Avon and Bristol Woodturners
A Short History of Avon and Bristol Woodturners
The club started in 1989, when meetings were held in founder, Don White’s, small workshop before moving to the Green Dragon pub at Downend. Don White now turns professionally in Cornwall.
The Club has met in various venues over the years, in order to accommodate ever-
Meetings are held on the 3rd Thursday of the month commencing at 7.30pm, entry is free to all members and there are two free trial visits allowed for prospective members. At these meetings, there is usually a demonstration by a professional woodturner, and a competition for members to enter their work.
From Little Acorns
The Man With The Vision
Food a Key ingredient
Give Us Our Daily Thread
Max Carey Chairman
The Mill now offers….
First Lady Member of A&BWT
When Derek Edwards was the Club Chairman
It all began on the 15th February 1989 at a cost of just £5. That apparently was the fee required to hire a room at the Green Dragon pub in Downend where 14 people gathered to further their woodturning knowledge and skill. Their gathering had been in response to a rallying call sent out by a man whose respect in woodturning circles was already firmly established.
Having been a founder member of the AWGB in 1987, he had the foresight to recognise that something was needed for woodturners at the local level within the Bristol area. Moreover, he had the enthusiasm necessary to develop that idea.
The instigator of what was to be the inaugural meeting of Avon & Bristol Woodturners was Don White.
No doubt that first group meeting was more about the logistics of setting up and running a club than how to turn wood. Gradually, as the word spread, more and more people attended and the sessions evolved into project and topic situation, much the same as it is now.
For the next 5 years Don’s main task was to arrange regular workshops and seminars. These included the now internationally famous Ray Key, Richard Raffan, Del Stubbs, Meryll Saylan, Chris Pye, Melvyn Firmager, Maurice Mullins, John Hunnex, Ray Jones and Mike Scott. Locals Derek Bailey, Simon Keen and Chris Lindup shared their knowledge and entertained the club members.
Some of these meetings were held in Don’s own workshop, some feat since his lathe was in a room about half the size of a small garage. (Bristol woodturners were skinnier in them days!)
Over the years the membership increased and as it did, so new venues were sought to house the swelling numbers. In January 1995, the club moved to the Fear Institute at Keynsham, but quickly outgrew the room and in June had to move to the Baptist Church Hall, Keynsham. In 1997 the ever increasing membership precipitated a move to the Huntsman Inn, Downend. As you can see, fear, prayer and drink play a significant role in the life of an average Bristolian woodturner!
The above is an extract from the club’s archives that was published at the beginning of 2000 under the same, still very appropriate heading From Little Acorns.
The Man With The Vision
It is always a pleasurable experience to talk to somebody who, after 40 odd years of being involved with an activity, is just as enthusiastic and emotionally involved with it now as he was in the beginning.
I recently had that pleasure when talking to the man who was the motivating figure behind the formation of Avon & Bristol Woodturners some 25 years ago – Don White.
When I asked him how it all began he replied in a very self-
When I pushed him a little further he recalled how he had been invited to the first seminar of the AWGB at Loughborough a couple of years earlier by Ray Key and the idea of local area clubs affiliated to the AWGB started from there.
“I booked a room at a pub and invited everybody I knew who was involved in woodturning in the Bristol area,” continued Don. “A few people turned up and we went from there.”
When I told him that the club archives record him as the first chairman he laughed and said he didn’t think he had ever been elected formally.
“Things were very different then. The internet didn’t exist so there were no videos to watch on YouTube and learn from. There were no dedicated wood turning publications and less than half a dozen good books on the subject.
Wood turning in this country was only just beginning to get organised and locally we tried to get as many demonstrators to show us their different areas of expertise as possible.
People used to ask me how I managed to get them to come – my reply was always the same – I just ask them.
I am proud to have been involved in the early days but I gain most pleasure from knowing that something we started has grown and progressed and is still alive and active now 25 years later.”
For the last 15 years or so Don has lived near Bude in Cornwall. He is still a prolific turner, offers courses in his own workshop and exhibits his work at some good galleries throughout the area.
A bout of illness had meant that he had not been able to be in his workshop for a month or so before I spoke to him.
“But I’ve been turning a couple of bowls today,” he said. ”As soon as the lathe started and shaving began to fly I felt good. It satisfies your soul!”
Harry Childs talks with Don White, instigator and first Chairman of the Club, about the early days.
Foster friendship amongst woodturners in the area, impart knowledge and expand the craft of woodturning
These were and still are the stated aims of the Avon & Bristol Woodturners
Left, where it all started
Right, St Teresa, Filton where Avon & Bristol Woodturners now meet
The Fear Institute, Keynsham and The Huntsman Inn Downend have been club night venues
Some examples of Don’s recent work.
See more here
Don in his current workshop near Bude, Cornwall, and top, a club archive picture from the 1980’s
Don moved to a new workshop at Wick where he held more demonstrations with both international and GB based turners. These would be held over two days because of the size of the workshop, six members would be a comfortable number. There was no need for cameras or screens as you were so close to the work. Thanks to Don’s generosity costs were kept to a minimum as he would have the demonstrators to stay at his house. These were world class turners including Ray Key, Del Stubbs, Richard Raffan , New Zealander Jack Clark and Merryll Saylam, an American wood turner who was on a one year residency at Grizedale Forest in Cumbria 1990.
The AWGB offered clubs two demonstrators for the price of one, so Don working in conjunction with Alf Sims from the Martock group based at Yandles would arrange for two demos on the same day.
We would have one lathe in the saw mill and another in a small room in the main building the groups would swap over at lunch time. Lunch would be in one of the pubs in Martock -
When Yandles opened their gallery, Avon and Bristol were invited to put their work on display. The club member who worked on this was John Tappenden.
Don’s generosity, allowing the club to use his workshop for demonstrations, meant that he had to prepare it which used up his time when he should have been working and earning his living. During this period the club would visit demonstrators in their own workshops.
One visit was to Melvyn Fermager’s workshop at Wedmore. Melvyn is an expert in hollow forms using wet wood that is allowed to move and distort after having been finished. Another visit was to Chris Pye’s workshop at St Werburghs -
When Don decided to move to Bude in 1997 the club had to find new venues for one day demonstrations in the Bristol area.
By now Chris Lindup was a member of our group and he was the Head Master of Lawrence Weston School and so for one demonstration we used a class room in his school. Another teacher was Rob Postlethwaite who taught at Thornbury Grammar School where we used one of the craft rooms for a demonstration by Phil Irons.
One of the clubs main logistical problems was trying to marry a demonstrator with a lathe and venue. Some demonstrators like Ian Wilkie, who used a very small lathe, could bring them to the particular premises that had been rented. Another very important feature of the hall to be rented was the heating, a particular problem in the early days of the Mill.
The Avon and Bristol Club regularly invited national and international demonstrators to the club. One of the interesting things to remember is, as the club developed, that the club produced turners who would later demonstrate at other clubs around the country and at national and international seminars.
Ray Key -
The hobby of woodturning is very much a ‘hands on’ activity, so the ability to watch those who have a mastery of the craft can only be of benefit to any would be turner. The chance to ask questions, to clarify techniques or even to have the chance to decide not to follow a particular route is of vital importance.
When the club was first formed Don White was renting a workshop in Tytherington . The workshop was the old village school hall.
The first workshop demonstrator at the Tytherington workshop was Dennis French with Reg Sherwin in attendance. Dennis was a production turner making craft work for sale in a shop. He made small dishes for cheese segments and ring boxes with inlaid tops. This was the first workshop demonstration to be held by any club in the country.
Dennis French was the very first demonstrator at the club
Richard Raffan -
In delving a little further you find that at various times he has also held the position of Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Technical Advisor, General Committee Member and Co-
“In the early days you could list all of those titles under one heading ‘Team member’. As the club member who held these positions changed for each title the attitude stayed the same” recalls Simon.
“My story starts with an action taken by I.C.I. where I was employed. The company wanted to reduce its workforce at the Severnside Works.
Their policy was not to make individuals redundant, rather to offer them any form of training they wished, paid for by the company and without commitment to leave.
I had been an amateur furniture maker and wood turner for many years so having seen an article in a local newspaper about a wood turner whose workshop was in the village of Tytherington a few miles from where I lived, I though why not spend a day with a professional turner.
It was Don White so I contacted him and booked a one day course. It was not long after that meeting he contacted me to tell of the formation of the AWGB and would I like to join. With the formation of the AWGB came the invitation to be part of the Avon and Bristol Woodturners, again organised by Don.
Don White has had a major influence on me as a club member and without him I am certain I would not have demonstrated at seminars or have written for magazines.
In the early days the club was very much a self-
There was no annual club membership, each member would pay £1.00 at the door as they came in, and collecting the money was usually my job. The landlord of the pub was paid with whatever denomination of coin had come in that evening, the rest I would put into a building society account. Each year I would produce a set of accounts which I would take to the accounts department at work for them to audit.
In 1990 my name appeared in the second issue of the Woodturning Magazine as the contact for anyone wishing to join the club. By the third issue ( it was a quarterly magazine in those days) they had given me the title of Secretary.
When Don stepped down I became chairman. This was really a post that co-
When we did form a committee we would only hold three to four meetings a year and these would be held at various members’ houses, or if we were stuck we would hire the committee room at the Keynsham Baptist Church Hall.
I am not sure if there was an unwritten competition but each house we used for the meeting would put on a bigger and bigger spread of food.
The club members made work that was given to charities and one of the jobs was to deliver toy bricks, skittles and chairs to schools or hospitals”.
Simon at his lathe in the days before we all became far more Health & Safety conscious, and below, as he is today
According to the club archives the second chairman of the Avon & Bristol Woodturners was Simon Keen.
Simon Keen shares his memories of the early days of Avon & Bristol Woodturners
Food a Key Ingredient
An important part of the club’s development has been to attend exhibitions. This has helped generate interest in the club and created an opportunity for potential members to see it in action. It also provides a platform for members to sell the pieces they produce.
In September 1992 the club’s first public exhibition was held at the ICI Severnside works on their annual Open Day.
Simon Keen organised the event and it included the first opportunity for members to sell their work. Three members, David Tooby, Derek Bailey and Simon demonstrated their skills to the public in a room next to the main area.
It is recorded that “The event generated a lot of interest, with a steady stream of people asking questions and watching the demos – some member even selling their wares”.
In 1994 the club first exhibited at the locally very popular Portishead Flower Show which celebrated its own 100th anniversary last year.
Simon Keen and Dennis Clayton with an ICI employee on the club’s very first exhibition stand at the ICI Severnside Open Day in September 1992
1997 saw us at the Thornbury Arts Festival and in 1998 at the first Yandles Show.
1999 and the club exhibited at the Home and Living Show at Royal Bath Showground in Shepton Mallet while 2001 saw us the Axminster Show.
2005 and the club was featured at the Thornbury Model Engineering show and this has become a regular ever since as indeed has the North Somerset Show.
A & B WT have exhibited at The Festival of Wood at Westonbirt Arboretum Since 1996 – this is the 1999 stand
Left to right John Endicott, Jay Heryet, Denis May, Dave Llewellyn, Alan Matthews and Simon Keen set up the stand for The Homes and Living Show at the Royal Bath Showground in Shepton Mallet in July 1999
In 1996 the club was invited to exhibit at the Westonbirt Festival of Wood for the first time.
This has become a major feature of the club’s exhibition year and, in this our 25th year, we will be prominent again.
George King now organises the shows and exhibitions and needs to hear from club members who are willing to help on the stands, to demonstrate and those who wish to sell their work at this this year’s shows. Dates are listed in Turnings and on the club’s website here.
According to the club’s archives Ian Guy was the third Chairman of A & B W T and although we don’t see him at the monthly meetings very much during the winter, he is still both an active member of the club and an active wood turner.
When I asked him how he first got into woodturning he told me. “With a background in engineering I was going to get a metal turning lathe. Then I thought what am I actually going to make with it if I do? I couldn’t come up with a good answer so instead I bought a little wood turning lathe and started having a go.
I was chairman of our rugby club at the time and a member of the Institute of Quarrying so met quite a few people and you know how it is somebody knows somebody who also does wood turning but the bloke they introduced me to for help simply sent me a couple of books as much to say ‘he’s not coming to my place’.
Anyway I kept on trying things and in fact I’d turned a rugby ball and mounted it on a stand and I was pretty proud of it.
I saw an advertisement for a 2 day wood turning course at Radstock and went along and the second day I took along the few tools I had for sharpening as I didn’t have a grinder. The course teacher banged my gouge down on his hand and said you could never turn anything with this. I was very pleased to show him my rugby ball.
Some 6 or 8 months later I was in Cirencester visiting a Craft Fayre and there was a bloke with a stand of wood turning pieces. I stopped and had a look and was asked if I was interested and of course we then got chatting.
He told me I should join the local branch of the AWGB but I said no I’m not ready but he persuaded me and told me it was open to beginners too.
It was of course Don White and so I went to my first meeting at the Green Dragon. There were 6 or 7 people there, we chatted about lathes, about turning different things, various woods, paid our £1 each for payment of the room and then we went downstairs into the bar and carried on chatting some more.
Give us our Daily Thread
Ian Guy talks to Harry Childs about his memories of being chairman of the club
Once or twice we were down to 3 or 4 people so the money didn’t cover the cost of the room -
Don was a professional turner but the rest of us were all pretty busy doing our day jobs so as membership grew, and it did grow quickly, we had to get a bit more organised and they asked me if I would be chairman. Having had experience chairing other organisations I was happy to do so.
The monthly meetings became more structured covering the ‘business’ side of things at the beginning and then we would have a speaker or a demonstrator. We talked about restricting it to 50 members but never did – we just moved premises to accommodate everybody.
Other situations meant we had to formalise things like when one very competitive member brought along 5 items to enter into the competition. I had to tell him that it was unfair on other members and asked him to choose just one item to enter and from then on that became the rule.
We were nearly all hobby wood turners although I remember talking to one chap who came up from the Somerset Levels and when I asked him what he did he said he was a “coffin handle turner”, yes he made handles for coffins!
We started doing various exhibitions and were invited to Westonbirt when the Festival of the Tree started. After a couple of years they wanted us to pay to be there. Some said we should tell them to go whistle but I said if we were a serious club we had to be there and members would be charged a commission on their sales to pay for it. As a club I think we have been there ever since.”
I then went on to ask Ian if he still turned and if so what he enjoys turning the most.
”Yes“ was his emphatic reply ”I turned a couple of little boxes today. They are what I enjoy doing the most.
Fifteen or twenty years ago I read a John Barclay book about thread chasing on boxes and taught myself to thread chase. My benchmark for a turner ever since has been whether or not they could chase a 22 tpi thread. Box is best for thread chasing but I have done it on oak, walnut and beech too.
In his book John explained that the only way he knew to become really good at thread chasing was to do one every day.
I took this to heart and put it into practice and as I was leaving the house to go into my workshop I used to say to my wife I’m off to give us our daily thread”.
Max Carey Chairman
Harry Childs discovers a little about Max Carey Club Chairman 2003 -
Max Carey made a substantial contribution to the Avon and Bristol Woodturners, as a member, and as chairman as well as ‘the Mill’.
In going through some old copies of Turnings I came across an article in the April 2004 edition written by Max headed ‘How I found the Club’ and I quote from it here.
“I first became aware of the Club’s existence whilst attending the Portishead Flower Show in 1994. A big guy (probably John Endicott) asked me if I would like to join, and gave me a description of the club’s activities. At the time I declined the offer of membership, part of my thinking being that the seemingly grandiose title ‘Woodturners of Great Britain’ sounded far more sophisticated than I could aspire to. (Note this was before the club took the title of Avon & Bristol Woodturners).
Without realising it I had taken part of the bait, however, although it was not until the ATME Show at Shepton Mallet in 1998 that I was finally hooked. Viewing the Club’s demonstration work and seeing the gallery of work and the same guys manning the stand I signed up and paid up but still with reservations about my abilities.”
This from a man who started wood turning at the age of 13 in his father’s joinery workshop and having served his apprentice in Carpentry and Joinery at a time before the common use of power tools had gone on to become a member of the Federation of Master Builders.
“A wooden egg about 12” x 8” (metrication was light years away) was one of my first efforts!
My main tool on that job was a ¾” spindle gouge, it’s a lovely bit of carbon steel and I would not part with it for a king’s ransom. Back to the egg – and what it was used for at our annual local scout/guide gang show, cum pantomime, cum ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’. At the end of the burlesque one of the girl guides complete with tu-
After some forty years of wood working it is quite surprising to realise how many turned items are required in furniture and joinery manufacturing.
Just looking around my living room I’ve counted over 300 items, and not a goblet, bowl or candlestick, in sight. There is no exaggeration and you are welcome to count them.
Suffice to say that in spite of the ‘ups and downs’ I am very glad I joined, and am now able to pass on some of the knowledge I’ve gained.”
In his commemorative report of the Official opening of the Max Carey Trust on February 21st 2010, former Club member Doug Alderton wrote;
“From a personal point of view, and I know a view shared by fellow club members, I think Max Carey has been instrumental in contributing more to our club and woodturning fraternity than most of us realise, especially making available his work shop for club training and demonstration activities.
Many may not realise this but in no way could the nominal charge for a day’s turning at his workshop pay for the electricity, water rates and maintenance costs incurred therefore for the 10 years that the facility has been available the short fall in budget must have been incurred by himself.
Not only was Max an ‘officer and a gentleman’ he was the backbone of our club and may his contribution through the Trust continue for all time”.
I never met Max but I’m told he had a wonderful way with people and a wicked but subtle sense of humour. As Chairman he would apparently always make sure that he extended a warm and personal welcome to all new club members at the monthly meetings. As soon as they were in the room he would make himself known to them and ensure that they were introduced to committee members.
At the end of a club meeting he would always round off the proceeding by saying “ there is just one more thing before we depart”... then tell a joke that was close to, but not over the mark, usually derived from Jethro.
The Mill now offers
Back in 2000 while secretary of the club Jay Heryet enquired of the members as to whether any of them would be happy to run a ‘buddy-
Max, who by then had retired from the family carpentry and joinery business, offered the use of his dormant workshop.
Much larger than most member’s home workshop or garage and with significantly more equipment, the Mill as it will for ever be known, became a popular venue with sometimes 3 or 4 people meeting there other times 8 or 9 – but always on buddy-
Some members were able to get very involved and helped with maintaining Max’s machinery, some loaned tools and equipment that were surplus to their own requirements.
It also became the venue for club demonstration days.
All this on a very informal basis, and although the club purchased some items for members to use at the Mill the majority of the financial responsibly and exposure was on Max himself.
Gradually Max saw the need to develop more formalised training programmes and out of this came the Apprentice Programme, which has been the introduction to woodturning for so many of us. Simon Keen prepared the original manual.
The official launch of the Max Carey Woodturning Trust (MCWT) took place on the 21st February 2010 at Max’s workshop in Portishead, which had been the main training and instruction facility used by Avon & Bristol Woodturners for a number of years.
A ‘Not for profit Company and Registered Charity’, the Trust was created to ‘advance the education of the public in the subject of woodturning’
But how did all of this come about?
Those intervening 12 plus months were spent renovating and developing the workshop and bringing it up to a more acceptable standard.
This process mainly carried out by volunteers included a complete rewiring on the Mill, installation of dust extraction and heating systems and making sure enough people had the required Health and Safety Training and First Aid Qualifications.
As already stated the Official Launch of the Max Carey Woodturning Trust took place on February 21st 2010 and was attended by leading figures from the Worshipful Company of Turners and the AWGB as well as a good number of club members. Mark Baker gave a full days demonstration presenting Max with one of the bowls that he made and this in turn is now presented annually to ‘The Mill Man of the Year.’
The Apprenticeship Programme is where everybody starts at the Mill and they can then progress onto the Journeyman Scheme and Artisan Programme.
As well as being overseen by MCWT trainers’ external professionals are brought in to provide hands on speciality sessions. These include world renowned wood turners such as Nick Agar, Tracey Owen, Glen Lucas, Jay Heryet and Benoit Averley.
Max’s last visit to the workshop was for the Christmas Presentations in 2010 and Stuart recalls the amusement and satisfaction Max gained from seeing these world renowned professionals coming to teach students in his workshop rather than having to travel to them for training.
Max Carey died on 20th December 2010.
But his name and legacy lives on and continues to go from strength to strength.
Max Carey woodturnring at the Mill
Then in September 2008 Max shared the devastating news that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
That evening in a conversation with Stuart Bradfield who had been attending the Mill for a couple of years, Stuart asked Max “So what happens to this now?”
“I don’t know” came the reply.
“Why not set up a not for profit company and turn it into a charitable trust?” was Stuart’s next question and he recalls how gradually a smile crept across Max’s face as the conversation developed and the idea started to take shape and he began to realise a little of the potential of what was being proposed.
Before retiring for the second time Stuart had spent 9 years working for The Prince’s Trust and during that time had help numerous organizations set up similarly structured enterprises.
That experience was now put to good use on behalf of the Mill. The not for profit company was formed within a few weeks on 13th November 2008, although it would be January 1st 2010 before it started trading. The initial Directors were Max, his wife June, Stuart Bradfield, ‘Tich’Renee and Mary Ashton.
Below A club demonstration day at the Mill
The Mill at Portishead, home to the MCWT, is a unique centre for woodturning training, and this is how it has developed
The Mill is open two days a week and is at full capacity both days with around 20 turners attending each session together with 4 or 5 tutors. There are over 60 registered users and a substantial waiting list.
It is also a fertile recruitment ground for members for the Avon & Bristol Woodturners too with most Mill users becoming members.
The Mill is now one of only two accredited centres for the delivery of the Worshipful Company and AWGB new joint ‘Certificate in Woodturning’ , which works along similar lines to the NVQ system. Of the 12 people nationally who have so far gained their certificates 10 have done so at the Mill.
Youth Training figures highly too with regular youth training sessions organised in conjunction with the AWGB held at the Mill. Last October the MCWT hosted a 2 days introductory wood turning tuition for the Master and Court of the Worshipful Company of Turners
At the 2013 Christmas Presentation Day, Nick Agar, a long-
Max presenting the Apprenticeship Certificate to the first ever recipient Lorraine Richardson
Over the last 4 years approaching £40,000 has been spent on new lathes, tools and other equipment.
For the last 10 years or so this has been presided over by Lorraine Richardson and so to find out more about Pick-
How did Pick-
Lorraine: “According to long term members of the club I understand that it was Ray Chambers who first created a low key version of Pick-
It was for the Westonbirt event and the idea was to have it outside the Avon & Bristol Woodturners marquee to draw people in to see what was inside.
It used to be that there was one major first prize, five second prizes and 30 third prizes, although that has changed a bit now, all set up on a table for the public to see.”
So what is Pick-
Lorraine: ”Well it is a free standing ‘A’ frame board with a tree on the front and cut out inside the tree are 366 holes each with a peg and the playing member of the public essentially picks a peg to reveal a prize or not.
The clever way it has been put together is that once all 366 goes on one side have gone it is all ready to turn around and use the other side.
How much do you charge to have a go?
Lorraine: ”It is only 25 pence a go. I know this is only a small amount but it means that the whole family can each have a go and the kids absolutely love it.
One of the best things at Westonbirt is that people come up to me and say ‘ I’ve been looking all over for you -
As I said the kids absolutely love Pick-
How much money do you raise for club funds from Pick-
Lorraine: ”Each time we do a complete tree it raising around £90 .
The best we ever had was 5 trees in a day but that was when Westonbirt had far more visitors to the event than they do now but we usually do around three trees each day of the bank holiday weekend, so it is a very useful contributor to club funds.
You talk about prizes where do they come from?
Lorraine: ”Entirety from club members. I can never have enough prizes. – these on display are what helps to get attention for Pick-
And it is something every single member can get involved with and help. From the absolute novice to the most accomplished woodturner.
Any little item, dibbers, light pulls, bottle stoppers, candlesticks, bowls anything and I can then decide whether to offer them as first, second or third prizes
Toadstools in particular are always popular and there are a whole group of families’ who come to the stand each year specifically trying to win another toadstoo
l for their collection.
The more varied the wood they are made from the better they like it.
And for the children spinning tops, whistles, we’ve had cats and mice – any little item that you can think off and as many as possible too.
I can never have enough and if we don’t use them all this year them any surplus I put into store ready for next year.
I would really ask every club member to help by making just a few simple items – it is after all benefiting the club at the end of the day and you can do so while doing something you love doing – woodturning!
And yes you do have time for this year’s event”
Is it just you that runs Pick-
Lorraine: “No far from it. You need two people at all times for it to work properly one generating the customers and taking their money and one looking after the actual Pick-
I would really like to hear from any club member who is willing to help man the Pick-
The Westonbirt Treefest over the August Bank holiday each year has been an important event for the Avon & Bristol Woodturners since we were first invited to exhibit there in 1996 at what was then called Festival of Wood.
Over the years the format of our presence there has changed significantly but one thing that has been a constant feature has been Pick-
George King who organises the events for the club is also looking for members willing to help on the stand at Westonbirt, 23 -
Please see George at club night or send him an email or call him if you can help in any way or want to sell items from the stand.
George is having a hip replacement operation shortly and we wish him well with that but it does mean that a volunteer is needed to look after the transportation and construction of the stand this year.
Can you help?
Never too many prizes -
how many can YOU make ?
You do have to pay to play
It can’t be that difficult to pick a winner!
It is easy to play .. and fun
Lorraine with some of the children
As somebody who is relatively new to woodturning and very much a hobby wood turner I always find it interesting to talk to people with much more experience and in particular people who actually make a living from woodturning.
One such person is Sandra Atkins who was the first female member of Avon & Bristol Woodturners and was made a Life Member in June 2011.
Natural edge bowls, honey dippers and other domestic items feature regularly on Sandra’s stalls
First Lady Member of A & B Woodturners
Howard started making small furniture items and I learned pyrography.
He wanted to turn legs and include turned items in his projects so we bought a lathe and he went off on a course.
We used to sell things at craft fairs and shows and we made plans to move to Wales and set up our own craft centre.
Unfortunately Howard died from leukaemia. I carried on with the craft fairs but then stocks became low.
I didn’t want to make the furniture and rather than give up I decided to have a go on the lathe.
I taught myself how to turn wood and continued to go to the fairs; in fact I took over the running of the one at Lacock for a good many years.
I think the people who influenced my turning most in those early days were Del Stubbs for his sheer enthusiasm and inventiveness – I’ve don’t know of anybody else who turned a captive ring with a tool made from a nail, and Ray Key, his curves are the nearest thing to perfection as any I have ever seen.”
Sandra was on the club committee for twelve years and ran the raffle during that time too and was very involved with the stand at Westonbirt in the early days of the event.
“I was invited to have a stand the first year they did it in 1996, but decided it was not right for me and thought it far more useful for the club so suggested we took a stand there.
We had to supply our own marquee in those days so somebody borrowed one from a local scout group. Bob Barrett and Colin Hazel slept in it overnight as security. Both looked awful the next morning having been scared all night by strange noises -
“Bristol wood turners was formed in February 1987 and I joined the following April “ says Sandra. “We then became The Avon & Bristol Woodturners in 1989.
I met Derek Bailey at a craft fayre and he invited me along. I remember being very nervous going up the stairs of the Green Man for my first meeting. All the others there were men of course but they made me very welcome.
In those days turners were not fortunate enough to have 4 jaw chucks and all the gadgets and gizmos that there are now, so meetings often revolved around how to hold a piece of wood to achieve a particular turned shape.
People talked about how they did it and others would go away and try it, some would make changes and feedback their experiences at the next meeting.
We really did help one another find solutions. In spite of the fact that there now seems to be a new tool for every possible process I think it is really important that when new people take up the craft they first of all master the five basic tools.”
When I asked her how she first became involved with wood turning Sandra quickly explained.
“My husband and I both worked for Shell UK here in Bristol but they closed the office in 1982 and although we could have moved with them to jobs in either London or Birmingham we chose to take redundancy as we were both wanting to get away from working in offices and into craft work.
Sandra’s bowls of fruit are a ‘best seller
Over 70 days a year are spent at shows and craft fairs
Sandra Atkins when she received her Life Membership
I have seen the club grow and develop and it was an important step forward when Chris Lindup introduced Turnings in 1993. Incidentally he wasn’t one of the founder members as you said in one of your earlier pieces, but joined later on. (Author comment ‘sorry’)
It was only a single A4 sheet initially printed on both sides and folded in half.
I still attend shows and craft fairs about 70 days a year from Easter to Christmas. I have Mondays off to do homework and paperwork and turn items Tuesday to Fridays to replace stock and do commissions and then it’s off to a show for the weekend.
I also have space in a shop in Thornbury – Celebration Fairs.
Natural edge bowls, honey dippers wedding goblets, christening goblets, umbrella stands and domestic items all sell well but my bowls of fruit are my best seller.
I often get asked for all sorts of odd things. A lady came up to me at a Chepstow show and asked could I make a parsnip. I said yes but got some very funny looks as I did my product research in Tesco’s!
Eventually I did make it out of cross grained ash and she loved it.”
And what of the future I asked?
“I keep on saying I will cut down on the amount I do but for various reasons I haven’t turned for the last 10 days and was already missing it. So I’ve got back into it today even though it was just turning an apple, I feel better now!”
When Derek Edwards was the Club Chairman
I got talking to Simon Keen and then Max Carey and of course one thing led to another and the next thing I knew I was attending my first club night.
It was just after they moved to The Huntsman and Max was chairman.
I joined the committee which at that time had 13 members the following year.
Derek Harris was the programme organiser and when he fell ill they asked me to help with the role which I did.
It meant I went to lots of shows and met no end of the professional turners, which made it easier to ask then to come to Avon & Bristol and do a demonstration.
In 2006 at Westonbirt, Max and one or two others got talking and they asked me if I would become chairman in 2007.
I thought I was being clever when I said I would only stand if John Wilson-
I didn’t think they all would but they did and that was that!
One of the problems with the committee being so big the roles were not very specific or well defined.
Often, if anything needed doing Max, as chairman, had done it himself.
I saw my role as chairman differently. I wanted everybody on the committee to know what their roles were and I saw it as my role as chairman to ensure that they did them.
Things came to a head when we won the bid for a demonstration by one of the American turners who was appearing at the AWGB symposium.
A condition was that we informed all other clubs in the area and invited their members to attend.
I asked the committee of 13 for a volunteer to do this.
I didn’t get one and this aggravated me somewhat to say the least (Author note – not his exact words!) but it prompted me into action.
I prepared a power point presentation as to how I thought the committee should be made up along with their specific roles and I showed this at a club night.
The membership and the committee agreed and that is largely how things stand today.
I was chairman for two years and in that time when I had an idea or wanted to do something I often first sort out the views of people like Ian Guy, Simon or Max, the people who had put in tremendous efforts to get the club to where it is and for whom I have the utmost respect.
Some of the major achievements during my time as chairman were I think winning the Lottery Grant bid – John Wilson-
Derek Edwards was Chairman of the Avon and Bristol Woodturners for 2007 and 2008 and here he talks to Harry Childs about those times
When I first of all asked Derek Edwards when and how he got in to woodturning his answer was a littler vague.
“It must be about 30 years ago” he said. “Originally I was a member of the Wessex club at Yandles and then when I moved up here I was at the Festival of the Tree one year and saw the Avon & Bristol club stand.
Derek with his predecessor as chairman Max Carey
making a presentation during his time as club chairman
Derek with his new passions – his Model Steam Traction Engine called Ben, and grandson also called Ben
I don’t do much wood turning now – any turning that I do is making parts for the model steam traction engine I own, which is my new passion.
I just got back from a delivery run of an engine called The Laird to the big steam rally in Dorset – it was hard work over two days, but with a great group of six. I thought the mickey taking between wood turners was pretty intense but it doesn’t come close to the traction engine boys.
I will always love turned wooden items and appreciate the work put into making them. I like the trend to using colours, and I am building up quite a collection of pieces by such people as Bert Marsh and Nick Agar.”
This together with ensuring the Club History Book was put together documenting the people and their roles in launching and growing the club to where it is now.
I have visited many other clubs both here and in the states and I can honestly say that there is no better anywhere.
We made Max Life President during that time – I was very happy to have played a leading part in that because he certainly did a tremendous amount for the club.
As to my own wood turning – I was never the best but really enjoyed making bowls and platters.
The trouble with me was that I would go to say a symposium in Utah, see an idea and get all fired up and want to have a go , but by the time I got round to doing so I had seen something new and was heading off in a new direction.