Are You A Successful Turner?

There are many ways to measure success for the wood turner; quality, originality, complexity, turned material, combined disciplines, i.e. turning and carving, etc. Some folks even consider the financial return as one possible measure of success.  In order to answer this question as it pertains to you, one must first examine what you expect to get from wood turning.

In very general terms, there are six kinds of wood turners.

  1. Fun Hobby only – relaxing pastime, gives stuff away, volunteer instructor
    1. Success as a hobby wood turner can be answered as simply if you are having fun with it. Many folks I talk to tell me that they use wood turning to relieve stress from their day job and love to teach others what they have learned. They don’t sell anything or accept paying classes
  2. Hobby business – sells finished goods mostly to friends and associates to make pocket money
    1. Same as 1) but sells finished goods and looks for the occasional paid class to instruct. Makes enough money to support one’s hobby without dipping into the family budget too often.
  3. Hobby business – paid instructor
    1. Many fairly accomplished club turners will teach regularly after they retire.
  4. Second Income – still as a full time job or retirement income, but earns a significant income at craft fairs, galleries, paid classes etc.
    1. I speak to lots of folks who use this method as a pathway into full time after they retire
  5. Full time professional – earns main source of income from wood turning related activities weather teaching or making finished goods
    1. These are the folks we all know, Richard Raffan, Mike Mahoney, Nick Cook, John Jordan, Nick Agar, Stewart Batty, Jimmy Clews, Stewart Mortimer, Glen Lucas, Mike Jackofsky and many more. This group is actually a very small percentage of turners just as paid professional athletes are a relatively small percentage
  6. Full time professional vendor – earns main source of income as vendor, inventor, goods supplier to the wood turning community
    1. Most of these folks are turners themselves, but also have the inventor’s flair and offer tools and accessories to the turning community. Names you would recognize are Doug Thompson, Hannes Mickelson, Kel McNaughton, Bonnie Klein, Mike Hunter, the fellows at Penn State Industries and even myself would be included in this group

I started out as a hobby wood turner never thinking it would be anything more. I was a flat worker and had become very good at it. I had a full time suit-and-tie job in industry and wood turning was just one more thing to go along with my other wood working hobby activities. One aspect of my personality is that I am slightly obsessive. If I have an interest in something, I’m usually going to go for it with both feet sooner or later. But, before I make the plunge, I get with successful well known people in the field and ask targeted questions in order to make educated decisions with the highest chance of success according to my definition. I worked through being each of the six types of turners before discovering that I am most comfortable as a full time professional vendor/inventor/teacher whose business is inventing things related to turning wood in order to make it easier-faster-better as well at teaching effective methods and techniques. I seldom make finished turned items purely to sell these days. My time is better spent designing new products or turning accessories for other turners. I’ve had a lot of help along the way and realize that someone else had their hand guiding my path.

I suggest that you decide which of the above categories best describes you today and then ask yourself if you are having fun doing that. If you are, consider yourself successful. Realize that life is a journey and you might be moving to a different level some time, but for today, enjoy what you have. Because wherever you go, there you are.

Here is my inspiration for today’s message:

Phil 4:11 NIV
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
John 16:23 NIV
23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.



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