Where do I start with Woodturning? Perhaps it all started in my home town of Casino in 6th Class when I was 12 years old, my teacher decided the boys in the class should build a model yacht. It took many weeks of cutting with hand saws, using a rasp to get the shape and finally hand sanding and varnishing. I was very proud of my achievement. I still, on occasion, make the same style of yacht today for fetes and stalls.

Or, perhaps it started a year later, at High School. In First Year all boys had to do 6 months of Woodwork and 6 months of Metal Work. Casino High School was brand new at that time and the Wood and Metal working shops were brand new with all new equipment.

One of the projects we made in that time was a Bowsaw. We had to make a set of handles for it. I will never forget the feel of the wood taking shape under my less than knowledgeable hands. It was a feeling that I never forgot.

As my schooling progressed I continued with wood work until 4th Form, (Year 10 in today’s parlance), my final project was a Bookcase to hold the family set of World Book Encyclopaedias.

After leaving school I moved through a number of jobs, but I finally settled into a Radio Trades job with the Australian Regular Army. It was here that I really learned about using tools.

After getting married to my musician wife, Marilyn, and leaving the Army I joined what was then Telecom Australia and became a Telecommunications Instructor and Training Manager. During this time I instructed Installation and Maintenance staff on the installation and maintenance of the Radio Base Stations for the Mobile Phone systems.

It was during this time that I attended the last day of a Working with Wood Show at the old Moore Park show grounds. Hare and Forbes had a display of equipment there and they were selling a small wood lathe with a set of Robert Sorby chisels for a real knock down price. My mind went back to that wood working class where I had first done some very basic wood turning. In short I bought the lathe and chisels and took it home and set it up on my work bench, and started turning.

I am blessed with a very good memory, so I remembered most of the things that my teacher had told and shown me about woodturning. Soon I was making small simple items with varying degrees of success.

One day, my Scout Group Leader, (I am also a Scout Leader and a Private Pilot), showed me a hand carved woggle, (for holding a scout scarf) that he had acquired from America. It was in the form of a “Lemon Squeezer” hat, and asked me if I thought I could make something similar on the lathe. After some thought I started. Little did I know what I was getting into. I have now made hundreds of these woggles over the last fifteen years. They are highly sort after in scouting circles and as far as I know I am the only person making them in the world.



While making woggles was, and is lots of fun, I wanted to improve my own skills, so I went looking for a course in woodturning. It did not take long to discover that TAFE no longer ran courses, but there was a reference to something called “The Sydney Woodturners Guild”. I made contact with Bart Galea from Eastern Region. It did not take them long to start to teach me how to make Pens, Clocks, bowls and all the other assorted items that are made on a lathe.

My skills have improved, and certainly I now produce a much better finished item than I did before joining the group.

I find that I tend to make small useful items, Pens, Spatula’s, Bottle Openers, Small Bowls etc. This is just my personal preference. Decorative items, while I appreciate the work and skill involved, do nothing for me personally. Though I have to admit that lately I am thinking that I might like to try something a bit larger, perhaps my tastes are changing.

I have always been the sort of person that is deeply involved in anything that I join, (I have been a Scout Leader for over 18 years and have received a couple of Service Awards). Since joining Eastern Region and The Guild I have become Eastern Regions representative and I regularly demonstrate at The Royal Easter Show and The Working with Wood Show. Next year I hope to put something into the competition section of the Royal Easter Show.

I have found that turning has helped me to slow down a little in my hectic life and has taught me to look a little more at the positives of the items that I make and myself. So in conclusion I would say, “Be gentle with yourself, do not let fear of failure stop you from trying something new, and keep turning”. Good luck to you all and I hope to see you sometime in the future.

Profile of an old woodturner – Philip Mcleod