President’s letter

The President’s letter:


I remember making an art project in second grade for the month of March that was supposed to demonstrate the “in like a lion, out like a lamb” description of March.  They hung from the ceiling, with a sheep covered with cotton balls and globs of errant glue on one side and a mangy looking lion covered with pieces of brown yarn on the other.  It’s odd how things stick in your mind and I’ve always thought of that art project when March rolls around, knowing that soon, “April showers bring May flowers”.  This year, though, that sense of normalcy didn’t seem to hold.  March was more like “in like Mother Nature with a bi-polar disorder, out like a pandemic!  I don’t remember “April showers” ever being tied to Chinese viruses that have the potential to kill a significant portion of the population, so I’m honestly not sure what to expect anymore.

Because of the risks that are inherent with the COVID-19 virus, the April meeting has been cancelled.  While It’s always a fun time to get a bunch of turners together, there’s no sense in risking exposure to the virus amongst a group of people who are likely at on in the highest risk categories for infection.  Getting the same group of people together for a funeral doesn’t sound like near as much fun, either!  We’ll wait a bit to see if things have gotten better by the time the May meeting comes, then reassess.

In place of the normal meeting, I’m going to try something a little new and different for us.  At the normal meeting time (April 13th @ 6:30 PM), I’m going to attempt a Facebook Live demonstration from my house on using epoxy clay in turning.  An event will be posted to the club’s Facebook group when everything is set, with the date, time and something to click on to join the presentation.  It’ll be open to anyone in our Facebook group, so non-club members will also be invited.  With any luck, it may entice a few of the local, non-club members, to join the club.  Attendees will be able to ask questions or make snarky comments via the chat function during the demo.  My son will soon be gladly volunteering (with a smile in his voice) to help monitor the chat session and relay questions.   I know there are some club members who aren’t on Facebook.   I completely understand NOT being caught up in social media and apologize if this is something you won’t be able to participate in, but it seemed to be the quickest, cheapest (i.e. free), and easiest way to broadcast a demo.  If you’d like to join Facebook just for this demo, I can help get that set up.

I, like many other turners, was sad to see the AAW cancel this year’s symposium in Louisville.  Depending on what source you read, the pandemic could either be over by then or we could be in the middle of a modern-day black plague and I think they made the right decision.  The lathe packages we have been granted were to come from the lathes used for the children’s hands-on program at the symposium.  There is a very real possibility that if the symposium is cancelled, the grant will be cancelled as well.  I submitted a question to the AAW president after the cancellation was announced to ask when they would know if the grants would proceed.  They told me this item is on their list and I can expect some decision “soon”.  As I hear more, I’ll pass it along to the club.  Until then, keep your fingers crossed that both the AAW and Jet are feeling particularly generous when they meet to discuss the grants.

With the self-quarantine, we’ve also added another president’s challenge to fill the time while everyone is self-sequestered.  Since the COVID-19 virus looks kinda like a round ball of fuzz, the challenge is to make a sphere.  You can leave it brown and round or embellish it any way you want, but they’ll be due at the first live meeting after all this hysteria is over.  Think of this as making your own “I survived the quarantine” parting gift!  If you’re keeping busy in the shop, post some pics of what you’re working on to the Facebook group.  I’d love to see the creativity.

The hysteria around this virus is something I have not seen before.  From hoarding toilet paper, excessive hand washing, using hand sanitizers by the gallon, and refusing physical contact from all people, some folks seem to have completely lost their minds!  Sadly, my youngest daughter might be one of them.  She has decided that between my “advanced age” (56), my smoking habit, and my “complete lack of understanding the basics of science”, I am in immediate need of an intervention.  One evening at about 11:00 – before there was even the first confirmed cast of the corona virus in the county – she then began to lecture me about the virus transmission rates, the survivability rates of those over 55 who become infected, and a detailed description of what the virus would do to me during what would surely be my last days on the planet.  As her rant continued, I started to smile and may have even quietly chuckled.  She took this as a sign that I was not adequately embracing the truth bombs she was dropping and paused to ask why I was smiling with an angry/confused look on her face.  I said, “I just find it interesting that during the early days of the border crisis, you became an expert in immigration law and human rights violations.  During the Trump impeachment trial, you became an expert in constitutional law, parliamentary process, and ethics.  Now, you’re standing here having suddenly become a specialist in both immunology and pandemic civil response.  Looks like all that tuition money we gave ISU is really paying off!”  The next sound she made was somewhere between the sound I imagine a cat would make if thrown into a deep fryer and a large cow being sucked into a jet engine revving at full speed.  As she redoubled her efforts to “educate” me, it occurred to me that at some level, she’s just trying to protect me and doesn’t want to see me get sick or die.  I think that’s love and that’s a good thing.  Being fully checked out of the increasingly intense rant and not swayed by the waving arms, exaggerated facial expressions, or the aggressive finger that kept pointing at me, my mind began to wander.  I started making a series of mental notes of things I needed to do.  I need to see if there was a way to block MSNBC and CNN from the list of channels on the TV.  I need to get my Trend Airshield out and a pair of neoprene gloves, put them on right before gets home from work tomorrow, just to show her I was listening.  I also need to sneak back to the store and buy doubles of everything I already bought, just to show her I’m not planning to leave the house again for the foreseeable future.

Until next time, be careful, be safe, be sensible, be well, and thanks for reading!


It shouldn’t surprise me that February’s already over.  Even with the extra day, it seems like time is speeding up!  I’ve heard that’s a sign that you’re aging, but I know that’s not true, because I’m still 35…

The completed wig stands from NCHS will be on display at the March meeting, and I will be dropping off a batch of wig stands to complete to the NCWHS art teacher on the 3rd.  I think everyone will be intrigued by what the high school art students have done.

The new CIW Board held it’s first official board meeting in February and it was extremely productive!  More information will be shared with the club at the March meeting, but I wanted to highlight one of the decisions that was made, since it will impact the club in a multitude of ways.  The board agreed to 4 high level goals that are intended to provide focus for the club.  Whatever we do, should align to one of these 4 goals:

  • Increased Club Member Participation
  • Increased Training
  • Increased Public Visibility
  • Increased officer accountability

To support these goals, the board discussed a wide range of activities that we can either begin, renew, or recommit to.  We decided that throughout 2020, we will take intentional action on these four activities:

  • More hands-on training for club members, outside of club meetings.  This will most likely start with opening up Youthbuild on a weekend, once a month, where members can come to work on a project they’ve started and need help to complete, try to make something that was demonstrated at a club meeting, turn some wig stands, or anything else they’d like to get help with.  Once we get the lathes from the AAW grant, this will be VERY easy to do, since there won’t be a need for people to bring equipment.
  • More public demonstrations. Our club currently has commitments to the Summer Harvest Festival in Princeville (once per year), and the Spring and Fall open house at The Woodworker’s Shop in Pekin.  These are not only fun to attend for members, it’s an excellent way to show the public what we do and what our art/craft is all about.  We will look for additional venues to attend.
  • Restart/revamp the club’s approach to mentoring. I think everyone will agree that having an experienced turner available to provide instruction, critique, and to answer questions is perhaps the best/fastest way to improve.  We have committed to finding a way to make this possible.
  • Re-imagine our club website. There are so many improvements that can and should be made to our club’s website, from rearranging information so it is easier to find, improving the content with more useful and interesting content, or improving the overall look.  Work will begin on this immediately!

If any club member has thoughts or ideas on what the club can do in support of these 4 activities, please contact any of the board members.  We would love your thoughts and ideas.

Outside of club business, I learned a very important lesson about always being aware of your surroundings.   I have been trying to find more time to work on getting the shop up and running, turn a few things, and get back in the groove of being creative, but there always seems to be some distraction that gets in the way.  On the last of the unseasonably warm days that we had in February, I was out in the garage, enjoying the 50-degree weather, trying to process some of the wood that has been stacking up.  I had just finished making my first attempt at a circle cutting jig and was eager to try it out.  I started with a small piece of cherry, got the center pegged and started the cut.  It worked perfect, for about the first quarter of the cut, then the band saw blade came off the wheels with a loud bang and I was dead in the water.  I sighed, made a mental note that I needed to replace the band saw blades as soon as I can find where I packed away the new ones and set about getting the blade back on the wheels.  Once the saw was working, I restarted the cut.  The saw easily slid through the existing cut, then after about an inch into the wood, the blade came off the wheels again.  This time, I wasn’t quite as calm and I will admit at least one bad word was mumbled out loud as I waited for the saw to spin down.  Another 10 minutes was wasted by getting the blade out of the cut, coaxing the blade back on the wheels, tightening the tension on the blade, and making sure the guides were in the proper place.  I flipped the saw back on and started the cut for the third time.  About halfway through the blank, I realized the blade was drifting at will through the wood, which is a sure sign the blade had been damaged and needs to be replaced.  As I started to reduce pressure on the cut, the same loud bang happened for the third time.  This time, I said things – many things – that in my younger days would have made my father proud and caused my mother to come running with a fresh bar of dial soap!  As I stood there, fuming, I heard laughter coming from behind me.  I turned to see the mailman, smiling broadly, holding out a stack of the day’s bills, junk mail, and packages for my daughter.  I was so embarrassed!  Still smiling, he said, “having a little problem with your band saw?”  I said yes and apologized for the string of obscenities that had bypassed all my filters as I could feel my cheeks start to redden.  Turns out, he does some woodworking, too, is no stranger to having the tools abandon you right at the most critical point and was more amused than offended.  As he walked away, I made a series mental notes:  Watch my temper, control my choice of words better, and remember my new mailman has a supernatural catlike ability to walk through fallen leaves without making a sound.

Until next month, thanks for reading.



February , 2020


Happy February, everyone!  For February being the shortest month of the year, there sure is a LOT of stuff crammed into it.

We’re holding the first board meeting under the new bi-laws, which will (hopefully) set a new focus for the upcoming year.  The agenda for the meeting is stored in the member’s only section of the website, so members can always see what the board is discussing.  If you have any questions, please reach out to me or any of the other board members.  There’s our monthly meeting where past president Roger Alexander will put on a demonstration on finishing that includes using milk paint.  It’s Valentine’s Day this month, so if you’re still looking for ideas on what to get your significant, perhaps something with a nice milk paint finish is what you’ve been waiting for.  No pressure, Roger!  😊 The wig stands should also be coming back from the NCHS art students!  Once they’re done, there will be work to get the Poly on them, pictures taken and posts made.  Hopefully, there will be a little time somewhere in there to sneak in some shop time.

Speaking of wig stands, after dropping off the wig stands at NCHS, I started thinking, which always has the potential for my gnat brain to follow one thought into the next, into the next, into the next, until I am left WAY off target for what I was initially trying to figure out.  Well, it happened again and the internal dialog in my head went something like this:

It’s been awhile since I went “all out” on a wig stand, so I should make one that is more than just “functional”.  I’ll check the list of ideas that I have when I get home. There’s also a list of president’s challenges, I should kill two birds with one stone.  Stones.  Maybe I could do one that looks like a block of marble that’s been carved.  Carving is a challenge, maybe I should do some kind of chip carving.  Chips.  I think I’m out of Doritos, need to run to the store.  Last time I went to the store, I about got hit in the parking lot by a truck.  I want a truck.  I need to trade in the Suburban and get a pickup.  Pick up, I don’t have time to go to the store, I have to pick up the boy at YouthBuild.  Youthbuild.  I wonder if I locked the door to the storage room. Speaking of doors, I still need to get a new door and opener for the garage.  Opener.  Courtney left the can opener on the counter last night, I need to put it away.  She got a package today she said was for her next steam punk costume.  Costume.  Maybe I could make some costume jewelry with the bead making jig I saw on Facebook.  No, I shouldn’t get a new jig until I make a router jig like Carl’s.  Carl’s ice cream is on the way home and would taste good right now, but if Q sees me eating ice cream, he’s going to go to the well and ask me to double back and get him some.  Well.  That’s it!  I should make a wig stand that looks like wishing well.

Laugh if you want, but eventually my mind seems to wander back to the solution I was looking for when I jumped down the rabbit hole.  My wig stand well will be at the February meeting as my fulfillment of the “burnt or carved” entry into the president’s challenge.

Until next month, thanks for reading.



January, 2020

The Central Illinois Woodturners will start the new year with new officers, a new board, new bi-laws, and a new approach to the club. Stay tuned over the coming year to be a part of our evolution!  Our new club officers and board members are:

  • President – Mark Toon
  • Vice President – Russ McClenning
  • Secretary – Dan Augstin
  • Treasurer – Hod Bailey
  • Membership Chair – Jeff Hindman
  • Program Chair – Ron Pierce
  • Immediate Past Pres. – Roger Alexander
  • Newsletter Editor – Al Azinger
  • Director #1 – Dave Kraft
  • Director #2 – Bill Schulz

One of the changes will be the monthly publication of the “President’s Newsletter”, so welcome to my inaugural issue.  Please bear with me while I figure out what to put on this page.  First things first, I’d like to give a HUGE thank you to those from the club who stepped up accept positions at this year’s election.  We wouldn’t have a club if there weren’t people who were willing to put their time and effort into running the club and I couldn’t be happier than to have the group that I’ll get to be working with!  We’re gonna do great things!

At the first of the month, CIW also delivered another 30 wig stands to the advanced art students at NCHS.  This is the third year we’ve partnered these young artists and I can’t wait to see what they create.  If prior years are any indication, there will be some fabulous work returned to us.  Pictures of their work from the last two years can be seen here and here!  They won’t be back in time for the February meeting, but will be on display at the March meeting in Bloomington.  Come by and see them before they are sent to Susan G. Komen to be distributed to cancer patients.

We are still looking for ideas/suggestions for demonstrations to be presented at our monthly meetings.  If you have ideas, or would like to put on a demonstration, please contact Ron Pierce, our Program Chair, at

Finally, a little story. When my children were attending NCHS there was an attempted school shooting.  A quick thinking teacher was able to de-escalate the situation and eventually disarm the student, which prevented things from being fatal.  After that, enhanced security measures were put into place, one of which included posting a person at the front door of the school to track and control all those who entered and exited the building.  I’m sure the school gave this position an important sounding title, but my kids just called her “the Nazi in the box”.  Let me tell you, this woman takes her job VERY seriously and she won’t let ANYONE into the building until her process has been followed!  This month, when I went to deliver the wig stands to the art teacher, I was fully prepared to dig out my driver’s license, answer a series of questions, and provide fingerprints, if asked, and wait for her to confirm what I’d said.  Instead, I got a warm smile and a friendly greeting.  I told her I was there to drop off the wig stands and her response was not what I had been expecting.  She said, “Oh, I know.  I remember you from last year.  I always try to sneak down and see what the kids have created and can’t wait to see what they come up with this year.”  Then she hit the buzzer for the door and said, “Bless you, and your club, for what you’re doing to help.”  I walked through the door, kinda stunned, wondering what had just happened.  I smiled about halfway across the lobby when I figured it out.  I figured if you’re doing good things for others, without any expectation of a personal reward, karma has a funny way of giving you a little recognition for your effort.  It may not be much, but it was affirmation that someone out there saw the good work we were doing and appreciated our efforts.  I smiled wider when I quietly wondered to myself if we should add a tag line to our wig stand effort by describing it as “box Nazi approved”…

Until next month, thanks for reading!