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Woodturning is one of the crafts that lends itself towards most disabilities. It can be done in a fairly small area with relatively inexpensive equipment. It is not overly strenuous and can be quick to show results; hence it's mass popularity. The object of this is not to go into any great detail about woodturing itself, rather on guidelines on what look for in a course or in a tutor.
Red Pine Three Tier Altar/Shrine under construction.
WHERE TO BEGIN
Most people interested in starting woodturning have probably read at least one book at this stage; there are many available at your local library or from GMC publications. The best start to woodturning is to do a course. There are many advertised in "Woodturning" a GMC publication or "The Woodturner" a Nexus publication.
Most courses will offer a syllabus with all course details and prices. Make sure that all is clear from the start then you will know what to expect. You don't want a course that is too bogged down with theory, as the best way to learn is "Hands On". It is impossible for a course to guarantee that you will be able to complete a list of projects, as it will depend on the individual's progress. However all courses should let you finish at least one small project.
It is important to find out how many students there will be on a course. The fewer students, the more one to one tuition will be available. Some evening classes at colleges may only have two lathes for a dozen students, which means a lot of time watching and very little doing. For someone just starting I would suggest two students as being the ideal for a good blend of tuition and hands on. However, on specialised courses there may be a larger mix, depending on the experience of the group.
Justin doing some quality control on Rigid Seiza/Meditation Benches.
Make sure there is one lathe per student. It can also be worthwhile if the tutor has a selectrion of lathes, as this will give a chance to try the various types before making a purchase.
Find out as much about the tutor as possible before starting a course. " Check" If the course is close-by try and pop round for a blether first to see if you like their manner. If the course is going to be further away it good to get a recommendation. The AWGB is a good place to start or your local craft club. You may have someone you know who already turns, this is great to go for a look, but not all good woodturners are good teachers. Generally you will find that most tutors are a congenial lot and they teach because they enjoy teaching and people.
Make sure that the workshop is comfortable and well laid out. It is important that there is space in the workshop and it is not cramped and cluttered. A well laid out workshop that is tidy will reflect a lot on what to expect from the course. Doing a course in winter in a workshop that is cold and draughty will not be conducive to easy learning neither will a hot unventilated one be pleasant in the summer either.
YOUR PERSONAL REQUIREMENTS
There are no two disabilities the same, so this is where it is important to specify your exact needs. Do not expect the tutor to understand all disabilities. There are many adaptations possible and it may be that certain things will have to be attended to prior to the commencement. Should you require any advice, do not hesitate to contact me. Remember that to some people a barstool to get to the lathe might be classified as disabled friendly, this is not the case. Make sure there are adapted toilets, ramps and adequate vehicle access. In a word "CHECK". It is the only way that you can be sure that you get what you want.
Should you wish to take a carer with you, it should not cause any problems and might be appreciated if you have special needs. However should your carer wish to participate you must expect to pay for that, after all if the tutor has to teach two people this has to be paid for. Again, "CHECK" before you go.
Should you choose a course that is further away from home than is reasonable to travel, it may be necessary to find local accommodation. You will find that most tutors will have a list of local facilities. Remind them again of your exact needs. However the final decision on accommodation will be yours. If you are travelling by public transport, enquire if you can be collected. If your going with a partner who is not going on the course, it can be a good excuse for them to do a bit of site seeing.
Most tutors will have insurance cover, but it is always better to "CHECK". In the unlikely event of an accident it is always better to be prepared.
A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE
I became disabled several years ago and now use a wheelchair. I can only say that woodturning has totally changed my life. It not only has given me the means to doing something practical; it has also given me a great social life. My workshop, which is fully equipped and adapted to suit my needs, does not necessarily meet every one else`s. I've taught many people, both disabled and able bodied and no two people are the same. Yet the one thing that we have all shared is a great love of timber and woodturning. My background is carpentry & joinery, then moving on to furniture design and making custom one off's. Woodturning, thanks to the missus, is for me an extension of these. Giving me the opportunity work in the medium that I love and releasing my artistic side. When I get the opportunity to share all this with someone wanting to learn "Nirvana" is here.