The Worshipful Company of Turners

Supporting the Craft, City and Charity for over four hundred years

What we have achieved

In 2012 we ran a total of 109 events, which is an average of more than two per week. That included:

  • 12 Saturday meetings of the Association of Pole-lathe Turners and Green Woodworkers (APTGW)
  • 88 midweek workshops (mainly on Wednesdays and Thursdays), 7 days of courses, and 2 demos.
  • We registered 73 new participants in 2012.
Target no. events Target total attendance No. of events 2012 Achieved attendance (non-unique) 2012
Monthly public meetings of the London APTGW group 12 120 12 122
Weekly open workshop 52 45 88 441
Courses (spoon carving and log to loveseat bench commission) 4 48 7 46

How the grant was spent

The Worshipful Company of Turners grant was spent on tools, especially multiples of axes, knifes and crook knifes. We have set up a bowl lathe at our site and are building turning skills within our core group of members before adding bowl turning to our public offering.

We decided not to buy our own public liability insurance, as this would mean having to raise money each year of this annual expenditure. Instead we have continued to operate under the Abney Park Trust’s public liability insurance. Recently, the APTGW has negotiated an insurance policy that allows members to teach green woodwork, our core members will each by applying to join this group APTGW insurance scheme.

The difference the grant made to our group and changes to our group last year Having enough tools to go around has enabled us to concentrate on our teaching techniques and we have developed a programme of beginners’ woodwork projects for new members safe in the knowledge that they will not be queuing up for tools. For the first time we have been able to teach people in groups rather than on a one-to-one basis, this makes more efficient use of the voluntary time that supports this project. We have also been able to offer one-day spoon carving courses, providing income for the project and for the members who teach those courses.

The tools have equipped us to run our first income generating courses. We piloted two one-day spoon-carving courses in December 2012, both of which were fully booked. These courses opened up our group to people who struggle to make our weekly midweek workshops because of work, enabled our facilitators to earn some money and generated surplus income from the project. Some of the course participants have since become regular participants at our workshops.

Due to changes in our working and personal lives, we had to move our regular Wednesday workshop to Thursdays. This led to an initial drop in attendance numbers but this soon built up again. At the beginning of the year this project was managed by two people on a voluntary basis. We continue to operate on a voluntary basis, with the exception of courses for which tutors are paid, and more of the regular members have taken on responsibilities that keep the project going: welcoming and teaching others, opening and closing the workshop, keeping the facilities tidy and maintaining the tools. Members have continued to make small donations towards the upkeep of the workshop. This has paid of tea, coffee and first aid supplies. We have also built up a small rainy day budget for replacement of tools and new tools.

We have held two tool maintenance days on Saturdays, both well attended, that allowed us to sharpen, clean and check all our tools against an inventory. We initially had trouble getting all those at the workshop to sharpen and care for the tools on a daily basis. Since then we have spent a lot of time collectively thinking about the most effective way to pass on essential sharpening skills to new people. Making sharpening part of our daily routine has helped and we now have a devoted sharpening table that is set up at the beginning of each day. We realised that lots of new members were afraid of sharpening tools themselves and have researched teaching techniques that other green woodworkers use. Recently there has been a noticeable difference in all our members sharpening skills, by making sharpening bigger part of the workshop we have successfully made it less scary and embedded it as a regular task in the day.

Two benches have been commissioned and built: the Log to Loveseat, built as part of a free beginners pole-lathe course, for the London Pleasure Gardens; and a memorial bench for Betsy Cadwaladr, commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, installed in Abney Park Cemetery. Unfortunately the London Pleasure Gardens has since gone into administration, but the Log to Loveseat has been returned to Abney Cemetery where it is admired by many. The presence of these two benches has solicited interest and further commissions, which Joseph has taken on as private work.

In December we held our second annual 1hr Spoon Challenge. This attracted ten competitors, of varying levels of experience, and was judged by Jon Warwicker, four times winner of the Barry Plant Spoon Award at the Bodgers’ Ball.

We currently have an email list of 337 people who have asked to be kept in touch with our events and courses and an active Facebook group. We also write quarterly reports on our group for the Bodgers’ Gazette, the membership newsletter of the APTGW, this has sparked interest from other APTGW members who have come to our site to see us in action.

Future plans

In 2013 we will continue to meet on the 1st Saturday of each month for a whittle or a turn about town; Thursday workshop sessions are ongoing; and we’re advertising three dates over the next six months for one day spoon carving courses. We plan to continue running these courses on a bi-monthly basis, depending on tutors availability. There are no immediate plans to run other paid courses, but bowl carving, stool making and bowl turning courses remain a possibility for the future.

We have been invited by a local community group, the Stoke Newington Common Users Group, to be part of a funding bid that will enable community cohesion activities. Our part in this bid would be an introduction to green woodwork session for local residents and small project to design and build some seating to rejuvenate street space.

Mainly we plan to maintain the level of activities that we have been running in 2012, but to make these more accessible. In Spring 2013 we will be launching our website ([] and PHPList hosted email list. We are also collaborating with the stone-carving group at Abney to promote craft activities at the cemetery, this is will be in the form of a banner for the cemetery gates, shared flyers for local distribution and a jointly hosted open day on Saturday 4th May 2013.

Feedback from participants

As a new and very green woodworker I was very impressed by the friendly atmosphere and the clear and helpful assistance on my first visit. It definitely made me want to return. There is a friendly air of quiet concentration from a bunch of people all involved with the peaceful pursuit of woodworking. It’s delightful being outside learning a craft from the very helpful ‘tutors’ and for me as an oldie to work alongside such a nice bunch of young people! Just to let you know how much I enjoyed my first session.

I loved learning and being in the outdoors.

It was cold, crafty, made London feel like a community.

I think I have learnt about trees and wood lands and tools and structures and history. Loads of things and it has connected some things I already knew. Most important is that it is free and that no booking is needed. If I am suddenly free or I need a break I can come along. It’s a fantastic resource for which I am very grateful.

Leadership – clear instructions and encouragement. Good company.

Great introduction, exactly what I wanted to be learning. Clear, relaxed, cosy place.

How amazingly lucky are we to live in the CENTRE of one of the biggest metropolises in the world and be able to unplug and find quiet and nature, to escape out of our heads for an hour on a Thursday and enter a rhythm of banter and industry that is gentle and kind and easy and ancient and for many, entirely lost.

It’s a friendly and exciting place a great place to learn in the city with a genuine woodland feeling! The teachers were lovely and explained all the processes well.

Working with wood for the first time!

I learnt how to use the tools safely and properly, sharpening technique, the proper way to use the log.

Introduction to woodworking in an informal setting, autonomy of participants allowing us to learn at our own pace and in our own way, helpful tutoring, giving information at the right moments; also everything was free which is important when you don’t earn a lot. I was surprised each time there weren’t people queuing down two blocks to attend the workshop, with instead just the right number of people.

Working with a knife, challenging myself, overcoming fears.

Actually i haven’t done anything with wood like this since school (1985).

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