning symposium in the world.
The final essay in the book is by Alina Niemi, a novice turner from Hawaii. You can read her essay, A Time for Every Turner, here at http://www.honoluluwoodturners.org/awards_Alina_Niemi.html. She wrote about her experience attending a local chapter meeting and getting her father involved in turning after the death of her mother.
Stunning Turned Pieces
The book is also replete with stunning full-color photos of pieces that will inspire and astound you. If you are getting sick of turning bowls or want to take your work to the next level, there is more than enough here to get your artistic juices flowing. Muti-axis, segmented, and ornamental turning all are represented here, as well as hollow vessels with more air than wood, other materials, sculptural and whimsical pieces, and representative pieces from many of the yearly exhibition shows.
Whether you are a wood turner or worker, a collector, or just interested in the art and craft, Woodturning Today: A Dramatic Evolution ( Celebrating the American Association of Woodturners 25th Anniversary, 1986-2011) is well worth the $27.95 retail price of the paperback edition. It’s an intimate look at the people and history behind a popular hobby and profession.
Other Woodturning Books You Might Like:
Disclaimer: I am affiliated to some of the products on this website.