During the last half of 2009, the Bell Woodturning Club discussed the possibility of starting a training program for local youths. We contacted the Gilchrist County 4-H agent about determining if there was an interest in wood turning among the local youths. His response was very positive. We proceeded to develop a program for teaching wood turning skills. We applied for a grant from the AAW and was approved. We located a building to hold our training sessions and started classes February 28, 2010. We started with six students and had meetings twice a month. We considered the program successful but as we got to the summer months, attendance suffered because of vacations and other conflicts with other events. We stopped the classes during August due to low attendance. We reassessed our program to look for a better way of presenting the information. We decided to hold a one week program from June 6-10, 2011. The reasoning was that we would have better attendance if we held all day classes for five days in a row. We put our program together, secured a location and applied for a grant to help with expenses. The AAW approved our request.
On the morning of June 6 we were met by eight bright eyed enthusiastic students anxious to get started. We had four girls and four boys from 10 to 16 years old ready to learn wood turning. Classes started with introduction to the lathe. Safety rules for using the lathe were covered in detail. The tools used for turning were explained and demonstrated. The morning was completed by hands on with the students turning a planting dibble. This provided the opportunity to practice roughing a block from rectangular shape to a cylinder. Then they formed a bead, shaped the handle and added some groves for depth measurement on the dibble. This provided some practice of turning between centers using a cup center that will allow the wood to slip if(when) they get a catch. It also requires the student develop a light touch with the tool to keep the tool cutting properly.
The afternoon session involved more spindle work. We bought sets of three whisks that had small metal cylinders for handles. A metal loop on the end was removed. Students turned a handle for each whisk. The handles were epoxied in place.
Tuesday started with a review of safety rules and lathe operation. Making a pen was demonstrated and each student made a pen from previously prepared pen blanks. Assembly was done with a pen press or by using morse taper pieces on the lathe in the spindles of the head stock and tail stock of the lathe. Tuesday afternoon was a lesson in making weed pots. The students had fun designing their own shape for each piece. It was interesting to see the various shapes they made.
On Wednesday we introduced the chuck and how to use it to hold a piece of wood. Students made weed pots by forming a tenon on one end of the wood and mounting it in the chuck. They drilled a hole in the wood and turned the outside of the piece to their own design.
Thursday morning started with making candle sticks. They mounted the wood between centers, roughed it to round and made a tenon on one end. They mounted the wood in the chuck and drilled the end for the candle and candle ring. With the tail stock and live center in place, they turned a candle stick. Afternoon session was a demonstration of making a small bowl followed by each student making their own bowl using the bowl gouge.
On Friday they started by making a small box with a lid. Some made flat tops, some made rounded tops and some put a knob or other decoration on top. The afternoon session was used to make spatulas to be used in the kitchen.
Projects were finished with just sanding in some cases. Some were finished with mineral oil, some with Hut wax sticks or both. We avoided finishes that were volatile or took too long to dry. We also avoided glues by preparing the pen blanks ahead of time. Epoxying the whisk handles was done by one of our staff to minimize the students being exposed to any toxic or dangerous chemicals.
We had one student drop out due to scheduling conflicts, but seven of our students were present each day and everyone completed the projects. We had three minor fingers injuries in one day but with emphasis on safety each day we avoided any major problems. All of our students were enthusiastic, worked hard and appeared to enjoy the process of wood turning. They were proud to have projects they had personally completed to take home each day. They were made honorary members of the Bell Woodturners Club. Projects were selected from the AAW training program and from our own group suggestions. Students completed ten different projects. They meet the requirements for being issued their Woodturning Journeyman Completion Certificate. Their names are being submitted to the AAW for the complementary one year membership.
The program was held at the Bell Community Center in Bell Florida. We thank the city for allowing us to use the building for a very reasonable rate. We appreciate the fact that it is air conditioned which is important this time of the year.
Thanks to our staff that showed up each day to teach the kids. Even though the average age of the group is probably over 70, they unloaded the lathes and materials used each day and set them up for the classes. They supervised the kids each day and then removed everything at the end of the day. By the end of the week they were exhausted but glad to have participated in this project. They enjoyed teaching as much as the kids enjoyed learning.
The students also helped clean up at the end of each day and remove the equipment. Thanks also to our local County 4-H Agent for his interest in supporting this project. After turning a couple of tea lights, he may be a future wood turner. Thanks to the two ladies from our club who came in each day at lunchtime to set out the lunch material and drinks. Thanks to AAW for supporting this project.
We thank the kids who participated in this project and hope they all had fun. We hope that they have an opportunity to enjoy the art of wood turning again in the future perhaps as a hobby when they retire if not before. We thank the parents and grandparents that brought the kids to the program. We hope the parents that expressed an interest in getting and setting up a lathe for their kids will do that. Please contact us if we can help.