Sharing stories and keeping active while the wood turns

Denmark Woodturners’ members, Dave Wolter and Rob Parslow

If you ask the Denmark Woodturners’ Dave Wolter, who’s the longest member of this club he’d say, he was.

“I’m just over two metres tall so I’m the longest member if you’re using physical measurement,” Dave says laughing. 

“They call me ‘Stubs’ and I’ve had that nickname for years. Obviously, I’m anything but short and stocky. We have another member called Raincoat and he got his name because his surname is MacKintosh. We also have a guy we call Ricochet and the fact that we had to install a high steel cage around his lathe, probably explains his nickname.”

Dave says this woodturning club has been operating for more than 40 years and has outlasted many others of its kind in the region. While all the original members have since passed on or moved on, many, like Dave, have been in the club for a couple of decades. The members (some of them women) are a diverse bunch with their ages ranging from early 30s to early 90s. 

“We do have some younger members but the majority of us are between 70 and 85 years old. This age group reflects the era when woodturning was more popular and prolific so we really want to ensure there are people to pass the skill set on to. 

“Older people know the best type of timber to use for various objects and how to cut that timber correctly to show off and expose the wood’s coloured rings. We are not simply about making wooden bowls; woodturning has become a lot more sophisticated and sculptural these days.”

Carefully crafted chess set made by woodturner, Percy Vlietman

With the club’s workshop open five mornings a week, there’s always a constant trickle of casually clad elderly lads coming in and out. They may be coming to work manually on a current project, to collaborate on design ideas or to discuss the best use of certain techniques. They also come to upskill as the club holds a dedicated training session once a month. 

And even though their workshop is filled with lathes and timber turning tools, the heart of the club lies with its members.

“We’re all about human interaction; the social aspects of life, like sharing humour, trading stories and simply checking in with each other. For many of our older members, this is their social life. We know that socialising is good for mental health so our club is vitally important to its members.”

With things like the annual Wood Duck Award (for non-woodturning acts of stupidity) and the proliferation of nicknames, the backgrounds of members are as diverse as the items these colourful characters create. There are farmers, business professionals, a Scottish Olympic wrestler, a retired sea captain and even a geophysicist amongst the club’s members.

Dave says, “If you have a nickname, you’re in! And if you have a few stories to share; even better.”