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Swindon Advertiser columnist Barrie Hudson takes a turn at woodwork
TAKING a lump of ex-tree and having at it with a dirty great sharpened metal object is a fine stress reliever.
Making the lump of ex-tree spin at about a thousands revs per minute first is an even finer stress reliever.
The second option has other benefits. For one thing, if you get it right you’ll end up with a beautiful object that straddles the border between practicality and art.
For another, you’ll be known among friends as a talented person rather than an odd person who likes hitting lumps of wood with dirty great sharpened metal objects.
I know all this because I visited father-and-daughter woodworkers and turners Ian Murray West and Ellie Thompson of the Treen Workshop in Royal Wootton Bassett. They run classes at £15 an hour and sell handmade works at farmers’ markets and food festivals.
“I can’t go past a fallen tree without imagining what’s inside it,” said Ian. “I can’t refuse the offer of a piece of wood. There’s something deeply satisfying about a rough old chunk of timber making something useful – wood turning is releasing something both beautiful and useful.”
Having tried it myself, I can only agree. Ellie supervised while I did some of the cutting work on a small bowl, and there’s an almost spiritual quality to watching something recognisable and attractive emerge from a rooster tail of noise and sawdust and vibration.
Ellie said: “To me the wood becomes what it wants to become – that’s what fascinates me.”
The turned items the two make cost from £5 to over £100. A handmade item is more expensive than a mass produced one for obvious reasons. As Ian said: “It is unique. You can’t produce an identical pair of anything – it just ain’t on.
“Also, the whole essence of what we do, our ethos, is that it’s local wood. It’s nearly all what would otherwise have been thrown away. It’s wind-blown, it’s offcuts, it’s curious pieces you find.”
Ian is 84 and has lived in 28 houses over his lifetime, several of which the retired structural engineer and businessman either built himself or completely remade to his own specifications. He came to Wootton Bassett from Hertfordshire to be nearer Ellie, 54, who lives in Great Somerford.
Ian has been a wood turner since he was a 13 and began using the lathe and other equipment at his boarding school. “I made all the things that kids make for Mummy and Daddy, such as bookshelves,” he said, “and then did a bit of wood turning. I’d always been involved with wood – I had my first axe when I was six years old.”
Ellie spent many years as a computer operatioins analyst. She inherited a talent for making things but didn’t start wood turning until late 2011. She had fought cancer only to suffer chronic fatique syndrome, and wanted to make something as a way of thanking a friend who helped her. She decided to turn a bowl and hasn’t looked back.
She said: “I just love taking a piece of wood, not knowing what it’s going to turn out like and getting something beautiful at the end.”
The Treen Workshop website is www.thetreenworkshop.co.uk, and the workshop can be reached on 01793 850037 and 07791 635703.