I am inspired by a quote from Pablo Picasso, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” In my woodturning I think I’m mostly at the “learn the rules” stage rather than being a creative woodturner. But every once in a while I try something different and am usually quite pleased with the result. I’ll be honest I don’t break the rules very much. However that could be changing!
This was one of my birthday presents. My wife gave me “The Creative Woodturner” by Terry Martin. The goal of the book is to inspire you to develop your own personal woodturning style. It is more about the process that Terry went through than the end results that he achieved.
Terry Martin a Wood Artist
Terry is a woodturner from Australia. This is his web site: http://terrymartinwoodartist.com. However Terry is often called a wood artist. I would have to agree as we follow his creative process in this book. His introduction includes many good quotes but I really like this one. “There’s no correlation between creativity and equipment ownership” by Hugh MacLeod. That is certainly true in my case. I am just beginning to explore the possibilities on my lathe. My drill press and table saw are strictly utilitarian. I’ve been “creative” in getting them to do what I want but I have not been specifically creative with them. I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.
Techniques and Ideas
So let’s move on with Terry. He uses his lathe and tools in creative ways making him a creative woodturner. One of his first examples is how do you use a bowl gouge to cut the outside of a bowl? All of my turning books have the flute of the bowl gouge facing up. Terry gets a finer cut by turning the gouge over and is cutting upside down. I’m going to have to try this one but Terry says it gives a finer cut. He is still resting on the bevel of the tool on the wood but it is just a completely different presentation than what I am used to.
He uses questions to help him approach turnings from a different perspective. The two that struck me were: “Don’t Ask What, Ask Why” and “What If…?” These still sound strange to me but I am trying them on for size. He has other questions as well. These questions help you think outside of the traditional box or should I say bowl!
Terry’s “Turning” Projects
So how does Terry turn his projects? There are 16 projects in the book. Typical of turning books Terry does share his methods of turning, chucking, and working with the wood. So there are lots of useful ideas here on technique.
The first one is a bowl. Nice and easy. But Terry shapes the bowl with an extended rim and then proceeds to use a grinder to take most of the rim away leaving the bowl with handles! This is also the way that the English turner, Robin Wood, turns handled oatmeal bowls (porringer bowls) on a pole lathe.
The next few projects could still be called bowls but there is more happening with the grinder and other tools. The one called “Impossiblbowl” is striking to me. I love the look of the bowl and it was nice that he explained the turning method in the book. It was one of those obvious answers that are obvious once you’ve been told!
The remaining projects, except the last one, all include turned sections however the amount of turning is decreasing in each project until there is no “turning” done on the last project in the book. The piece is held on the lathe but all the work is done with grinders and sand paper. Terry says, “It seems the most creative thing I ever did as a turner was not turn on the lathe.”
He moves from the traditional idea of turning to different shapes and structures resulting in the end with no turning at all. As he would say he is not a woodturner but a wood artist. It is inspirational to walk with Terry through these projects as he shares his thought process in trying to set himself free in his artistry. It is the process that is inspiring not necessarily the projects. I hope to try a couple of his techniques as I mull over his ideas and concepts of creativity and woodturning. Here’s a bit of creativity on my part.
The Creative Woodturner; Book Review Summary
This is a great book for expanding your horizons as you consider woodturning as your profession. It is not about mastering technique, or reproducing specific projects. It is an exploration of one person’s journey of discovery. This book does an excellent job of recording that journey for Terry Martin. I give it a score of 5 out of 5.