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Here is my Woodturning!

by Aaron Thomas
Sugar Hill, GA

Note: Click any picture to see a larger version.

I make custom wooden floor lamps, table lamps, wooden oil lamps, bowls, and platters just to name a few. I am a single artisan in a small, half-garage workshop in Sugar Hill, GA. I am also a disabled Marine Corps combat, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and this is actually how I came into woodworking. In the Summer of 2009 PTSD forced me into a hospital after years of struggling and trying to hide it from friends, family and even my chain-of-command when I returned home from Iraq in 2005. Since that summer I have been 100% disabled and unable to work.

My entrance into woodworking is a strange journey with many twists; I actually started off by making Native American inspired flutes out of bamboo from the backyard of my family's house. I found that Native American flute music actually helped a great deal with my struggle with the constant anxiety/stress. When I would listen to the flute, the nightmares, flashbacks, tension and fear would all melt away. As I was still making the bamboo flutes I decided that I might like to make them out of various woods and sell them. I've sent my flutes to places all over the country and even one that has traveled to far off places such as Denmark, India and Turkey with an artist named Avi Adir, a man for whom I made a piccolo flute out of Purpleheart and Birdseye Maple.

For about a year I yearned to get my hands on a wood lathe and be able to turn my wooden flutes. The sale of a bike I'd had from my school days enabled me to purchase a cheap Skil table saw, a Skil router kit and a Skil benchtop router table from one of the home improvement stores in my area. That started a completely new level of my ability to do woodworking; I dabbled with making Adirondack chairs, garden benches, and continued my Native American style flutes all the while craving to get into woodturning and religiously watching Cap'n Eddie's woodturning videos on YouTube.

After saving for approximately 2 years I was finally able to buy a wood lathe from Harbor Freight [12" x 36" JET copy]. It wasn't my dream lathe by any means. It's certainly no Powermatic 4224B, Oneway 2436 or Robust Tools American Beauty.

In 2012 it happened that we needed to remove a Bradford Pear tree [no surprise there I'm sure] from our front yard and rather than see that wood go to waste I convinced my brother that we should keep the trunk and that I would turn the wood on my lathe... Well, the trunk laid on the garage floor for approximately a year until one day I rediscovered it in the corner, covered in dust and lost to space and time. I cut a few large spindle blanks from the trunk and decided to try a project that I had been cultivating and designing in my mind for about 2 months. I turned the blank into what I can only describe as a teardrop shape, hollowed out a 1-1/2" hole and placed a liquid lamp burner in the top to make a wooden oil lamp. At first I was using disposable liquid candles and making them just for fun, that is, until my family prodded and convinced me that I needed to try selling these lamps. I quickly discovered Etsy.com and found that interest in my wooden oil lamps grew faster than I thought it would. I still sold less than 50 of them but it was invigorating and a great boost to my morale, as I was still struggling daily with PTSD and battling with the Department of Veteran's Affairs.

In the Fall of 2012, I began to turn wood bodied table lamps, floor lamps and designing my own pieces. Since March 2013 I've been turning wooden lamps while at the same time enjoying making bowls, platters, boxes, salt & pepper grinders and really a wide variety of projects.

Today I am working to build a name for myself and my one-man company/brand and getting my work recognized. My hope is to market to interior designers who might use my pieces in their work for clients. I am still struggling with PTSD and with the VA but I decided in 2011 that if the VA wasn't going to help me, I was going to help myself and thus how Thomas Fine Woodworks was born. It is an endeavor by one disabled Marine Corps combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom trying to regain what he's lost, his independence, humanity, dignity and a productive life filled with satisfaction and knowing that I am again contributing to my community, state and nation.

Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful, God, Country, Corps!

You can email Aaron at thomasfinewoodworks@gmail.com . You can see more of Aaron's work on his Etsy page at http://www.etsy.com/shop/thomasfinewoodworks

Submit your own woodturnings or woodturning shop to this column! Simply SEND US PHOTOS of your woodturning projects or shop along with captions and a brief history and description of your woodturning. (Email photos at 800x600 resolution.) Receive a $50 store credit if we show your turning in a future issue!

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