According to the dictionary, to craft is to make or fashion with skill, especially by hand. I’ve been a dabbler of crafts most of my life starting with needlework using a plastic needle and wool at 4 or 5 and progressing to proper material and threads later in childhood. My paternal grandmother taught me how to bake, how to knit (a skill that I never picked up well), mum taught me the finer points of cross stitch and as an adult, I taught myself how to crochet and patchwork (with a lot of help from Husband – I spent quite a while yelling for help with my sewing machine).
That being said, I’m don’t consider myself to be very artistic or creative. Dad is a bloody brilliant painter, excelling at watercolours and acrylics and mum took classes in upholstery and soft furnishings, only to be a natural at it so made curtains and re-upholstered an entire set of dining room chairs. My youngest brother is very creative, as is my sister-in-law to be; Husband is also very artistic and creates beautiful items out of wood as his job. My mother in law is also very good at art, as are 2 of my brothers in law…I’m never far from an arty person it would seem. My artistic skills are, limited, shall we say?
Husband has a business making gorgeous hand turned wooden items. some small and some rather large (60mm crochet hooks anyone?). He started last year, bought himself a lathe and taught himself how to turn wood, spending hours perfecting his craft, eventually leaving his job as a software developer to go full-time working for himself at Powered By Flapjack. I love seeing his creations; one of the highlights of coming in from work is seeing what he has made in the day. One day it could be 25 crochet hooks, another it might be a batch of snowmen or a wooden owl. While I love seeing his work, learning about it and how it is made, I never really thought much about trying to make something out of wood. Possibly my inner critic telling me I’d be a bit crap at it but also that it is Husband’s business, his workshop and his tools and equipment – I’d never forgive myself if I broke them*.
I had a brief go on the lathe over a year ago and then today, Husband gave me a proper lesson in How to Turn. It was a total surprise so I had zero time to get nervous or worried and just got caught up in the excitement. First up, safety. Face shield and built-in dust filters – wood dust is nasty stuff if you breathe it in for long periods of time and quite frankly, I’m glad of the face shield! A quick introduction to tools and then it was lathe time. Husband started with giving me a blank, or a squared off piece of wood to rough down into a cylinder. I felt clumsy and awkward to start, not quite sure how much pressure to use or how to move my body to make the tools work against the wood grain. Slowly, it became easier and I switched tools to create different shapes – each new tool took a bit of getting used to.
Just when I thought I’d be only practising (and I was OK with that) Husband asked me what I wanted to make – it was an easy decision. I love Winnie the Pooh; I’ve loved him and the stories since I was tiny and I still love them today. Winnie the Pooh has a bit of a honey addiction and I’d agree with him that honey on toast is the best thing to have on toast. When I think of honey, I always think of the classic grooved honey dipper, sitting stickily on the side after being dunked in the honey jar. So, making a honey dipper made perfect sense (to me). We set about marking up the piece of wood that would be my finished honey dipper and set to work. It was going well, until I got a bit over-confident and over-ambitious and made the stem too thin, causing it to break as Husband was helping me get the grooves deep enough in the top of the dipper.
No matter, the beauty of wood-turning being that you can always start again. This time, Husband advised me how to prevent it happening again, changing the order in which I turned the piece and changing the tools to make it easier. I wanted to re-do the whole piece, even though Husband very kindly offered to get me back up to the break point quickly. His teaching paid off and I managed to get it past the break point. The thrill of seeing the finished item take shape right under your hands and eyes is immense and the sense of pride and achievement equally so.
As the final shape was realised, it was time to sand the dipper until smooth enough to use and to be pleasant to handle, then 2 quick (careful) cuts to take off the excess wood at each end, a brief go on the belt sander to buff off the rough ends and a final hand sanding to make it as smooth as possible. The end result was a dipper that is fully functional but also an attractive addition to our kitchen implements. It’s not perfect; I chipped a bit of wood off the bottom of the dipper and the top and bottom are a bit wonky, but I’m thrilled with it! I made something useful and in my opinion, beautiful.
*I didn’t break any of the tools but I did manage to take a chip out of one bit. Thankfully, it hasn’t affected the operation of the lathe and it is tiny. Not my finest moment. I won’t be doing that again!