Club History

WEST MIDLAND WOODTURNERS.

Brian Gibbs.

As a recreational woodworker I found working with wood and using practical handcraft skills both therapeutic and relaxing. This is totally different to the ‘Day Job ‘.

In the late 90’s I answered an Ad. in the Birmingham Mail and bought a second hand lathe and had full intentions of learning to use my new toy. Two years went by and despite my best intentions I carried on doing my woodworking hobby without the need to use a lathe. It was as a result of an inevitable re-organisation of my ‘playroom ‘(workshop), that the lathe got assembled on a bench. After some initial attempts to use the lathe and realising the work piece rotated at 1000+ rpm and I was going to insert a chisel that some tuition was needed. With a friend, John Witham, who had similar interests we learned of a Woodturning Collage Course at Nuneaton run by Roger Warren Finding, so my formal introduction to woodturning began. Roger encouraged us to visit his club, Coombe Abbey.

I was made aware of Craft Supplies in Derbyshire, who gave Saturday demonstrations. On a visit to Craft Supplies we met up with Bob Neale the Pyrographer, he had recently demonstrated at West Midlands Woodturners on the outskirts of B’ham, a very friendly group of turners who met monthly on a Sunday. So I introduced myself to Dave Wood who was the member responsible for booking the demonstrators. Dave was unsure when the next meeting was, what time it would be or what was to be happening next, I was passed on to Phil. Stevenson who did just about all the administration tasks.

This was 1999/2000, so I joined WMWT and began to feel welcomed into the woodturning fraternity. At the time Graham Lovett & Phil were the mainstay of everything at WMWT. Peter Hockley joined about the same time and took over the Treasurer’s role.

At the second AGM I attended Graham was asking/ appealing to be relieved of the Chairmanship, and for others to be involved in the duties of running the club. I offered myself in the absence of any other nominations to act a Chairman, John Witham took on the role of Demo Bookings Sec., Peter Hockley took on the Secretary’s job & Geoff. Wolverton became Treasurer.

It was at this time I found it necessary to learn more of the AWGB and this coincided with a bi-annual Seminar, for which I applied for and was awarded a Scholarship to attend. John Witham applied as well, and we both became immersed in the world of woodturning.

During my tenure of the Chairmanship I was supported and encouraged to ‘grow’ the club and extend our activities and attend at external events. In the early years we used to support the Parents/ Teachers School Funds by attending Summer and Christmas Fairs, raising a good deal of financial support. For some unknown reason these events finished and we started to attend other outside events with a view to promote Woodturning and recruit membership. So we attended Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, Nottcutts Garden Centre and Hatton Country World. These were always enthusiastically supported by the members. Not to forget Daventry and the work of Tim Davies.

Club days changed with the growth and development of ‘Hands On’ Days, when I joined, ‘Hands On’ days were 2 lathes for a couple of hours. Of recent times we have had as many as seven lathes, sharpening, colouring, texturing and even chain saw demo’s.

Another development was the creation of the monthly Chairman’s Challenge, though this has had a chequered ride I believe it is a good initiative which shows the quality and improvement in standard of work on display.

Demonstration Days have been greatly improved by the acquisition of our Camera and lighting Equipment. Members’ response to the appeal for funds was a massive show of commitment to WMWT.

On the occasion of our 20 year celebration Graham Lovett was awarded the honour of President of WMWT, Ray Key demonstrated as we believed he had been the inaugural visiting professional.

From my own woodturning experiences I would like to relate a couple of anecdotes. Woodturning was always going to have a practical use and be another way of working with wood. On one occasion I answered the door to someone who was enquiring if I was the man who repaired grand pianos? He had been sent round by neighbour, who knew of my woodworking, as he had been moving his piano and broken the caster off a leg .With the use of some very basic turning I was able to repair and reconnect the caster on to his grand piano. This job led me to making some new drawer knobs for his roll top desk!
On another occasion I was asked if I could make or repair a pair of oak wooden knobs for an old door rim lock for a house where all the doors had been dipped and stripped, subsequently my new door knobs were considered so much of an improvement I was asked to make another 17 pairs.
My most prestigious piece of work was a Gavel & Block I made for the Officers Mess at the Royal Naval International Language School after the previous one had been damaged during some high jinks! I received a very nice acknowledgement for this piece.

These pieces of work would probably not have been possible without the encouragement, help, support and advice of those at WMWT. From my own limitations I feel able to encourage newcomers to try and achieve the best they can manage to achieve by being inspired by others work.

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