Sunday Conversation: Wood turner carves a successful niche
Since his high school days at Community, in Unionville, Chris Haynes has transformed an enjoyable pastime of wood turning into a business, Duck River Woodturnings, offering unique handcrafted works of art.
Over the years he has gone from turning wood on a homemade machine to working with sophisticated machinery. Along with his wife, Susan, Chris still resides in Halls Mill.
He discussed his craft with freelance writer Michelle Hastings for this week's Sunday Conversation,
T-G: When did your passion for turning wood begin?
Haynes: "Since high school, I've enjoyed working with wood. When I was about 18 or 19 I built my own wood lathe since I couldn't afford to buy one. It wasn't a very good one, considering it was just a bunch of metal welded together with a washing machine motor on it, but I managed to turn some small things on it like miniature baseball bats and small bowls."
T-G: Since then, how have you expanded your craft?
Haynes: "It was about four years ago that I purchased my first wood lathe. It was a small midi lathe that I could turn bowls up to 10" in diameter. Since then, I have bought two more wood lathes, each one being bigger than the previous one. The one I use the most now is my Powermatic 3520. With the newest attachment I have, I can turn a 30-inch diameter bowl or platter."
T-G: Where do you typically get the wood used for your creations?
Haynes: "The largest percentage of wood that I turn is locally accessed wood that has been recently cut down. I like to turn natural edged bowls and vases. I like to turn wood that have a lot of character in it. I like wood with voids in it and has swirls in the grain. I like wood that has color in it and has just started to rot and has lines in it called spalting. One of the best woods I enjoy turning is burls because there is no way to know what the grain is going to look like until it's turned.
T-G: Do you have a favorite type of wood to work with?
Haynes: "I have no favorites to turn. Each piece of wood kind of decides what it would like to be. The wood itself determines a lot on how it's placed on the lathe and to a large part, how it's turned. I really enjoy turning thin walled hollow form vessels. A hollow form is a type of vessel that has a small neck or opening compared to the size of the rest of the vessel, the inside is hollowed out so that the vessel is extremely light compared to its size. There's a certain rush trying to hollow the inside when you can't see your cutting tool and you're trying to get a consistent 1/8" wall thickness. The main rule of any turned object is that the inside cannot be larger than the outside."
T-G: How have you come to learn how to create such beautiful pieces, on your own, or has there been some formal training?
Haynes: "When I bought my first lathe, I realized very quickly; if I was going to do decent turnings, then I would need some guidance. I decided to take a turning class at Woodcraft in Franklin being taught by David Sapp. This turned out to be a very good decision on my part because David is an excellent teacher for beginning woodturners and still one of the many people who are there for me to answer many of my questions. The next decision I made that was extremely fortunate was to spend a weekend taking a class from Jim Greenwood from Gainesboro, Tennessee. Jim taught me how to take my turnings to the next level and continues to be a mentor to me. I belong to three woodturning clubs that meet monthly. They have show and tells and have demonstrations on how to turn different projects. I am a member of the American Association of Woodturners which is a worldwide club that has online access to many videos and articles."
T-G: Since honing your craft, have you been a mentor to any beginners?
Haynes: "On numerous occasions, I have had new turners come to my shop for help on getting started turning a bowl or even pen and pencil sets. I have given several demonstrations at both the Columbia Woodturning Club and also at our local woodturning club, Volunteer Woodturners. I helped get a woodturning club started here in Bedford County. After going to the Nashville and Columbia clubs, I approached another woodturner, Joe Sheetz, about forming a woodturning club in Bedford County for local turners. We have been meeting for about two years and have an average of about 15 members at each meeting. I was elected president of the club and try to arrange informative demonstrations each month. We are now a chapter member of the American Association of Woodturners.
T-G: With the gift giving season upon us, where can people find your unique creations to purchase?
Haynes: "I try to keep my Facebook page, Duck River Woodturnings, updated with my newest pieces and I sell out of my shop. I try to do five or six craft shows a year where I have many repeat customers. For the month of November, I am exhibiting some of my work at the Brentwood library. I am also trying to get new members to join the Volunteer Woodturners."