My son, Isaac, told me I would really enjoy turning wood on a lathe. I told him no; I didn’t need another hobby. It turns out he knows his ol’ Pap better than his Pap knows himself.

After several months of turning him down, he arrived one day with a lathe and a set of tools.

“Let me teach you how to turn a pen,” he said. “You’ll really enjoy it.”

He set the lathe up, taught me to turn a pen and now I’m hooked. I have done woodworking for nearly forty years and can honestly say I don’t enjoy any aspect of it as much as turning wood on a lathe.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned with my new hobby:

  1. I see things differently.   Recently, I cut down a honey-locust tree because of storm damage and rot. Normally, I would have cut it up into firewood. This time, though, I cut it up into various sections to turn on my lathe.
  2. Learning new skills stimulates my intellect. I learn more by reading a book than taking a class. I read copious amounts about technique, history, wood types and artisans who create fantastic beauty from wood. Reading is always a good thing.
  3. My creativity spills into other spheres of my life. I believe everyone is a creative person even if they deny it. Creativity is essential to finding fulfillment in life. The moment we stop creating is the moment we stop living.
  4. I’ve made new friends. I joined the South Kansas Woodturners Club and am making new friends. Sharing a common interest is a great way to make friends.
  5. I’ve found a new way to bring happiness to others. A hand-made gift is one of the best ways to make another person happy.

Just to give you a sense of what I’m talking about, here’s a short photo-journey to turning a damaged tree into objects of beauty.


Honey locust tree damaged in a storm




The dark spot is rotting wood which, in the past, I would have seen as a bad thing. However, that’s called “spalting” to a woodturner, and is actually a sought-after feature.



Although the wood in this photograph is purple heart and not honey locust, I cut the wood down into this shape so I can turn the pen blanks.



This is the finished product. The dark part is the spalted wood, the red part is the true color of the wood. One of my favorite pens.

I’ve made a few pens out of this tree and, over the course of time, I’ll make bowls and a variety of other pieces of happiness.

I’m glad my son talked me into a new realm of discovery.

You just never know what you might enjoy unless you try it!