Woodturning alive and well in Donegal

The skill of woodturning is alive and well in County Donegal and unknown to many there is an active branch of the Irish Woodturners Guild in the North West that holds monthly meetings and demonstrations.

The origin of woodturning dates to around 1300BC when the Egyptians first developed a two-person lathe. One person would turn the wood with a rope while the other used a sharp tool to cut shapes in the wood. Today lathes are available in a variety of models from very basic to very sophisticate electronic models.

In February 2007 a few local amateur woodturners in Donegal got together to try and start up a woodturning club for the county and the Northwest. They got in touch with the Irish Woodturning Guild and after a few meetings they set up the Northwest Woodturners Chapter with members from all over the county and Tyrone.

The chapter's aim within the Irish Woodturning Guild is to promote and encourage the craft of woodturning to young and old, ladies, gentlemen and children, in fact everyone with an interest in woodturning is welcome. Some members are just starting out woodturning while others have years of experience, some having worked commercially and others as a serious hobby.

At present the NW Chapter has approximately twenty members, including one 10 years old member, and they meet once a month on the second Wednesday at Stanley Raitts house at Stranorlar where they have one or more of the members do a demonstration on woodturning. At the meetings there is always plenty of banter and craic and all members help each other out with any questions or problems anyone has in relation to turning issues. The Chapter also have world famous woodturners from Ireland, the UK and Europe who come over to do demonstrations from time to time.

The Chapter's year runs from January to December and the committee consists of a chairman, secretary and treasurer. As a chapter of the IWG, members enjoy nationwide contacts with other woodturners, insurance cover and a quarterly magazine.

Recently well known wood turner and editor of 'Woodturning' magazine Mark Baker gave a demonstration at Raitts wood machinery show and he shared his years of knowledge and skills with all in attendance.

Here in Donegal there are some excellent wood turners who have spent most of their lives woodturning, some here in Ireland and others who worked abroad in the trade for many years. Some of them give classes on occasions and are sometimes to be seen at craft fairs and other events. What is evident from the more seasoned turners is their willingness to assist the newcomers to the craft. In fact just recently a weekend class was hosted on Tory island by turner Connell Mc Ginley from Na Cruacha in the Gaeltacht Lár.

The Irish Woodturners Guild itself was founded in 1983 and since then it has flourished and now has over 800 members and comprises 16 Chapters. The Guild is run by an executive committee which is elected at the annual general meeting. All members receive a quarterly magazine highlighting different aspects of woodturning and the activities of the chapters around the country. The 2010 national woodturning seminar will be held in Armagh from 24th to 26th September.

The Guild is organised in 16 regions/local Chapters. Chapters are often said to be the life blood of the Guild and in many instances are the first contact points for new members. Most Chapters organise monthly meetings/workshops and welcome new members as well as members from other Chapters.

At the most recent meetings of the chapter several members including John Malone and Peter Wyatt demonstrated their lifelong skills of woodturning. At the May meeting Peter completed a beautiful ships when clock and several smaller items. Each month the members undertake a project for the following month’s meeting and the quality of products completed is always excellent.

Brian Laverty, Treasure of Northwest Chapter said they are always glad to hear from new people interested in the hobby.

“We would certainly like to hear from anyone out there who does a bit of woodturning or has an interest in it and would like to join us. Every month we get together to share or knowledge and have demonstrations,” he said.

If anyone with an interest in woodturning would like more information or membership forms they can contact Brian on (086) 8073227 or www.woodturnersnorthwest.com

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