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Byron-Bergen students add woodturning to their skillsets
Almost a decade ago, Gerald Sheridan made a single visit to Byron-Bergen Junior/Senior High School Technology Education teacher Jay Wolcott’s classroom. A member of the Finger Lakes Woodturners (FLWT), he came to demonstrate the art of woodturning to a new generation of artisans.
Now, many years and many visits later, committed FLWT volunteers like Sheridan and Michael Hachey are on campus almost daily for six weeks every spring. They’ve added woodturning to the wide range of skills, including construction, metal work, and parts making, that young men and women learn in the school’s manufacturing systems class.
“We would never have been able to give our students this rich experience without the help of these volunteers,” said Wolcott. “They are able to give each student personalized instruction on the wood lathe. With their one-on-one attention, all our students get comfortable with the equipment and learn to operate it correctly and safely. Their passion for the art is something that our kids can really relate to.”
In the beginning, Sheridan, Hachey and other FLWT members like David Harp and David Leupold brought their own home equipment into the classroom. The group applied for, and was awarded a grant from the American Association of Woodturners several years ago, which the district matched. Wolcott was able to purchase two new woodturning equipment stations for the school.
Woodturning instruction begins with two introductory projects: turning handcrafted pens and small spinning tops. Each employs the wood lathe plus one or two additional tools. “We begin with demos,” said Sheridan. “But Michael (Hachey) instituted step-by-step instructional photos that have been a huge help to kids trying to follow the process after the demo. They are a great teaching aid!”
After completion of the two beginner’s projects, students chose a personal project, like a bowl or a birdhouse. One student even combined woodturning and metalwork to create a wedding ring. “You can see students working on the lathes almost every day,” said Wolcott. “They are very creative. A lot of their work goes far beyond craft into art.”
The Finger Lakes Woodturners (FLWT) Association, Inc. is a non-profit organization with over 75 members of all skill levels operating in the Rochester area. They are active volunteers in many parts of the community. Visit www.fingerlakeswoodturners.com/ for more information.