From Humble Beginnings. My old Draper WTL100 Lathe above
If you are new to my website and are wondering whether you should take the plunge and buy something from me but are still a little hesitant; please read my Bio below and put yourself at ease. If you are still a little unsure I will give you 2 very good reasons to do business with me;
1) I'm an Irish Woodturner using old and modern techniques and I deal with wood that grew in Ireland exclusively.
2) Everything I make is handmade and of the highest quality that I am capable of. (I sometimes surprise even myself)
I understand that it can be hard to judge an online item by a single photo so I can provide you with more photographs or information of any item that catches your interest so please contact me and ask. I can tell you that I'm often told that the photos don't show how good the finish is on each piece. Learn more about the process here
Remember that true craftsmanship may cost a little more but is infinitely more valuable!
The Business Origin Story
I live in a valley at the foot of the Short Mountain just outside Tralee Town. This mountain is part of the Sliabh Mish mountain range. It is a beautiful picturesque Irish landscape, one of hundreds on our beautiful island.
Check out my new Woodturning Tuition Classes here after you finish reading.
My Woodturning journey began in 1996 when I became an Apprentice Carpenter and my interest in woodwork as a career was cultivated. Although it had occurred to me only recently when writing this bio that I had an interest in woodworking from a very early age. I seem to remember getting a beginner Carpentry tool kit when I was 6 or 7 and I was always messing around with wood in the sheds during my early childhood. There was some influence from creative people around me as well that also leaned towards woodworking.
During my Carpentry Apprenticeship a friend (Phillip Turner) briefly introduced me to Woodturning and showed me some of the basics. As soon as the chisel met the wood I was instantly hooked. My first spindle turned piece was Pitch Pine and the smell of the wood alone made me want to follow up by buying a lathe and hand tools. I managed to scrape up enough money for my first lathe, a 2 foot green single barrel bed lathe (I can't even remember the brand name). I briefly used the awful chisels that came with it for a while until I could buy some real ones. I moved on to a Draper WTL100 after that ( see pic above). This was also an entry level machine too but it allowed me to progress a bit further. My entire chisel collection after a few months was eventually 4 real chisels (3 Sorby and 1 Record Power) and they did the trick. I have a few more nowadays :)
I managed to find a picture of my first lathe
In the early 00's I hadn't much time for turning as my newly formed Carpentry business took over and I become too busy to keep doing it. My frustration at getting catches was also a big reason for not devoting more time to woodturning. Had I known then what I know now, that if I had reached out to a professional I could have eliminated all my problems in a short space of time. We live and learn.
Some of my early pieces pictured here which were stored in the attic for years after I couldn't sell them
In early 2015 I came back to the lathe again. Economic reasons had pushed me back to my woodworking roots and as soon as I mounted a piece on the lathe I was hooked again. Working with greenwood, which was brand new to me also presented a whole new world of opportunities.
In December 2015 I made the brilliant decision to do a day of private tuition with Glenn Lucas. In that single day, Glenn corrected my bad habits, showed me why early pieces failed and showed me how to turn my first bowl. Back to the present day, I still make the odd careless mistake but now I at least know why. Catches and small mistakes are all part of woodturning.
My business struggled from July 2015 up to the early part of 2017, not to mention the 12 months of groundwork I put in before starting. My only output was through the local Farmers Market and it was extremely hard work. Often, I would sell nothing at all and would have 4 frustrating hours standing around trying to will customers over to my stall. Sometimes I had weeks of this repeating itself. I eventually got into a local Tralee craft shop but trade wasn't brisk there either.
I spent a lot of time gathering as much greenwood as possible between November 2016 to April 2017 so that my business could have the stock needed for the future. I need to be at least 12 months ahead with dried wood so I will periodically have to replenish my stock levels. A careful balance between collecting new stock and finish turning will have to be maintained.
Since January 2017 things have started to turn around. I was accepted into both the Original Kerry Craft group and the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCOI).
My page can be seen here
Supplying shops has come with it's own challenges as demand has increased, I have had to work harder and longer to keep up. I will have to spend a good portion of the winter months building finished stock so that I won't be under the same amount of pressure next summer.
I am extremely proud of the massive journey I have taken in just 3 years and I hope the future will be a little easier.
As I start 2018 I have made a number of new changes to my business. New drying techniques and drying storage areas have been developed and built over the Christmas period. I realized that mistakes were made again in 2017 and I have hopefully corrected those issues once and for all. I have enough wood to work with and enough drying at various stages to give me workable pieces for the next 2 years but I will still have to cut for bowls regularly.
For continuity of hardwood trees I have chosen to support Hometree in the west of Ireland.
They plant hardwood trees on inhospitable ground with a view of reforesting this country. I will donate a portion of my bowl sales to this great and worthy cause. Why not donate? Go visit their site today.
I generally hate having my picture taken but I was caught here on camera just before the opening of the Original Kerry shop in Dingle back in March 2017.
I had just delivered my stock to the shop and unpacked.
Roll on to 2019 and my sales reached new highs in the shops and even managed to make a few sales direct through the website too. 2019 saw the beginning of my teaching too and after a shaky start I managed to gain some students through the year.
I joined Airbnb and dipped my toe into the tourist experience market although too late in the year to get the tourists. Not to worry, I had laid the groundwork for 2020. The plan was to host the tourists and maybe sell some small pieces at the end of their experience
2020 was supposed to be my year to turn profitable after 5 long hard years. I was all set up to take on more regular students and an increasing number of Airbnb bookings. I wanted to pull away from Sale or Return selling and concentrate on making more directly. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has decimated all those plans.
Rather than sit and wait for the virus to go I have moved towards my next step a bit sooner than expected. I invested in a camera system that will allow teaching with social distancing but also allow me to record my woodturning projects and post them online to my Patreon account to try and drum up some subscribers. Some of the system with live images here.
I am writing this in Late September 2020 and the virus is still here causing problems. The worldwide economy is in a major recession and the politicians do nothing but make it worse. I am still driving forward regardless trying to improve and advance my business because the virus will one day be gone and we will once again return to normal. If you would like to help, you could buy something small from my shops. Your support would be much appreciated.