My serious venture into woodturning commenced after I retired from a career as an educator: first as a high school science teacher and subsequently as a professor of science education and teacher education at the University of British Columbia. I have long been interested in working with wood and in the various properties and types of wood, an interest that began with an assignment in grade 8 industrial arts class to collect and write about “woods around the world”. Of the many different projects that I subsequently completed in 4 years of industrial arts in school my favourite was turning a laminated wooden bowl, which I kept for more than 40 years.
Several years ago my fascination with working with wood was reignited when I enrolled in a night class on wood turning with Scott Belway. I was immediately captivated by the visceral feel of turning tools and carving out shavings from spinning blocks of wood. The resulting creation of pleasing shapes and forms made from various sizes and types of wood reinforced my enjoyment of working in this medium. Even before taking the course I admired the large wooden bowls in craft fairs and gift shops and was strongly attracted to the idea of salvaging ‘waste wood’ and turning it into something functional and aesthetically pleasing. I was especially attracted by the idea of using wood from trees that have been felled by nature or otherwise and turning them into large bowls or other ‘turned’ items. This is a major focus of my woodturning activity. Subsequently, I have also turned some interesting pieces from wood that has been salvaged from our many house renovations.
Having access to serious tools was necessary to continue my woodturning journey from the classroom to a more long term enterprise. So I sought out lathes for sale. In my search I came across a slightly used, but very large lathe. Indeed, it was so large that I had rent a 3 ton truck with a hydraulic lift in order to transport it to my home. Having purchased the lathe, I now needed a place to put it, given my basement workshop was far too small to accommodate such a large piece of machinery. With the able assistance of my wood turning teacher, Scott, the back half of our family carport was converted into a workshop. It is there that the lathe now happily resides. Since our former carport — now a renovated garage and workshop — is situated in our back yard, the name Backyard Bowl seemed an obvious label for my woodturning enterprise.