Wood turning has caught on as part of the woodworking craze in most of the world. At one time wood turning was understood to be one of the necessities of life in the community. Most towns of reasonable size would have a turner just as they would have a black smith. As a result, in some phone books today one may find as many Turners as there are Smiths.
Mass production along with cheap bowls and cups of materials such as plastic and metal spelled an end to the need for the craft of wood turning although the beauty of wood and the compelling need to create both art and craft has kept the skills of wood turning from disappearing altogether. In fact today there appears to be a renaissance in and of the wood turning world. However, there is now the question for many turners of where to get wood turning ideas.
The easiest place to start for wood turning ideas is to walk through the house and say “what could I make?” or perhaps “what would I have made three hundred years ago?” Obviously we would not be turning pots for the stove out of wood, but what about food preparation?
In the old days every kitchen had a large wooden bowl, the bread bowl for mixing bread dough. These days we are more likely to see it as a salad bowl. Of course that leads to all sorts of serving bowls, each distinctive in grain and color. For a very decorative touch, wooden trenchers can be made and used. In medieval times slabs of bread were used as plates and the food served on them. Later the bread, which absorbed the sauce or gravy, would be eaten. Wealthier people had the bread served on a slab of wood, often turned and decorated, and the food placed on the bread in turn. The gravy soaked bread was sometimes given to the poor as alms. Today a trencher could be turned either square or round with a wide border to display the grain and an inset center to hold a plate.
Cups are of course a variation on a bowl. Tight grained woods such as maple or cherry will hold liquid very well. Proper finishing with fine, wet sanding will keep the grain from raising and no other interior finish is really needed, nor was it used in medieval times when many of the poor carried their own wooden mug with them.
Spatulas, spurtles and spoons for serving and stirring are often found in the kitchens. With the ready use of teflon coated cookware today, wooden mixing utensils and potato mashers are made to order.
Candlesticks are an obvious standby for the wood turner, but so are table lamps both plain and fancy. Nowadays the wood turning suppliers make all sorts of kits with lamp parts available at very nominal cost.
Speaking of kits, it is easy for the turner to find parts for pens, pencils, letter openers, pill boxes and a myriad assortment of other small items requiring more parts than a piece of wood.
Basically, if it is round or could be round it can be make on the lathe. Ideas surround us if we only take time to look. Besides which, there is the double bonus given. Not only does there exist the pleasure of the anticipation of turning, there is also the enjoyment of delighting in all that surrounds us. Useful, or just decorative, making it out of wood makes it more special, at least for some of us.