Woodturning Rituals

For those of you who know me, “Ritual” would not seem like a topic which I would choose to write about. Ritual has the connotation of doing something the same way every time. This seems to go against one of the mainstays of introductory advice to new turners… that, “There are many ways to get a job done; this is just one of the ways.”

At the Turners’ Lunch this week, Don Maloney was sharing about a recent production session that one of our members had in Don’s shop. They pulled seven half rounds from the last cutting party pile and cut off the corners. Then each one was rough turned with a tenon on the outside and tossed in the pile of shavings. Next, each one was rough turned on the inside and tossed in the pile. Finally, they were dated, anchor sealed, and placed in the rack. Then came the “sweep up” ritual. It reminded me of the times I had set a production schedule, stayed on task, and got it done. I was a lot more productive than when I take a “one at a time approach.” And there’s some fun in it. Building the huge pile of chips into Landing Zones to toss the bowls into….

So, the ritual of having a plan and sticking to it is really helpful in production runs. Another example would be in architectural turning. If you have the job of turning 30 stair balusters, you will have a better result in less time if you follow a set of steps. Of course the steps to sharpening are an important ritual to master.

Some rituals happen quickly and are completed in less than a minute but the steps are so important. I was recently (and expensively) reminded of one of them—mixing chainsaw fuel properly and then making sure the saw is drinking from the correct container. This can get even more dangerous when you are cutting in several locations and filling from different containers. Paul Lion suggested “tagging” the 2-cycle mix container with a zip tie on the handle and following the ritual of putting in fresh gas with a new container of oil and never “assuming” what you are putting in your saw is correct.

Another ritual is hooking up the trailer to head out to a wood cutting party. For me, there are four parts of the hook-up which need to be done and I count them off every time; the safety pin and cotter key, the safety chain, the electrical connection, and the wheel jack up. Missing any of the four can lead to disaster, or at least expensive repairs. That is just what is needed for the trailer. A cutting party needs a ritual (or checklist) including oil, fuel, chain, chalk, water, files, wrenches, peavies, hand trucks, etc. … but that is the subject for another article.
Inside the shop there are set-up and clean-up rituals as well as the “way you do it” rituals. What rituals have you developed that help you keep your operation running smoothly and keep it fun? We will be planning a shop tour this fall. Keep your eyes open for the shop rituals of some of our veteran turners.