Local club shows off woodworking arts

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

HOWELL – As the modest cedar blocks began to take shape at the Monmouth County Library, pieces of wood danced behind the partitions. It was a normal Thursday at the Howell branch, but inside there was a fascinating display of skill and passion.

Onlookers watched in awe as two members of the Atlantic Shore Woodturners Club demonstrated their mastery. A simple piece of wood is ready to spin as a top for kids in minutes. Soon, other parts of the tree were expertly shaped into functional bowls.

Led by experienced Bruce Perlmutter and up-and-coming talent Jody Forbes, the event offered a first-hand look at the intricate art of wood turning. Perlmutter, a veteran woodturner with decades of experience, spoke of his passion for creating beautiful bowls from fallen trees. Complementing his expertise is Forbes, who has already come a long way since first writing with a wooden pen in 2019.

This demonstration wasn’t just an impressive feat of craftsmanship. Forbes spoke fondly of the supportive community of his local group, the Atlantic Shore Woodturners. She emphasized the unique camaraderie and members’ willingness to share knowledge.

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

Master woodturner Bruce Perlmutter demonstrates the use of a lathe in turning blocks of wood into usable objects. (Photo provided by Stephanie Fornan)

Mr. Perlmutter expressed a similar opinion and talked about his own journey into woodworking. An encounter with a lathe in high school sparked a passion that had been dormant for decades, and was reignited by a chance discovery at a garage sale. He emphasized the importance of mentorship and his joy in passing on his skills to others.

“In my personal opinion, woodworking is not something you can learn from YouTube,” Forbes agreed. “You can learn to knit on YouTube or learn to draw, but the best way to benefit from woodturning is to have someone show you how.”

The Atlantic Shore Woodturners Club has 76 members, all of whom have hundreds of years of knowledge. There is also a shop, and a learning center with six machines exclusively for members.

As the demonstration progressed, Mr. Perlmutter took the lead at the lathe, deftly shaping the wood while both he and Forbes provided ongoing commentary. They took a closer look at the different types of wood suitable for turning, emphasizing the preference for local varieties over exotic wood due to ethical concerns.

Beyond a fascinating display of technology, Perlmutter and Forbes highlight the finer details of wood selection. Participants learned how the orientation of the wood on the lathe plays a key role in the final design and how woodturners meticulously select parts based on grain pattern and aesthetics. They also discovered the importance of using the right tools for the job.

This demonstration provided valuable insight for aspiring Turners. Safety is paramount, and Perlmutter and Forbes emphasized the use of face shields and closed-toed shoes to avoid injury.

Audience members who watched the presentation learned that freshly cut wood can shrink, and proper hollowing techniques are essential for bowl turners to prevent wobbling in the finished product.

There are also some points to consider when it comes to “green turning” and “dry turning.” Green wood refers to freshly cut wood that contains plenty of moisture.

A collection of various completed projects created using lathes and related tools. (Photo provided by Stephanie Fornan)

“Green turns are very tricky,” Forbes explained. “The tree is wet. Wet means you are taking a bath.”

Perlmutter and Forbes offered aspiring turners a glimpse into the world of wood turning tools, providing an overview of the equipment needed and potential costs to get started. They suggested that it makes sense to consult someone with experience before purchasing.

Lathe prices start at around $200 and can run into the thousands of dollars. The most important tools for beginners to get include a good round or square scraper, skew, and spin-up roughing gouge.

“Skew is the most difficult tool you have to learn how to use,” Perlmutter added.

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

According to Forbes, she started with a basic toolset she found on Amazon and then started buying more fancy items. She laughed as she admitted that she wasn’t sure if she would need everything she decided to add to her personal collection.

One member of the audience was interested in the evolution of woodworking and asked about the history of woodworking.

“It probably started right after the invention of the wheel,” Perlmutter suggested. “They attached wood to it and probably attached it to an ancient Egyptian water wheel.”

Atlantic Shores wood turners continue a centuries-old tradition. Their affiliation with the American Woodworkers Association emphasizes this rich history. The Society recognizes the lathe as one of the oldest machines, with its roots dating back to the Middle Ages. By 1600, turning was an established trade in the colonies, encompassing not only wood but other durable materials.

Atlantic Shore Woodturners Club meetings begin on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at Howell Community Church, 1554 Maxim Southward Road. All meetings will be simulcast on Zoom for those unable to attend in person. More information about the club can be accessed at: atlanticshorewoodturners.com.



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