Scholarship Report – Stan Virden

Scholarship Follow-up Form

I, Stan Virden, received a scholarship from the GAW and attended a class/workshop with James McClure at My home workshop.The course description was Restoration of Basic Skills and the date of this class/workshop was 31 MAR, 2, 6, 7, 14 APR 2018.

Rate instructor and teaching facility on a scale from 1-10 (1=worst and 10=best).
Instructor: 10

Would you recommend this instructor to others in the GAW? Yes

Would you recommend this teaching facility to others in the GAW? No

Comments on the instructor and/or the teaching facility:
As someone with extensive experience in on-the-job training, I found James McClure to be a calm, patient, and forthright instructor who knew what he was doing. I had suffered considerable loss of motor memory in the difficult and drawn out process of moving to this area from my previous home. Further, I have developed spinal issues that constrict my endurance to stand and I am down to one functioning eyeball. These issues, combined with substantial intrusions into my personal schedule, have severely reduced my time at the lathe, where I really prefer to be. James, by following the plan accepted, was able to help me restore procedures that greatly improve upon my skills and abilities to make use of precious time. The teaching facility, my personal workshop, is OK for me, but not suitable for training others in the GAW.

Scholarship Report

On 6 March 2018 the GAW Scholarship Committee awarded me a $750 scholarship to attend a series of lessons with James McClure. These lessons have been carried out much as described in my application. Variations were relatively minor, and I was quite satisfied with the experience.

We started with tool sharpening techniques, something I have long recognized as essential and despaired of getting right. My mind is easier now in approaching my grinder and other sharpening instruments. We next moved on to correcting tool and body positions which had been causing me excessive tear-out and catches. James gave me a clearer understanding of the physics involved in making cuts on a lathe. His explanations got through to me more effectively than what I have heard and seen in countless live demonstrations and videos.

Next, we focused on bowls with some wet blanks. I am not used to turning wet but found in it several advantages that I hope to employ in the future. My main concerns have lain in the time required for twice turning and procedures to minimize cracks, especially since I cannot with confidence schedule the intervals between trips to the lathe. I joke that at my age (84+) I lack the time to wait for wood to dry. But now I feel more comfortable about using wet wood, especially for certain types of bowls, such as natural edge, where oval shapes are sometimes more acceptable and interesting. In the course of two sessions I was able to bring several bowls near to completion. I hope to finish them soon for show-and-tell at future club meetings.

As I am inherently a slow worker, and tend to deteriorate in effectiveness after two hours, we did not spend as much time as planned on spindle turnings, except to make a pair of jam chucks, devices that I have seldom tried to use. I now have a better understanding of their utility. This personal coaching has also given me better understanding of tool control that increases my confidence in attempting finials and other spindle appendages to the bowls and platters that are my primary interest.

James and I had useful discussions on what sorts of finishes are best in various circumstances, and how they should be applied. This is an area where I have always been confused, collecting a variety of finishes that spoiled before I could find time to use them. While we did not actually perform the butterfly repair to an existing crack, James provided me with a sample butterfly and gave me detailed instructions on the required procedure. He also left me with several poplar blanks for future practice. Those provide some projects that I look forward to.

We covered the use of sanding devices, and I was disabused of the need in most circumstances to carry sanding to grits higher than 400 or 600. He explained that going to finer grits would impair the effectiveness of most finishes and probably result in more glaring scratches shining through. That reassurance will certainly save me some time. Altogether, this series of lessons has raised my comfort level considerably and should result in better workmanship. I am most grateful to GAW for providing me with this wonderful opportunity.

–Stan Virden, 21 April 2018

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