Spindle turning on my Grandfather’s lathe…


A few years back, my Papa gave me his lathe.  It is an old Craftsman model, and he used it to do all the turnings in his house.  I remember as a kid being very intimidated by it, the noise and the wildly rotating piece of wood.  I think I was more scared of that than any other power tool in his shop.  Along with it, he gave me an unopened box of turning tools that he said he never used, and then handed me a very large file that had a bevel ground on two sides of the end.  That was all he needed.


“The Tool”

In the time I’ve had it, I’ve treated it pretty roughly, mainly by turning green wood bowls on it which it wasn’t designed for.  Since then it has lived on a shelf waiting for the right project, and waiting, and waiting.  Recently I was trying to figure out how to do some period style table legs without having to turn them.  Not coming up with any good alternatives (and being more than a little frustrated at myself for going so far out of the way to avoid doing it right) I finally, reluctantly, got the lathe out and took a crack at turning again.  Some of that trepidation from childhood must still live in the back of my brain, along with memories of shattering the cast-metal tool rest while turning a bowl a few years ago.  But I did a couple of test pieces and was pleasantly surprised with the results, and now I have a stack of turned legs waiting to be made into tables and stools.  I feel like there’s some great moral lesson here but I can’t put it into words.  Maybe that unused lathe on the shelf has been bothering me, subconsciously, more than I knew all these years.  It’s as if I finally understand something now, something my Grandfather started explaining 25 years.  Or maybe it just reinforces all the lessons he taught me.  Do the job right.  Don”t be intimidated by things you don’t understand.  Don’t give up.  Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.  Using his tools reminds me of these lessons, and in the shop is where I hear his voice the most, and sometimes it’s where I need the reminder the most.


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