Charlie’s Lesson, and a Lesson for Me About YouTube

I do love my job, and when I met Charlie a couple of weeks ago at the Community Woodfair in Chandler’s Ford, I had no idea how great it would be to teach what I had learned myself.

Charlie came to visit me the other day to have a bit of a refresher as he had not turned for some time and he said that my workshop looked just like it did on telly. I chuckled nervously at this as it began to sink in what kind of affect the videos I (and others) publish on YouTube. Charlie had been watching my videos and came to see me at the Woodfair – I’m not sure to what extent he had been watching, but he said later that he had almost finished them.

So there it is, my videos are out there, and people are watching. I can see that from my viewer stats, of course, but then to have my humble workshop being referred to being ‘just like it is on telly’ took me back a bit and gave me a huge sense of responsibility; Not only to the impending lesson with Charlie, but also to my viewers. I would have to make sure that I live up to the impression in real life that Charlie had in his mind from seeing my videos.

Now a Charlie was there in the workshop with me, and paying me to teach him, the proof had better be in the pudding – I hoped that my interpersonal presentation came across as well face-to-face as they seem to online.

Charlie was very organised. He brought his own tools and face mask and two spindles of mahogany and a couple of ebony for me. I was very touched and didn’t quite know what to say, other than a big thank you!

So, after going through the ins and outs of health and safety in the workshop and a brief tour, we got down to business – roughing practice with the gouge on a piece of douglas fir. This went well and so we moved on to the spindle gouge to start making a bud vase.

Using a gouge can be a little counter-intuitive. i.e. you have move in the opposite direction to the cut, such as when making a concave cut, and for a virtual beginner, this can be tricky. So I teach it as a a bit like holding the tiller on a yacht, you want to go one way, but you move the tiller the other way. Or, like a spoon scooping up ice cream. Once you get your head round this, it’s a doddle…sort of.

Then there is a convex cut, and to help with this, I use a small rubber ball and show how the tool moves, toe first round the ball and how the handle follows it.

Both of these uses of the tool (and in fact, all tools on a long cut) require the body to move with the tool against the body as much as possible…as this leads to what I call the Turner’s Dance. You need to move with the tool, and feel the curves you are creating. But that’s a video in itself.

Charlie and I got down the shape he wanted for his bud vase and so we moved on to finishing.

Now, I’m a stickler for perfection and will happily re-sand a piece if I can still see tool marks of sanding marks when I think I’ve done. I pointed this out after we hit 400 grit and we started again from 240 to make sure we got all the marks out the piece before applying sanding sealer and a coat of Hampshire Sheen.

We had a good long chat about lathe choice, what he wanted to turn when he gets going again, as well as enjoying a cup of coffee throughout the four hour session.

I hope to see Charlie again for something a little more advanced, and I offered him a lesson on his own lathe when he gets one so he can use his own equipment. I think this would be beneficial for anyone who has some kit to learn on. Using other lathes is generally fine, they all spin wood, but your own lathe and tools need to be gotten used to and there is no better place to learn than on your own kit! That’s what I think, anyway.

So, Charlie, if you are reading this, thank you for coming the other day, and thank you for the mahogany and ebony. I’ll look forward to turning something with the pieces.

If you are interested in a lesson, either as a beginner, or if you would like to learn some of my finishing techniques in more detail than I go into in the videos, please let me know and I’ll be pleased to help.

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