VIDEO: Woodturners and wheat pots
Local club donates to Harvest Hoedown
By Jared Raney
Just outside Minocqua on a recent Wednesday night, light spilled out from the doorway of a small shop, illuminating sawdust that floated on the late summer breeze. The rich smell of fresh-cut wood was thick in the air, tools of every shape and size covered the walls, and a group of grizzled men lounged around in lawn chairs, fixated on flecks of wood careening off a quickly spinning chunk of wood.
This is the Northwood Turners club, a small, dedicated group specializing in an uncommon craft.
“We started this club about, oh, fifteen years ago,” said Ron Warshall, vice president and one of the original founders of the club. “It started at a small woodturning shop up in Manitowish Waters. And we didn’t think there was going to be many woodturners in the area that would be interested.”
Today, the club has around 50 members, and though their most recent meeting was sparsely attended due to a change in venue, Warshall said they usually have around 30 members at each monthly meeting.
Woodturning is an old art form that dates back thousands of years, but today has been largely ignored because of the ease in machine-manufactured wood products.
But nothing compares to watching a hand-turned vase come into being—the colors of the grain shining through as a turner shapes a hunk of wood into a piece of art. The work itself is as much a visual art form as the end product.
“If you look at some of these, you look at some of the grain and some of the color in here,” said Bill Kingsbury, the president of the Northwood Turners. “God made trees beautiful on the outside, but some of the real beauty is on the inside. When we woodturn, we get to that. And it’s exciting when you see that.”
In addition to bringing back a neglected art, the group is seeking to help make a difference in Oneida County. When they started, the group made pens for veterans going on Honor Flights, but decided to switch philanthropies after a local high school started making similar pens.
That journey led them to the Rhinelander Food Pantry, and by extension the upcoming Harvest Hoedown. The Hoedown is an event put on to raise money for the Pantry and NATH (Northwoods Alliance for Temporary Housing). It is held on Oct. 3, and the Turners will be donating dozens of ‘wheat pots,’ small vases that can hold flowers, or more traditionally, ornamental wheat stalks. The pots will be part of a raffle as well as the donation-based Country Store at the event.
“The reason I like woodturning is you can do so much with it,” Kingsbury said.
Northwood Turners accepts members of all skill levels, and will be displaying some of their works, as well as performing a demonstration, at Nicolet College’s art center from late October through November. They will also be donating woodturned bowls for the Rhinelander Food Pantry’s Empty Bowls event next spring.
Dues are $30 a year for the club, which also raises money with an internal raffle activity, where members bring in their own woodturned products or wood blanks, and raffle winners have their choice of whatever is available, with the caveat of being responsible for bringing in the next month’s raffle items.
“We wanted something to do with our time and it became addictive. And so we can’t stop,” Warshall said. “Everything’s gotta go out of your mind, because you better concentrate on what you’re doing.”
“It’s just neat,” Kingsbury said. “It’s just a really neat hobby.”