Demonstration feedback…

I’ve posted before on the difficulties of demonstrating and the frustrations of trying to please everyone (impossible). I’m certain that many club members view demonstrating as “easy money”, but I’ve also mentioned this before…after you factor in the time taken to prepare for a demonstration, the travel time – often several hours each way – the duration of the demonstration, the materials costs, the stress involved, and the time away from the full-time turning/family, I don’t think you actually earn anything. So why bother?

Well for some it’s obviously an opportunity to sell products – tools, finishes, DVDs, push tuition, or get on the ladder to some perceived woodturning heaven of the national & international circuit. The other reason is simply to share what you do and hope it is of interest.

I don’t sell anything at demonstrations, although you could argue that there’s potential to pick up tuition bookings, but this isn’t something I’ve ever pushed. I started demonstrating because I enjoyed watching demonstrations early on in my woodturning journey,  learnt a lot from them, and hoped I could provide the same things. There are times, however, when you question the usefulness of demonstrating…surely everybody has seen everything and all you do is repeat in a different accent.

I mentioned to another turner recently that I had considered stopping doing demonstrations for these reasons, and had almost decided to do just this. Until an email arrived yesterday…I’ve removed the name of the sender to preserve their identity…

I was at the West Suffolk club when you did the demo of your plaques on Tuesday.
I really enjoyed it, and was sufficiently impressed that I am going to give it a go.
You were using a small blow pipe,  I would like to know where you got it from as
it seems to work well.
I was given a pack of colors for Xmas but have not really had a go at coloring,
you have given me the kick to have a go, thank you for that.

And that changed my mind. If you can give one person a new direction then it’s a worthwhile exchange. It also seems indicative of a mood change in regard to decorative turning as it supports a number of recent comments I’ve had. Good news I think.

Demonstration pieces and visitors…

I’ve done two demonstrations over the last four days, and I gave the same demonstration at each…but it wasn’t planned that way; the second was meant to be colouring free, but audience participation intervened and I was asked to colour!

The first demonstration was at Simon Hope’s club in Essex, to cover for him as he’d only arrived back home the evening before after a gruelling week teaching in France. As Simon is their regular demonstrator it’s difficult to think of something they haven’t seen him do before, so I thought I risk demonstrating one of the circle plaques. As they’re a reasonable bunch I thought they’d be gentle (some chance!) if it all went badly wrong. In the event it didn’t go wrong, and this is the resulting piece 

On Tuesday evening I was demonstrating at West Suffolk WTC, and thought I’d do another circle plaque, but as there is still some reluctance to accept colouring, and I’ve done colouring there before, I thought I’d change tack a little. I prepared seven discs comprising, burr oak, oak, elm, lacewood, ash, sycamore, and yew, and a reclaimed elm hoop of wood to try something different on the piece. The intention was to illustrate and demonstrate the process and leave the wood natural. All went well for a while, until I mentioned that a particular area would look well coloured, and if I had been making this piece in the workshop I’d have coloured it…

“colour it!” came a cry from the back. And the cry was echoed around the room. How odd. A long way away from a demonstration I gave three or so years ago when to blokes got up and walked out when I explained I was going to be colouring wood. Odd, but refreshing and encouraging. Perhaps the message is getting through that wood doesn’t always have to be natural to retain its attraction?

Anyway, my “little touch of colour” ended up a large touch of colour, although somewhat restricted by only having a few stains lurking in my tool box. And my inset ring of elm, which was meant to be cut free on each disc it was a part of, had to remain in situ because I foolishly forgot the pull saw! As it happened, I rather liked the conjoined effect anyway. Here’s the piece mounted.

I don’t usually complete demonstration pieces for a few reasons: 1) I rarely aim to make a finished piece in a demonstration because I feel the audience can get more out of it if I concentrate on the what and the why, and the how of whatever it is I’m making, and b) unless it’s a simple project, demonstration pieces are rarely up the standard they would be in the workshop by virtue of the time constraints imposed. I also rarely finish off demonstration pieces back at the workshop…see (b) above…and consign them to the fire pile, but these two were so close I thought I’d finish them off so at least those present could see the end result as intended. So there they are.

It was risky doing these at a demonstration, they’re involved, tricky, and there’s a significant amount of time pondering and faffing around, but on the whole I think they both went well enough. The only real problem is time. When I make things like this in the workshop I can take as long as I like to complete them. I can stop, put the piece aside and come back to it later if I feel the need. And if the piece gets lost along the way, the same applies…I’m not forced to complete it and maybe risk disappointment later. At a demonstration you don’t have that luxury; you do need to get at least close enough to completion for the audience to able to see the end result. Maybe I’ll do earring stands next time.

So a busy few days all in all. Today I was putting the final touches to a non-woodturning job; a restoration (virtual re-build as it happens!) of a Lyre-legged table.  At lunch we went to sit by the water as the weather was gorgeous. We were joined by these two reprobates scrounging bread…

It was lovely watching them and their siblings doing “take off” exercises on the river. And funny when they hissed at Heather for stealing their bread. Mum kept her distance…I think she was glad of the break.

Branching Out live auction results…

As promised, here are the results if the first 10 lots which were auctioned live at Bonhams in London.

1: Tony Husband – the log book-£400
2: Sir Terence Conran – tree of life-£140
3: Sarah kennedy – walking the plan-£250
4: Dame Janet Baker – bedazzled-£300
5: Sarah Faberge – treenaissance – £1300
6: Joanna Lumley – the true love tree – £260
7 Greg Dyke – if I din’t like the programme – £100
8: John Snow – tied up – £100
9: Sir peter Blake – my log man – £2000
10: Allen Jones – thigh high – £2000

That’s a grand total of £6850 for the first ten lots from a total of 71. There are still a number of highly collectible woodturners, artists, designers, and celebrities who have pieces in the online auction (ending September 30th) which you can bid on.

Organised by the Liveries Wood Group, the Branching Out project is raising this money to enable Kew at Castle Howard
to continue protecting British trees through its work there. A worthy project, and an opportunity for collectors to purchase a unique work.

So if you fancy owning an original Binh Pho, Joey Richardson, or even Fern Britton (amongst many others), pop along, register, and place a bid. There may be a few surprise bargains to be had!
Click GO TO AUCTION after this link:

Branching Out…

This evening the first ten lots in the Branching Out auction went under the hammer at Bonhams in Bond Street, London.

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The remaining lots, many by names you will know, remain online at:

and you can bid on them until September 30th.

The proceeds of the auction go to support valuable conservation, research and education at the Arboretum at Castle Howard (Kew).

When I have final figures for the final auction of 10 lots I’ll update here for those interested.

Thanks to official photographer for Branching Out, Paul Lapsley, for kind consent to publish his images.

Money saving tip…

Yesterday I spent ten minutes looking for a pack of spare belts for the B&D powerfile. Could I find them? Not a chance. They could have been lost in the move, or else, as usual, I put them” somewhere safe”. Very safe as it happens.

powerfile belts –  451mm x 13mm

I threw the worn-out one onto a bench, and it just so happened that it landed on a belt sander belt that was on the bench. This was a belt I’d removed from one of the blown belt sanders from a week or so ago…never waste anything, it’ll come in handy…as I was looking a them a thought occurred.

I stretched them out next to each other, and they were the same length! A pair of scissors later and I had a new belt for the power file, and enough left over for another four belts. The powerfile belts are about £5 for a pack of three, the belt sander belts are about £10 for a pack of three, which equals £10 for about 15 powerfile belts if you cut them yourself. Bargain!

I tried the belt out and it cut no differently than the custom belt, so a good job done and at a fraction of the usual cost.

So why are the powerfile belts so expensive, when clearly all they do is cut them from a standard roll?

Charity Auction in Aid of the Arboretum Trust

What can you do with a tiny portion of oak branchwood?
Well, pop along to the link bellow and find out.
The ‘Branching Out’ Charity Auction by generous arrangement with BONHAMS is now online at the following URL:

Branching Out is a project of the Liveries Wood Group: the Worshipful Companies of Carpenters, Furniture Makers, Joiners & Ceilers, Turners, and Upholders, ancient Guilds of the City of London.

The Group’s strong interest in wood leads it to support the Arboretum Trust, which is invaluable for environmental conservation, scientific research and education.

The auction is well supported by many famous names who were asked to make an object from a small section of branch oak. Many of the names are from the world of woodturning, but also names you’ll know from TV, music, and The Worshipful Company of turners and Carpenters.

If you wish to bid you need to register with

It’s in a good cause, and the objects have been lovingly made and all are more than worthy of a place in your homes. Have fun and support a good cause.

Further details can be found at

 (Added September 16th…this evening the 10 selected lots go to a live auction at Bonhams of Bond Street. The remaining 61 lots remain online for internet bids until September 30th.)