I was born in a very small town in South Dakota in the late 40's and grew up on my parents' farm there. In 1970, I received a BS from South Dakota State University and moved to Texas to enter the Air Force pilot training program. After graduation, I became a T-38 pilot instructor (If you're interested in a picture of that aircraft click here ) and then an instructor at the instructor pilot training school in San Antonio, Texas. It was like flying a Ferrari! Since leaving the Air Force, I’ve held jobs in sales and teaching and in 1995 I moved to the Atlanta area to become the IT manager for the US District Court in Atlanta from which I retired in 2007.
I developed an interest in working with wood while working on the family farm. My father was one of those people that can look at a few examples, talk to a few people and then build it. I helped him build pole barns, cattle sheds and even a grain elevator. My grandparents gave my father a Shopsmith in the late 40's and it was a primary factor in a lot of the buildings on our farm.
One use, which I don’t think my father knew about at the time, was as a lathe. My brother and I managed to make pine 2x2's into rough cylinders using one of my father’s wood chisels. It was great fun! Miraculously, we survived the experience and it stuck with me for over forty years. The Shopsmith has also survived. My brother still has it after fifty years!
In the military, I was a frequent visitor to the base woodworking shop. I made “going away” plaques for the squadron and several “multiple award” plaques for 24 and 48 names. I sometimes wonder if they’re still hanging in the squadron at Randolph AFB. Probably not.
For some reason, I never played with the lathe they had. Maybe it was the gouge sticking in the sheetrock on the opposite side of the shop. It was apparently left there after having been wrenched from the hands of someone at the lathe, bounced off the wall in front of the lathe and traveled about twenty feet to stick into the wall about ten feet from the floor. True or not, it was a great object lesson regarding high speed and poor tool control. It could easily have been just another story since there were plenty of pilots frequenting the shop and none of us were above creating such a scenario - on the other hand none of us were above lightly holding onto a tool and approaching a very rapidly spinning piece of wood either!
In 2000 I purchased an inexpensive Craftsman lathe and addiction soon set in. After making my share of bowls, boxes and weed pots, my primary interest has focused in the exploration of three areas; hollow forms, piercing and coloring. While I have yet to combine all three, that can’t be far in the future.
I started out with my Craftsman in the basement of our home, but now have my shop in about half of our new four car garage. I’ve graduated to a Powermatic 3520 too after wearing out the Craftsman. No more sawdust, lacquer odors etc.to contend with in the house!
I am president and webmaster for the Georgia Association of Woodturners (GAW) and a member of the American Association of Woodturners (AAW).
Part of living in Georgia and visiting family back in South Dakota is traveling through Minneapolis, just across the river from Saint Paul, the site of the AAW’s offices. If you are ever in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area, you should make time to stop by their offices. Mary Lacer is a most gracious host and they are housed in what was once the Minnesota Federal Courthouse. This building has to be one of the more elegant examples of architecture in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Area. Either would be worth visiting in their own right, but you get two for one in this case.