Volunteer teaches wood turning at Byron-Bergen
Almost a decade ago, Gerald Sheridan made a single visit to Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School Technology Education teacher Jay Wolcott’s classroom. A member of the Finger Lakes Woodturners (FLWT), he was there to demonstrate the art of woodturning to a new generation of artisans.
Now, many years and many visits later, committed FLWT volunteers like Sheridan and Michael Hachey are on campus almost daily for six weeks every spring. They’ve added woodturning to the wide range of skills, including construction, metal work, and parts making, that young men and women learn in the school’s manufacturing systems class.
“We would never have been able to give our students this rich experience without the help of these volunteers,” Wolcott said. “They are able to give each student personalized instruction on the wood lathe.
"With their one-on-one attention, all our students get comfortable with the equipment and learn to operate it correctly and safely. Their passion for the art is something that our kids can really relate to.”
In the beginning, Sheridan, Hachey, and other FLWT members like David Harp and David Leupold brought their own home equipment into the classroom. The group applied for, and was awarded, a grant from the American Association of Woodturners several years ago, which the district matched. Wolcott was able to purchase two new woodturning equipment stations for the school.
Woodturning instruction begins with two introductory projects: turning handcrafted pens and small spinning tops. Each employs the wood lathe plus one or two additional tools.
“We begin with demos,” Sheridan said. “But Michael (Hachey) instituted step-by-step instructional photos that have been a huge help to kids trying to follow the process after the demo. They are a great teaching aid!”
After completion of the two beginner’s projects, students choose a personal project, like a bowl or a birdhouse. One student even combined woodturning and metalwork to create a wedding ring.
“You can see students working on the lathes almost every day,” Wolcott said. “They are very creative. A lot of their work goes far beyond craft into art.”
The Finger Lakes Woodturners (FLWT) Association Inc. is a nonprofit organization with more than 75 members of all skill levels operating in the Rochester area. They are active volunteers in many parts of the community. Visit http://www.fingerlakeswoodturners.com/
I grew up in an older neighborhood in San Diego, which meant most of the residents were older adults and not too many kids. It was like having extra grandparents and aunts and uncles. I was nosy enough to walk around and get to know them and see what they were up to. There was the guy who threw knives for a hobby and had a Model T truck he restored. The women who made pottery. The elderly couple that let me bang around on their pianos. The local newspaper sales executive who tinkered on his classic Jaguar. The free-lance radio announcer with a living room full of radio equipment and recorders.
And the old guy who turned wood.
It made me always want to give that a try only so I could make my own baseball bat.
Growing up and attending BHS in the late 50s and early 60s, we had a rocket club at school where we would make our own home brew amateur rockets. I remember fondly turning wood on a lathe to make the nose cones for the rockets. It is amazing that we didn't blow each other up. We didn't realize the danger involved with this hobby.
Great story and kudos to Gerry and Mike. ...But I have to say; I haven't been in the BBCS "shop" since 1972, still it looks so familiar I expected to see Mr. Reumann in the picture.