The frazzled-haired, wizard-like person living in the large body of a redwood tree stays awake day and night working furiously to finish their latest creation, a bowl and goblet turned out of wood. The food eaten from their bowls is the most delicious and the water poured into their wooden goblets turns itself into the finest wine. This, my friend, is the Woodturner. The tools they use, woodworking lathes, are one of the oldest known power tools.
The lathe is truly an ancient tool; the wordlathe even sounds primeval. This tool dates back at least to the Egyptians and, was known and used in Assyria, Greece, the Roman and Byzantine Empires. Lathes were used by artisans and craftsman, who were the dominant producers of goods before the Industrial Revolution.
The oldest known record of woodturning dates back to 1300BC and the Egyptians. They developed the two person lathe, one person turning and the other cutting out shapes in the wood. As the years passed, improvements were made upon the lathe such as adding a turning bow by the Romans, and pedals replacing the hand-operated turning in the Middle Ages. It was the Industrial Revolution that motorized the lathe, taking the job of turning wood away from the craftsman and giving it to the machines. This massive cultural change, over the span of a few decades, brought the wizardly craftsman into the factories for assembly line jobs. Like the end of Feudalism, the Industrial Revolution changed human social and economic history.
Time passes and lifestyles change. The art of Woodturning has managed to survive through the ages and continues to be a form in which craftsman express themselves. Online woodworking forums such as http://www.SawMillCreek.org and http://www.Lumberjocks.com bridge the communities of woodworkers across the globe. These people communicate, share ideas, jokes and news, organize symposiums and guard their site access from commercial interests. Communicating online with these folks online is like bellying up to your neighborhood bar and having a virtual beer. Wayne C. in the forum at SawMillCreek introduced me to an old Woodworking Machinery website: http://www.owwm.com where I found an enormous amount of interesting information, photos and .pdf downloads about Woodworking Machinery from the past. He also found this book written in 1881 on Google .
I can truly appreciate how these ancient lathe machines and the spirit of the Woodworker have merged with modern technology. You can purchase a lathe in a plethora of sizes for a variety of uses both online and in stores. A JET Lathe starts at the mini size and moves up to a 3hp-3Geared Head Engine Lathe. For large jobs you can find a Powermatic heavy-duty caste iron lathe. What you purchase depends basically upon what your Woodturning craft is.
It is strange sometimes for me to be sitting here at this desk, typing on a computer, in an office in Lakewood, Colorado and be time transported into the past of Old Machines and Woodworking Wonders. It makes me think of all the stuff that used to be made by hand, in small shops. My grandfather built a boat by hand in his attic and I remember as a kid, playing with all his hand tools in the basement of his house in Buffalo, New York while the fire cheerfully burned the wood scraps in stove. Today, we often chat online across an office room. Computers are a wonderful, modern tool and while I love my job as a writer, I have to say that nothing beats the satisfaction of making something with your hands.