Wareham Gateway Turners club turns wood into artwork

Oct 2, 2017

The Gateway Turners club proudly creates and displays hand-crafted bowls, pens, shot glasses, Christmas tree ornaments, birdhouses, earrings and more, all made from wood on a lathe.

Gateway Turners is in its tenth year as Wareham's woodturning club, meeting at Cape Cod Antique Restoration once a month to talk about techniques, ask questions and get advice on the craft of woodturning.

In woodturning, a square of wood is placed on a lathe, which spins the wood. Tools are used to shape the piece of wood into whatever object is desired.

“If it’s round, we can make it,” explained Vice President Daniel Manley.

The wood can then be dyed to create a final product. Woodturning is about finding what works well with a certain piece of wood, Manley said. There might be holes in the wood, pieces of bark that grew into the tree or red streaks left by beetles.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” he said. That’s his favorite part of woodturning. “Your idea has to change as you go.”

Most club members use recycled, local wood. If a professional cuts down a person’s tree, they can call Gateway Turners and club members will come cut up the tree and transport it.

“We’ll usually give them a bowl made from the tree to say thank you,” Manley said.

Manley said woodturning is often a hobby people pick up after they retire. At 33, he is the youngest member in the club, which has 45 members in total. Manley said most members are between 50 and 60 years old.

“A lot of times it’s people looking for a hobby or for an additional skill if they already do woodworking,” Manley said.

Some of the members have never turned before but want to learn the skill. Others are professionals and have been doing it for decades, like Jim Silva, the club’s president.

“It’s not a situation where you’re going to someone for lessons,” Silva said of the club. “It’s peer-to-peer, and that makes it an easier learning environment.”

Silva said there has been a shift from industrial woodturning– making chair and table legs, for example– and to approaching woodturning as an art form. Now machines make table legs and individualized, more artistic pieces are left to woodturners. Silva, who has a degree in art, mainly creates high-end pieces.

“People can explore what they like,” Silva said. “You can go where your personality takes you.” For example, some people like creating complex pieces, while others stick with simple bowls. Manley’s specialty is pens, which he can turn out in half an hour of work.

The club also goes to country fairs and art festivals to promote woodturning. They typically make wooden tops to demonstrate how to work the lathe and then give them out to kids who are watching.

Gateway Turners, one of five woodturning clubs in Massachusetts, meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend meetings. For more information, visit Gateway Turners on Facebook or at www.gatewayturners.org.