Woodturning with a Cause
by Aaron "Cujo" Cooley
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Like most woodturners, my turning addiction began as an outgrowth of my general woodworking profession. I was introduced to the world of wood at a young age as most of my ancestors have been tradesmen of one type or another. I remember my first woodworking class in school (when there was still such a thing) and still have most of the projects I made for my Mom back then.
Most recently I was a propmaker in the growing tv and film production business here in Atlanta and have had the good fortune to work on many blockbuster films. As a hobby, and in order to pass the time between shows, I bought a used lathe, a set of gouges, and began teaching myself the process of making round things. There were some interesting things going in the burn bin, but I was still moving forward and every once in a while I came out with something really beautiful.
Along with my woodworking hobby, I am an active missionary. My wife, Pam, and I serve the biker community through an organization called Black Sheep Harley Davidsons for Christ. Through this mission field, we came to know Jason and Holly Cripps in Porterdale, Ga.. Jason is a K-9 handler and Police Chief. Holly is his super supportive wife and fur-baby mom to a host of K-9's. Holly is also the Founder and President of "We Ride To Provide", a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring, serving, and supporting K-9 teams in Ga. and wherever else they can help. Their Motto is "Paying Tribute To Those Lost, By Providing For Those Left Behind."
We Ride To Provide (WRTP) contacted us to see if we would be interested in being a part of their fundraisers and because we are also dog lovers, we quickly said yes. Learning more about the organization, we found that in the working dog world, there is very little financial support for the dogs that is actually paid for by the local jurisdiction, especially smaller ones. Things like first aid kits, armor vests, training supplies, and sometimes even the cost of the dog itself are completely off the public budget and the handler must cover these costs out of pocket.
Learning this, WRTP has a couple of primary missions. The first is to provide honor, dignity, support, and memoriam for K-9's at the end of their life. This may involve escorts, burial, urns, or any number of support that the family might need. The second is to provide first aid kits to serve the dogs in the field. These kits have actually saved dogs in the field.
The most recent example is K-9 Orion from Oconee County, GA, who was saved from a snakebite with the supplies in his med-kit provided by WRTP.
K-9 Orion and WRTP President Holly Cripps
3 days after the near fatal snakebite
In providing for the fallen, WRTP strives to assist any need the downed K-9 family may have. The part my wife, Pam and I play involves helping provide burial urns for the family and riding in the escort to honor the fallen.
Last fall, I was honored to receive the task of restoring an urn and returning the remains of K-9 Sasha of Warwick, GA.
After a complete reworking of all the joints and refitting the pieces together, followed by a careful refinishing, I paid my final respects by handing Sasha to her new guardians in this wonderful box urn.
After working so hard for Sasha and WRTP, I was inspired to make something that I thought would be worthy of a mantle anywhere, but I didn't have the skills I thought I needed.
I paid a visit to my awesome friends at Highland Woodworking (the ultimate play store for big kids like me) and sought out some expert advice on wood toning and staining. With a bottle of blue and a bottle of black stain, I went to the recesses of my wood shop and began the experiments.
My first success came with this small bowl, stained blue on the outside and left natural on the inside. I finished the outside with a few dozen coats of gloss lacquer and it has a glass-dipped look that my wife loves. As a note, it is turned from a camphor log.
High from this success, I decided to dive right into the next project in my head. An elegant vase for WRTP.
Having no formal training in proper art form, I sketched out a design on some graph paper and literally guessed at some starting dimensions. With the finished drawing ready, I ventured back to Highland Woodworking and validated my success by buying some new turning tools (an
Easy Wood Tools Easy Hollower
and a new
I came home and chucked up another hunk of Camphor and went to work carefully scribing out my lines and layouts to render this; my version of a Roman themed vase.
After dry and wet sanding to 1200, I applied several coats of double strength black dye and a stripe of double strength blue dye to create the iconic "officer down" theme we are all familiar with. I sealed this with several coats of gloss lacquer, and tipped the base, the top, and the middle with gold paint.
I presented this urn to WRTP at no charge, with the promise that it be saved for the first K-9 downed in Georgia in the line of duty. Sadly, this gift was needed just a few short months later in June 2014 when Walker County, Georgia K-9 Tanja was killed while protecting her handler in the line of duty.
I'm proud to be a small part of helping WRTP and I'm a proud servant for the Kingdom of God through Black Sheep Harley Davidsons for Christ.
If you would like to know more about, or aid in the mission of Black Sheep Harley Davidsons for Christ, or We Ride To Provide,
shoot me a note
. I'll be happy to oblige.
Below are some more of my projects. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at
You can also check out my Facebook page at:
Cherry Salt Bowl
Cypress Cutting Board
The Highland Woodturner