I was terrified to turn my lathe on for the first time. The closest I’d ever been to power tools is an 18-volt cordless drill. When I was younger, I’d hang around while my dad cut wood using a circular saw. I was his extra set of hands, the ones that got splinters.
Giddy. I was childishly giddy after I turned the lathe on for the first time. I took it from 500 to 3500 RPMs the first time out. After a minute or two, the excitement was too much and I had to turn it off. A few minutes later, I turned it on again but mustered up the courage to put a piece of wood I found outside between the headstock spur centre and the tailstock cup centre (I had to look at the manual for these names).
I went to bed a happy man that night.
The next day, I found some scrap pieces of wood in my toolbox that I keep in my library office and brought them home with me. I tried all three of the chisels that came with the lathe. The sound of that dull chisel hitting the corner of that square piece of wood for the first time — a tick with your tongue slapping the bottom of your mouth — was the sound of a passion being ignited. Never before in my life have I been so happy to make something so ugly and useless.
Just seeing the lathe waiting so patiently on its workbench brings a smile to my face. Sometimes, when I’m sitting at my desk, I catch myself staring at it, daydreaming. My imagination runs away with all of the beautiful things that will be turned out on that machine.