Our first demonstrator in 2017 will be one of our members, Russell Coker. If you have met Russ you will know that he is friendly; if you have talked about woodturning with him you will know that he is knowledgeable; and if you have seen some of his “show and tell” items you will know he is a highly skilled turner. But if you haven’t sat him down and grilled him, you may not realize what an extensive woodturning background he has.
Russ says he knew early in life that woodturning would be his hobby, so when he retired in 2002 he bought a lathe and some turning tools. But he did more than that: he also bought a truck, and he and his wife took his turning on the road, doing Saturday markets and arts and crafts shows. Their first show was a Bandon Wine and Cheese art and craft show, partly because it was an indoor show and Russ and his wife didn’t have a tent then. But they kept getting into more and more shows.
Russ figured out how to develop and maintain and inventory of attractive items that he could both turn well and sell. One of his specialties was turning fence posts from his wife’s family homestead in Wyoming. He found he could turn those dry, hard fence posts best with the dreaded skew chisel.
But he didn’t just turn fence posts. Often would buy a large burl, turn one large bowl from it, sell that bowl to pay for the cost of the wood, and then turn the rest of the burl and sell those pieces to make a profit. He also turned and sold lots of utilitarian items such as wine stoppers, hair sticks and cutting boards.
When he’s turning for pleasure, Russ says he particularly enjoys turning natural edge bowls and hollow forms. He favors highly figured maple burl, and Manzanita with its hard, tight grain and brilliant red color.
By the time he cut back on Saturday markets and art and craft shows in 2009, he and his wife were doing 14-18 shows a year, they had a tent, and they were not only selling his turnings, but her tea towels, bags and embroidery.
More recently he’s turning less, giving more of his time to care of home and body, and doing volunteer work at his church in the Care and Share program.
But less turning for Russ is still a lot of turning: he’s teaching at the Multnomah Art Center in the woodturning program, he produces items for galleries in Astoria, Hood River and Seattle, and he recently wrote an article about making shapely legs for a blanket bench. It is titled “Turning Multiaxis Pad-Foot Legs,” and was published in the August 2016, edition of the American Woodturner. The American Woodturner is the journal of the AAW, and the most prestigious place one could have a woodturning article published. It took Russ six months to work out the techniques and design for his blanket bench. He’s going to share what he learned with us at our January meeting.