Robin Wood 10 July 2008

Robin Wood, the acclaimed pole-lathe turner, stepped into the breach last night See Robin's Photoswhen our booked demonstrator was unable to come along.

We were very grateful to Robin for bailing us out at such short notice, and what an evening’s entertainment he gave us.

The first half of the evening was taken up with a slide presentation, Robin’s wealth of knowledge of his subject covering the history of the lathe and turned items. He told us, for instance, that the merits of using partly dried wood, as opposed to wet or dry wood, were being written about as long ago as 370 BC by Theophrastus, and that a turned jet button was found in a Bronze Age barrow, dated 2000 BC. He explained that the first evidence of woodturning in Britain was a Viking bowl, dated around 600 BC and that during the Roman occupation pottery, not wood, predominated. However from 500 to 1500 AD everyone, pauper or king, ate from wooden bowls. In 1189 over 12,000 wooden bowls were ordered for the coronation of Richard 1.

Robin showed slides of very many ancient turned items, including items from Henry the Eighth’s flagship the Mary Rose, these items being in fantastic condition in spite of being underwater for centuries. More than 50 bowls and 120 dishes were found in the wreck, which sank in 1545.

Everyone was very absorbed and our tea break was later than usual.

Later Robin went on to show us how he very skillfully splits a log for turning, and then cuts it to shape with an axe. He explained how leaving out the heart of the wood ensures it will not split later, and he then finished a porringer he had turned earlier in the day – using nothing more than an axe and a very sharp carving knife.

He then showed several short films.

Robin will visit us again in January, and bring his pole lathe with him.

Lesley Churton

SWC Secretary