To have your work inspected by strangers is a normal occurrence for wood turners. Every piece you make, whether it is a bowl or a newel post, a work of art or a functional item, should be of the highest quality that you are able to make, this is what I aspire to. To have your work inspected before you have made it is quite strange,well it is to me anyway. I took my drawings along to the church with the cut out model that I had made and spoke at length about the design and the timber, the colour and composition and the finish, trying all the time to paint a picture in words that would do my design justice. There was one comment which at the time I was a bit narked about, the suggestion was to make the hourglass a bit thicker, on drawing this in I could see instantly that this was the right shape, I can’t remember who said this but whoever it was ,thank you. I then left the PCC meeting and went home happy that I had given it my best shot. I heard very soon after that they liked the design and had approved the forwarding of the plans to the faculty meeting. There then followed an anxious wait for permission to start during which time I proceeded to make more than 20 full sized drawings covering every detail of the font. Because of timber prices I had to re-work some of them to accommodate different timber sizes. Deciding eventually on the best size to use I then drew the final constructional details
The font sizes agreed were such that it would not fit onto my lathe as it stood and so alterations were made.A very good friend of mine for many years as well as a first class engineer,Mark made a plate to lower the lathe bed and drop it out a bit.I then made a set of cole jaws to fit my existing set and increase my turning capability, I made these from 3/4” plywood and bolted them on. These were necessary to be able to flat the rings made for the font support and bowl itself. I was delighted when turning the lathe on that the cole jaws ran true and there was no wobble, but I was less pleased when I turned the lathe of as it had been programmed to stop within 5 seconds (I didn’t know this at the time) as the spindle stopped the chuck with my newly made cole jaws carried on proceeding to unwind and fly across the workshop!!
Locally there is a timber supplier,Oscar Windebank at Box , which is just outside of the Georgian city of Bath.They allowed me to sort through the timber I needed, which was European Oak and of very good quality.I didn’t want wood that was the same colour all the way through,although it had to be as straight as possible.As it turned out this Oak was some of the best I had ever used,the colour and figuring only enhanced the finished product.And so onto the production methods used.
I attended a local fete with my lathe and stall where I was turning out spinning tops for the kids and trying to sell my wares to their parents when I was approached by the vicar of my local church. The vicar, Selina Deacon asked what size I could turn on my lathe. I opened my arms wide imitating a fisherman and said “about this big “ She then asked if I could turn a font. I gave the answer considerable thought and after about 2 seconds replied that I could. I have many times had an enquiry from people that turned into nothing (no pun intended) and thought that this might be one of those but on this occasion a short time later I had another call from her asking to meet at the vicarage with some ideas and thoughts on the design.
Up to then I had not spent a lot of time thinking about it but now started frantically trying to come up with ideas. Although I turn for a living and pride myself on my ability to make virtually anything, (I tell my customers that I am only limited by their imagination)I had never considered making something as large as this. Fonts in the Church of England are traditionally octagonal and this was my first train of thought,possibly an eight sided table type construction with eight turned legs supporting it.
It is at this point that I must clarify one or two points. I am not a regular church goer and haven’t been for quite some time now but that doesn’t mean that do not believe. I have never had visions of any type and have never had strange experiences, however , making this font for my local church was a very strange experience. During the making of it and watching the reaction of others that saw it I became aware that I was not just making another bowl.It is very difficult to explain here what I felt whilst making it,all I can say is that I was overcome with the need to make it with as much reverence as possible, and I hope I achieved this.
We met one evening and I was introduced to the two church wardens,Steve Wilcox and Pippa Smith, before hand I had wandered over to the church with Selina where she showed me the Easter candle which had been turned from wood.There then followed a clarity of thought that I have never before experienced. I had over the last couple of years started to make segmented turnings, influenced by Malcolm Tibbett’s’ and Ron Hamilton’s’ very good books on the same subject, indeed that night in the vicars’ office I logged on to Malcolm’s website in order to explain segmented turning to those present. I had drawn an hourglass shape to support a segmented bowl with crosses set into the rings.I don’t know what the others thought the design would look like but I could visualise it in my mind before I had left the office. Over the next few weeks I drew my thoughts onto lining paper in the workshop and worked and re-worked them until I was sure that I had it right. I then made a hardboard cut out and attended another meeting.
At this meeting the finished height was discussed and agreed and also the addition of a plinth that could have some form of lettering around it. Widths and heights of the plinth were set and a date made to present it to the Parochial Church Council.