Local Club Showcases Art Of Woodturning

Bruce Perlmutter shows the finished bowl. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  HOWELL – Wood chips danced behind a partition as an unassuming block of cedar began to take shape at the Monmouth County Library. It was just another ordinary Thursday at the Howell branch, but inside, a captivating display of skill and passion was unfolding.

  As two Atlantic Shore Woodturners Club members showcased their mastery, onlookers watched in awe. A simple piece of wood was ready for a spin as a children’s top in what seemed like a matter of minutes. Not much longer, another part of a tree was expertly shaped into a functional bowl.

  Led by the experienced Bruce Perlmutter and the rising talent of Jody Forbes, the event offered a firsthand look into the intricate art of woodturning. Perlmutter, a woodturning veteran with decades of experience, shared his passion for crafting beautiful bowls from fallen trees. Complementing his expertise was Forbes, who has already come a long way since turning her first wood pen in 2019.

  The demonstration wasn’t just about impressive feats of craftsmanship. Forbes spoke fondly of the supportive community within the Atlantic Shore Woodturners, a local group. She highlighted the unique camaraderie and the members’ willingness to share their knowledge.

  “Woodturning is unlike any other craft I’ve tried,” she remarked. “The generosity of the community is truly unmatched.”

Bruce Perlmutter, a skilled woodturner, demonstrates the use of a lathe in transforming blocks of wood into usable objects. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Perlmutter echoed the sentiment, sharing his own journey into woodturning. A high school encounter with a lathe sparked a passion that lay dormant for decades before being reignited by a chance discovery at a garage sale. He emphasized the importance of mentorship, highlighting the joy of passing on his skills to others.

  “In my personal opinion, woodturning is not something you can learn from YouTube,” Forbes agreed. “You can learn to knit from YouTube and learn to paint – but the best way you’ll benefit from woodturning is having someone to show you how to do it.”

  The Atlantic Shore Woodturners Club has 76 members who collectively account for hundreds of years of knowledge. A shop is set up, and a learning center has six machines exclusively available for members to use.

  As the demonstration progressed, Perlmutter took the lead at the lathe, skillfully shaping wood while both he and Forbes provided a running commentary. They delved into the different types of wood suitable for turning, emphasizing their preference for locally sourced varieties over exotic woods due to ethical concerns.

  Beyond the captivating display of technique, Perlmutter and Forbes shed light on the finer points of wood selection. Attendees learned how woodturners meticulously choose pieces based on grain patterns and aesthetics, with the orientation of the wood in the lathe playing a crucial role in the final design. They also discovered the importance of using the right tools for the job.

  The demonstration offered valuable insights for aspiring turners. Safety was paramount, with Perlmutter and Forbes stressing the use of face shields and closed-toe shoes to avoid injuries.

  Onlookers at the presentation learned that freshly cut wood can shrink, and for bowl turners, proper hollowing techniques are essential to prevent the finished piece from rocking.

  There’s also something to be considered when it comes to “green turning” versus “dry turning.” Green wood refers to freshly cut lumber that is brimming with moisture.

A collection of various completed projects made by using a lathe and associated tools. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  “Green turning is super messy,” explained Forbes. “The wood is wet, and when I say it’s wet, I mean you’re getting a bath.”

  Perlmutter and Forbes offered aspiring turners a glimpse into the world of woodturning tools, providing an overview of the equipment needed and potential costs to get started. They suggested it made sense to consult someone with experience before making any purchases.

  Lathes start on the low end at approximately $200 and can range upwards to thousands of dollars. The most important tools for beginners to acquire include a good round or square scraper, a skew, and a spin up roughing gouge.

  “The skew is the hardest tool we need to learn how to use,” Perlmutter added.

Jody Forbes and Bruce Perlmutter introduced people to their craft. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Forbes said she started with a basic tool set she found on Amazon and then started buying fancier things as she went on. She laughed as she admitted she wasn’t sure she needed everything she decided to add to her collection.

  One of the audience members asked about the history of woodturning, curious about the evolution of the craft.

  “It probably started right after the invention of the wheel,” suggested Perlmutter. “They attached some wood to it and probably attached it to their waterwheels in ancient Egypt.”

  The Atlantic Shore Woodturners carry on a legacy that stretches back centuries. Their affiliation with the American Association of Woodturners underscores this rich history. The Association recognizes the lathe as one of the oldest machines, with roots traced back to medieval times. By 1600, turning had become a well-established trade in the colonies, encompassing not just wood but other durable materials as well.

  Meetings of the Atlantic Shore Woodturners Club begin at 7 p.m. every second Tuesday of the month at the Howell Community Church located at 1554 Maxim Southward Road. For those unable to attend in person, all meetings are simulcast on Zoom. Further details about the club can be accessed on their website: atlanticshorewoodturners.com.

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Stephanie A. Faughnan is an award-winning journalist associated with Micromedia Publications/Jersey Shore Online and the director of Writefully Inspired. Recognized with two Excellence in Journalism awards by the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists, Stephanie's passion lies in using the power of words to effect positive change. Her achievements include a first-place award in the Best News Series Print category for the impactful piece, "The Plight Of Residents Displaced By Government Land Purchase," and a second-place honor for the Best Arts and Entertainment Coverage category, specifically for "Albert Music Hall Delivers Exciting Line-Up For 25th Anniversary Show." Stephanie can be contacted by email at stephanienjreporter@gmail.com.