FORMER firefighter Andrew Tucker’s feet are sprinkled with wood shavings.

The 66-year-old woodworker is one of dozens of artists opening the doors to their studios next month for Swindon Open Studios.

But the woodworker, who spent 33 years as a firefighter in Swindon, is reluctant to describe his work as “art”.

“I make practical things with wood,” said Andrew in his Old Town home - flanked by stools and lamps made in his own garden.

“Some of my work is a bit rough and ready. It’s not like some carvers’ - it’s not perfect.”

Andrew has been working with wood for “25 to 30 years”, he says.

He went on a woodworking course in Wales - leaving with a stool he made himself - and hasn’t looked back.

He works at the end of his oasis-like garden, using an ancient technique of working wood.

His wooden “pole-lathe” is a twist on the historic original. One end of a bungee rope is tied to the ceiling of his shed, with the other strapped to a foot pedal on the floor.

On the way from ceiling to floor, the bungee is twisted round a piece of wood held in place in Andrew’s timber-framed lathe.

As he presses his foot on the pedal, the bungee rope causes the wood to spin round. As it does, Andrew shaves into it using different chisels. In just minutes he can create a table leg, spindle or peg.

He said: “Not many of my pieces are repeated. Once you’ve made something once you want to go somewhere else with the woodwork.”

Andrew has long had an affinity with wood: “I’ve always been fascinated with wood, ever since I was a child. As a kid, I used to whittle bits of wood.

“My father was into making things with his hands, doing things with glass. I suppose I got that skill of making things from him.”

The process of turning wood is a relaxing one, he said. “When you’re doing it you’re taken away from everything else. Your mind is concentrated totally on the work. It’s very relaxing - you can lose yourself totally.”

Much of Andrew’s wood is local. Timber from a hundred-year-old beech tree felled in Town Gardens after becoming diseased is currently in his store. “I haven’t got round to working it yet,” he said.

He volunteers in Peatmoor Copse, a woodland in West Swindon. Alongside fellow volunteers, he spends time in the winter coppicing the wood - cutting back trees to allow new branches to grow up.

From the copse he takes whippy hazel and ash. The latter is a “hard wood”, he said. “But you can get it reasonably straight grained. It’s one of the woods woodworkers like to use.”

When visitors flock to Andrew's Old Town studio next month they can expect to see the worker in action on the lathe and buy pieces to take home with them.

Andrew Tucker is at Swindon Open Studios, 39 The Mall, on Saturday September 16 to Sunday September 17, 11am to 5pm.

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