19 Jul 2017

Meet the Maker – Woodturning: Undo the Undo

Woodturning: Undo the Undo

I spend most of my time on a computer. I live in the digital world where nothing is permanent, everything is tentative. A mistake can be undone as easily as pressing Ctrl+Z. One of the joys of wood turning is that there is no Undo. Oh, for sure its also one of the horrors when after 10 hours of work on a piece, a careless twitch or a momentary loss of focus can ruins the piece entirely but thats the point. But its also one of the exhilarations of the hobby… There is no Undo.

In many ways, that’s what “making” gives back to me. A sense of right here, right now… you’ve got one shot at this kid, don’t screw it up! In a world where we seem increasingly buffeted and cosseted from “risk” and “failure”, wood turning is a performance art with a single-member audience. Slips and mistakes can be masked, can be worked around and of course sometimes lead to whole new (better?) designs… but they can’t be reversed.

Wood is a natural substance. Its alive, it grows and it can be very unpredictable. It could be something as simple as a “bark inclusion” (which is when the tree decides to grow some bark in the middle of the wood!) to something as potentially devastating as “ring out” (where the centripetal force of the lathes rotations can cause a piece to lose structural integrity and fly apart at 1500 RPM). The former can prove to add beauty to a piece if you adapt your design to work with the wood… the latter is at best survived!


The point is that working with wood gives me a sense of “now-ness” that can be both scary and exciting. Once the wood is carved, there is no sticking it back on. The march of time is ever onward and there is no going back.

I suppose if we *have* to be pushed relentlessly in one dimension, time is the best one.

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