In My Workshop with John Reason
Meet the turner whose thoughts will forever be segmented
Chelmsford-based John Reason is a relative newcomer to the field of turning, though he’s been working with wood for years. Here he tells us what prompted him to take up the hobby and how thoughts of turning are never far from his mind.
WT: How did you get into turning?
JR: I started woodworking many years ago, making furniture for my family. What happened then, however, was that I ran out of things to do. Then around four years ago, my wife Bridget saw on the Internet that there was a local group, Sandon Woodturners, and said I should enquire about it. I had a little Record Power lathe at the time on which I turned a few little pieces, but nothing major. I went along to Sandon where I saw Tony Page do a demo and decided to have a lesson with him. I fell in love with turning, the shapes and the challenge. I spent ages in the workshop. Once I learned how to use the tools properly, I bought a segmented turning book by Malcolm Tibbetts and loved the design, process and technical aspects of the craft. I have literally spent the past three years studying and working on segmented work.
I still do a bit of plain turning but not much.
WT: What and who are the greatest influences in your work?
JR: I don’t copy work, but I do see things and then adapt, change and make variations. It is very important to get the shape right when making anything, but if the shape is wrong it doesn’t matter how good the work was, it just doesn’t work. I’ve read a lot of books by other makers, including Malcolm Tibbetts, Ron Hampton, Ray Allen and William Smith for segmented work, while Stuart E Dyas’ Classic Forms is a book I love to read.
WT: If you were to offer one piece of advice to budding turners, what would it be?
JR: If you want to learn to turn, join a club. You will gain a lot from the other members. Also take a couple of lessons because they will put you on the right track. With woodturning, provided you dedicate time to it, you will get there.
WT: Do you listen to music? And is there any room on your shelves for non-woodturning-packed literature?
JR: I like 60s and 70s tunes. Believe it or not I only read books on segmented woodturning! [We believe it.] But I do also like doing wordsearch-type puzzles, though.
WT: What has been your silliest mistake?
JR: When I first started turning I made the mistake of not tightening up the chuck properly on a piece of work. I had placed the work in the chuck in order to glue another piece to it, but failed to realise the work wasn’t properly secured. I finished with the glue and left the piece in place to dry overnight. The next morning, I didn’t check the security of the work before switching on the lathe and the piece came of and hit me in the face. I wasn’t wearing a face shield. Thankfully, it was a small piece of work, but it hurt badly nonetheless. Now I wear a full visor and respirator system. Always check work for security and always protect yourself with face and dust protection.
WT: Tell us about the piece you are currently working on.
JR: I usually work on two pieces at a time, especially with boxes. One of the two pieces I am currently working on is incorporating a wood I do not usually work with – iroko (Milicia excels).
WT: What’s the one piece of equipment or tool you would never want to be without?
JR: For the work I do, there are two pieces; a planer thicknesser and an accurate chop saw.
WT: If you could change one thing what would it be?
JR: I would like to have a bigger workshop as it would help space-wise. When I built the shed, it was a 3.8 x 3.8m, but I should have made it 4.8m square. And if I could add one thing, it would be a Vicmarc VL300 lathe.
WT: Name one thing on your turning ‘to do’ list.
JR: I would like to go to see Malcolm Tibbetts, whose book I turned to once I’d mastered the correct turning tools, at a symposium.
WT: What has been your greatest challenge?
JR: Learning segmented work has been hard, but I love it. It is my favourite type of turning. In truth, I have dedicated nearly all my spare time on it over recent years. Typically, that’s five or six hours a day. I’m lucky, though. My wife knits and crochets so, time-wise, it all works out between us.
What makes John’s day…
• I love the challenge of turning, especially segmented work
• The camaraderie, friendship and sharing in clubs
• Fishing – I do that for relaxation. But in truth I’m always thinking about turning, even when I’m fishing or watching TV
• Going to the cinema to see a good film
• Holidays – next stop, the Canary Islands
… and what gets his goat?
• Turning that has no practical use
• People who come along and pick faults with others’ work when they don’t know a thing about the subject matter
• Make sure your tools are sharp, by that I mean razor sharp. You can’t turn properly without sharp tools
• Check the security of your work before turning
• With segmented work, accuracy is everything, so, measure twice and cut once