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"Herman, are you fiddling around in the garage again?"

That was my mother, upset, as I tinkered with bits of wood making everything my young mind could envision. We were a very poor family of 13 and there wasn't much to go around. I suppose appreciation for "homemade" began with the Christmas gifts we would receive as kids. "Store-bought" toys were items to be dreamed about.

My first successful creation was a pipe - the kind you smoke. Take an old chair leg and bore a ¾" hole into the end of chunk of the leg with a brace and bit (for you young 'uns - that's NOT an electric drill). Then bore a ¼" hole perpendicular to the first one. Stick in a piece of copper gas line from the old burned out Hudson in the bush, add a small piece of screen, and corn silk smokes like a dream - at least until Mom finds it. I was about seven.

After that I engaged in more traditional woodworking, like scroll work with a coping saw and making birdhouses. At about 14 I left it alone, until 1976.

Professionally, I fly a desk. Being an executive pays better, and allows me to pursue other interests, like music (I sang my way through college, singing professionally), golf, my classic car, cooking, wine-making, woodworking and woodturning. In 1976, when we bought an old house that needed remodeling, I bought some tools and soon regained my love of working with wood. I wasn't bad at it so I tried making furniture. The furniture turned out OK, and woodturning was not far behind. My granddaughter to be was going to need a cradle - with spindles.

My first lathe, a Christmas gift from Karen in 1995, was from Taiwan. The first turning was a miniature oak baseball bat that Karen found useful for tamping dough into her tart pans. Hey - it worked!

I am now on my fourth lathe (slow learner), a General 260VD, which allows me do the kind of work I want to do. I had spotted a large walnut vase in a woodturning book, and decided I wanted to turn big pieces like that.

Woodturning is addictive, as any woodturner will attest. Due to my short attention span, I turn many different shapes and forms, but my favorites are big, deep vases, urns and hollow forms, the thinner the better. I do not turn commercially and have not yet placed my work in galleries. What I sell is as a result of word-of-mouth. Some pieces are given to family and friends, and many are stored, waiting for my retirement. Even then I have no intentions of making a "business" of wood turning. It is much more than a hobby, but less than an occupation.

I have never taken a woodturning course. The self-taught method simply means I learned a lot the hard way, and when Lee Valley Tools asked for a few seminars I was only too glad to share my experiences. I have been doing woodturning seminars for them now for several years.

This is what I really enjoy the most - teaching others about woodturning. Nothing compares to the fun of sharing my love of this art form and the techniques I've developed. Watching the light of understanding and hearing the awe in a student's voice as a sharp tool slices effortlessly through hardwood is a tremendous reward.

I make many of my own tools, by necessity since I like to hand-hold the chisels. Turning large deep vases requires large and heavy tools. If you visit my website (www.hdv.net) you will find many of the tools I have made over the years, along with downloadable instructions for making some of them. If this brief look at my history and work makes you want to see more, there is a lot more on the website.

Woodturners are such special people, and I love the way they so willingly share. Because anonymous spammers and trolls were taking over the newsgroups, I started the "World of Woodturners" site in November of 2001. The free site has 600 members (WoWies) with over 6000 photos of their work, some of which has been featured here. New turners and seasoned veterans alike trade photos and advice. A username and password are required, so if any woodturner wants to see it, visit www.thewows.com and ask for an invitation.

I am so pleased to be asked to put up a few pieces of my work for your inspection. The beautiful creations of those that have shared this space are awesome, and to be included in their company is humbling indeed.

Herman de Vries


  Pierced Poplar
9½" x 7"
"Lucas Salad"
17" x 9"
(Little Lucas in my salad bowl - his dad is a chef)
  Manitoba Maple Form
8" x 4"
Birch on Black
9½" x 5"
  "Close Thine Eyes"
7" x 3"
Opening phrase inscribed on the piece
Ebonized Oak Vase
8½" x 6"
  "I Am Elegia"
From a ceramic vase seen in a $15 million mansion in Washington.
Maple Burl Bowl
20" x 7"
  Russian Olive Burl Bowl
24" x 7"
Tall Cherry Vase
14" x 4"
  Walnut Vase
22" x 11"
Claro Walnut
Redwood Urn
18" x 12"
  "Oh Canada"
Black Ash Burl & Pewter
20" x 5½"
Cherry Burl Bell
9" x 9"
  Bird's Eye Maple Bowl
14" x 5½"
Ash & Walnut Hollow Form
9" x 5"
  Alaskan Birch Burl Bowl - 12" x 7"

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