Ohio Valley Woodturners Guild – Turning 2015 Symposium

For the next two years I am the Chairman of the Florida Woodturning Symposium. Although I’ve been involved with this symposium in a number of capacities for six years, I know there is always more to learn. As Chairman, this is the time to do it.

My wife has family in Cincinnati, so whenever we visit I see if there is a meeting or an event held by the Ohio Valley Woodturners. This time when I checked I saw that they were holding their bi-annual symposium this year. We had some flexibility in our travel schedule, so I decided to register. I really wanted to check out any ideas I could bring back to our symposium, but there were also a number of demonstrators I have never seen before and wanted to catch their demos. That’s one thing about the Florida Symposium. We’re always working, so I hardly ever see any of the demonstrations and this time I could be a regular attendee.

The Ohio Valley Symposium is not actually held in Ohio, but rather just across the Indiana border at the Higher Ground Conference Center. It’s a nice place set on a large wooded campus.

Higher Ground 001sm

The center had a nice dining hall and lodging available as well.

Dining Hall sm

There was plenty of room for the demonstrators and they ran five concurrent demos, but the demonstration areas were separated by office cubicle partitions. Since they were all in one large room, there was some sound carry over from one demonstration to another.

Demo Room sm

I had set up to meet the Chairman of the symposium before coming north and he filled me in a quite a few things about how they run the symposium. The symposium has the same number of attendees as we do, so ideas I learn from here will be pretty transferable.

Now it was time to select the demonstrators I wanted to see. These were the Featured Demonstrators that were there:

Malcolm Tibbetts Segmented Woodturning 101,Checkerboard Vessel, Ribbons, Segmented Sculpture
Mike Jackofsky using hollowing tools, basic hollow vessels, hollow vessel form design, natural edge hollow form
Derek Weidman human face, animal face, creating visual language
Mark St. Leger Rock-a-Bye Box, Lidded Box with hand chased threads, Square Lidded Box
Neil Scobie developing a concept, adding texture to your work, offset triangular vase with aluminum legs
Chris Ramsey outback hat, mini hats, natural edge bowl (open and closed)

I particularly wanted to see Derek Weidman since I had seen his wonderful human and animal heads at the Symposium in Pittsburgh. I also wanted to Malcolm Tibbetts again. I had seen one of his demos a couple of years ago, but since I’ve been thinking more about segmented woodturning as a way t do sculpture, I wanted to hear that demo again. I had seen Mark St. Leger several times, so with the rotations available I chose Mike Jackofsky and Neil Scobie.

I was very impressed with Derek Weidman since instead of following the title of his demo, he just asked “It’s getting near Halloween, is there something Halloween themed you’d like me to make?”. That meant that he was going to do one of his creations on the fly. The audience decided on Frankenstein’s monster. He mounted a piece and just started going at it and asking us where we should put the electrodes and how many should we have, etc.

It was amazing watching him create the creature. He must have mounted the wood on 20-25 different centers to get the angles just right to cut away just the right part. Everything was done between centers and only with a couple of gouges. After he was done turning he used an Arbotech to grind in some circular patters and then burned the whole think with a torch to give some contrast.

As he was finishing his turning he knocked off one of his “extra” electrodes, so asked for ideas to help replace them. Someone came back with some screws and there were his replacement electrodes.

Weidman 005

During the day he had made a bat, a vampire and Frankenstein’s monster. I think they looked great for something made in a 1 1/2 hr demo.

Weidman 001

As I was leaving on Saturday, I saw that he had made one more – the Bride of Frankenstein. The two of them looked like a perfect couple.

Weidman 007

Mike Jackofsky is well known for his hollowforms. Hollowform demos are notoriously boring since you really can’t see anything when someone is hollowing, so Mike just focused on shape and form. I th8ink this is really the most important aspect, so enjoyed the demo.

Jackofsky 001

When he was done he had a piece that had a great form and very nice balance between the natural edge, sapwood and heartwood.

Jackofsky 002

I then checked out Neil Scobie’s demo, which was on texturing. Adding texture is a big part of what I do and I wanted to see what techniques he applies to his work.

Scobie 001

He used quite a few different techniques, carving, Arbortech, ball burrs, cone cutters and ended with pyrography. I’ve used all these techniques as well, but he did a lot of innovative things including adding some color.

Malcolm was in the same demo room as Neil, so I just hung around for his demo.

Malcolm 001

Malcolm explained in detail how he did his tubes and donuts and some of his newer stuff. What was clear though out the presentation was how seriousy he takes precision, both in design and the cutting of the pieces.


I know this has been my problem when I have tried to do some of these types of pieces. Not only is he precise, but none of his work is arbitrary. When he has an idea for a piece, he’ll think about mathematical aspect that might better tell the story. Maybe it will be something like the number 3, where the piece will have three interlocking rings, each with 333 pieces, making three full revolutions from the beginning to end of each ring, etc. Some of his pieces have many tens of thousands of pieces. No wonder he buys Titebond by the gallon.

I saw a couple of the local and vendor demonstrations as well. The one I most wanted to see was Doug Thompson. Doug makes woodturning tools and I have a number of his spindle gouges. I really wanted to go to this demo since he was showing how to sharpen his tools. Since he is the manufacturer, I figured his sharpening recommendation should be worth listening to.

Thompson 001

He even handed out a full sized printout of how you should set the Vari-Grind to get the profile he recommends. I’ve already reset my jig at home.

About the last thing I did was check out the instant gallery. It was smaller than the Florida Symposium, but there were a number of nice things there.

IG 001

This is one of Malcolm’s latest pieces called “Global Spring” inspired by all the Arab Spring unrest that he thought that wa really happening all over the world.

IG 002

This was another of Malcolm’s that I really liked. Lots of pieces and lots of angles.

IG 003

Some of Neil’s work with one of his textured pieces in front. And I always like Neil’s peapods.

IG 004

Mike Jackofsky had a number of smaller hollowforms there.

IG 006

Chris Ramset is generally know for his hats, but he also had some interesting enclosed forms.

IG 007

One of the local people that had work in the Instant gallery was Arnold Wood. I had met Arnold before when I was assisting Michael Mocho at the John Campbell Folkschool. Arnold was one of the best turners in this advanced class and I could see he has continued to develop his skills.

IG 009

We needed to start home of Sunday, so I missed the last day, but I was really glad I came. I learned both about how Ohio Valley runs their symposium and I learned a lot from the demonstrations.

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