Jackson resident works to preserve art of wood turning

It all started with the wrong lathe.About 10 years ago, Chip Nasworthy of Jackson was looking for a way to fil...

Posted: Jan 3, 2018 11:29 AM
Updated: Jan 3, 2018 11:29 AM

It all started with the wrong lathe.

About 10 years ago, Chip Nasworthy of Jackson was looking for a way to fill some time when he met a wood turner at a craft demonstration and decided to try it. Now in his second term as president of the Barnesville Woodturners, he seeks to preserve the art of creating things of beauty from chunks of castaway wood.

His house is full of wooden creations, from a cherry wood kitchen table made from a single tree to a box full of tiny Christmas ornaments colored with magic markers while they were still spinning on the lathe.

"It would have been helpful to me when I was starting out to have joined a club," Nasworthy said. "I bought four lathes before I found the right one. The first mistake a wood turner makes is buying tools you don't need."

Nasworthy found a lathe he thought would help him make furniture and bought a book on how to turn bowls so he could make one for his wife Sandra. The lathe was suited for one use and not the other. The upshot of buying four lathes, however, was the same as buying just one.

"I quit doing anything else and started wood turning," Nasworthy said.

The right lathe for Nasworthy needs variable speeds. Slow is for segmented bowls and vases made from layers of different woods that, when finished, form a design.

"Spindle turners don't need a slow speed," Nasworthy said, using an ironwood pepper mill - the first he has made - as an example. Pepper mills are long and narrow, so the lathe can run faster than it can for a bowl.

"For a bowl, the wood isn't balanced. It's out of round. It can come off the lathe and hit you," Nasworthy said.

The pepper mill started out as a hunk of wood from a shipping pallet that came from South America, Nasworthy said.

"We call it a specialty wood, like mahogany or bloodwood," Nasworthy said. "I like working yellow heart, padauk and sapele, which are from South America."

That first bowl he made for Sandra she gave away, Nasworthy said. Since then he has made many more for her - including a spalted walnut bowl she keeps in the kitchen.

"Compared to what I do now, those first pieces were bad but you're proud of it when you do it," Nasworthy said. "Everything is supposed to be proportioned into thirds. They call it the golden rule. It doesn't always have to apply but it makes everything flow better."

Bill Bulloch, a wood turner whose work can be found in the Jackson-Butts County Council for the Arts' permanent collection, introduced segmented bowls to the Barnesville Woodturners. Nasworthy went large with the new technique, creating a huge vase out of hundreds of individual wood pieces.

"My first vase has some mistakes in it I wouldn't let pass now," he said. "Wood turners are their own worst critics. You can tell when a wood turner is looking at your work. They'll feel it and stick their hands into it. Other people just say it's pretty."

Nasworthy's bowls have earned red and blue ribbons and a People's Choice Award at the Georgia National Fair in Perry. His latest one is on its way to a new owner in Sarasota, Fla.

"I try to make them pleasing to the eye," Nasworthy said. "At first I didn't know the methods to make it all look good. It needs to be symmetrical, it needs to have a purpose and it needs to stand out."

Once he mastered segmented bowls, Nasworthy moved on to dizzy bowls. In addition to being segmented, dizzy bowl uses wood with natural holes filled with colored laminate, giving them a spiral effect.

A special dizzy bowl was completed four months ago, the day his youngest granddaughter Adeline Anderson was born. Nasworthy hopes Adeline's Bowl will stay in her possession for the rest of her life. All of his eight grandchildren have something he made, he said.

The Barnesville Woodturners always enter the Butts County Creates art competition and have done demonstrations at the Bluebirds and Bluegrass and Buggy Days festivals, something Nasworthy hopes to start doing again.

"We try to reach out to other wood turners and help people develop both an interest in wood turning and the skills and techniques to do it," Nasworthy said. "If someone wants to learn about being a wood turner, we share all our little secrets. We like to help people learn how to do it. It doesn't cost you anything and we have experts who come demonstrate their craft."

The Barnesville Woodturners is happy to do demonstrations for Scout troops, church groups and anyone else who has an interest. Nasworthy worries that young people will not be interested in learning how to turn wood.

He knows how easily lost both the art and the knowledge can be. A serving platter on the Nasworthys' dining room table is the first piece that came off his new lathe after his shop burned down in 2015. He lost everything.

His new shop was built with the help of other Barnesville Woodturners.

"We have a really good group of people," Nasworthy said. "We become friends and family."

The Barnesville Woodturners meet at 6:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month in the basement of Barnesville First United Methodist Church. Beforehand, members usually meet at an area restaurant for a little fellowship before the sawdust starts flying.

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