Editor's letter Woodturning July 2019 issue

It is interesting that many young people do not know what they really want to do when they leave education.

I think that comment would apply to many of us. I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I had two things I loved and wanted to work within. The dominant thought was to be a geochemist, the secondary, albeit only slightly behind the primary option, was to be able to work with timber.

Various home and life factors saw me go down the working with timber route and I have not been disappointed with that choice in any way whatsoever.

I was fortunate that my schooling included art, metalwork, woodwork, technical drawing, domestic science and – wait for it – needlework among the science, languages and other things we needed to do. Just to let you know I did well in most of them and we stopped having some of the subjects from the age of 14 so we could concentrate on some specific subjects. Some we chose to do and others we had to do. I think on the whole we had a very rounded view of education.

Sadly, the craft subjects are often no longer taught in schools as individual aspects and I, like many, believe that people are missing out. How do they know they will like metalwork, woodwork or other subjects if they do not try them? Grrrr! Don’t get me started on this – it winds me up.

Anyway, many of my relatives worked with timber and I have to say that the material and the ability to shape and construct with it fascinated me then and even more so today.

I was recently asked what my favourite timber was and that foxed me a bit. After thinking about it for a while, I decided there is a timber that stands out for its ability to be used for many items, cut cleanly, be available in large sizes, ease of drying, ability to take detail and colour well, and can also exhibit amazing figuring.

The timber I would choose is sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). Bland and boring some people call it, but I disagree. We all want to have the visual wow factor, but for sheer variety of what can be done with it, what it can be used for and pleasure of working it my choice has to be sycamore. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the timbers, for various reasons – I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds over the years.

I can’t say that some haven’t been nasty and difficult to work with. Some I would call foul, but I have loved them for that too. If all were as easy to work with as sycamore, things would be very bland.

I love a challenge and whatever we make throws up challenges but, no matter what, I still love working with timber.

Let me know what your favourite timber is and why. I have asked this before, but maybe thoughts have changed and you have come across a new favourite since you last thought about it. We have access to a huge variety of timber species and it can be bewildering and expensive when selecting timber to work with, but it is all a wonderful part of the journey that is working with wood.
Let me know what you have been making.

Have fun, Mark