Woodturning on YouTube: The Inspiration and the Influence

Before I start, let me just state that this post/essay is not a moan, more a discussion of Woodturning on YouTube as a method of learning and a method of reaching people with your own turning – the Inspiration and the Influence. You can listen to this article too…

YTscreenCaution: This essay contains a small number of fairly inoffensive expletives. Read/Listen at your own risk.

[player id=7446]

I’ve been making YouTube videos for the best part of two years now and I have produced a lot of content. I’ve watched a lot of content too. Indeed, it was Mike Waldt, Carl Jacobson, Capt. Eddie et al that ‘taught’ me how to turn in the first place. Their videos were (and still are) a source of inspiration and knowledge that thousands of people tune in to whenever a new video is posted which is nothing but a good thing.

Reaching People
More and more people turn to the internet for learning resources and YouTube is at the very top of the pile of tutorials and demonstrations of countless arts and crafts. Content creators have the potential to reach thousands of people with every video, and when those people hit the subscribe button, they want to see more from that creator. Woodturning video viewers are people engaged in one way or another, in woodturning. Be them weekenders, full timers or somewhere in the middle, they all have the one thing in common – they love woodturning and use YouTube as a way of finding new turners and new techniques to try out or just enjoy watching others ‘do their thing’.[membership level=”0″]

Hide the adverts! Join now from only £1.00 per month. Already a member? Login to hide the adverts![/membership]

A Global Community of ‘Ordinary’ Guys and Girls Turning in Sheds
The turning community on YouTube truly is global. It is simply brilliant to see these folks turning some amazing stuff in all sorts of workshops and sheds from all over the world. It is interesting to see the differences in techniques and creative influences from different countries in one place at the click of the mouse. Plus, being able to communicate with them via the comments is an added bonus. I’ve spoken personally to several of other YouTubers which would otherwise have been impossible and have the pleasure of calling them my friends. Most of them are weekend turners with ‘normal’ jobs and ‘normal’ lives which makes their expression of creativity via the internet so much more interesting.

The fact that these creators are passionate enough about what they do that they want to share it with the world is awe-inspiring. The effort is not just in the turning process itself, but also in the editing of the videos which more often than not takes longer than the turning of the actual piece in the film. Then there’s the uploading and replying to comments on both YouTube and associated social media. It takes time – which they all do for free. At least, initially for free.

There is an array of personalities and styles available to watch on a growing number of channels and each one has their own merits and pitfalls. Some videos are very short and at times barely cover a project process in the time they’ve been given, whilst others are far too long without much thought going into the editing and the viewer’s attention span. It is a balance to get the coverage right in as short a video as possible without losing your own style nor the viewer’s attention. I’ve played with many different lengths and styles and have now (hopefully) settled on one that both myself and my viewers are happy with.

viewsInspiring Viewers
After a short while, the creators, whether they know it or not start to inspire their audience through the techniques they use or their style of finishing, or whatever. Some viewers may copy or emulate that creator because they like what they see and fancy having a go at it. No problem with that, is there? Well, no…it should be encouraged, to a point I think. The inspiration of a creator in many cases has encouraged us all at some point to go and try something that we may not have done before, with successful or not-so-successful results.

To what cost though? Perhaps the video you saw didn’t show the use of a bowl gouge properly, for example, or not well enough for you to copy what he was doing and you got a catch as a result. Perhaps you had forgotten how he presented the tool between watching the video and going to the workshop…So you go back, watch again…then back out to the shed and try again. Or, maybe the creator in the video you watch was actually using the tool incorrectly in the first place. It is a learning curve, certainly. I turned round that curve. I’m still on it, and I know many people reading this will have gone through the trial and error of learning through YouTube too. Even professionals will admit to still being on the learning curve, although for them it is nowhere near as steep.

But this learning curve isn’t just about using YouTube to learn to turn from, no. Sadly this is a learning curve about finding good channels to watch where the creator demonstrates what is considered to be ‘Good Practice’. I watched some videos when I started and learned the painful way that their content and techniques were not demonstrating good practice and have subsequently unsubscribed from their channels. The shocking thing is, that there are people watching this poor content and being inspired and influenced by it. I wonder how many people have hurt themselves, like I did because a video I chose to ‘copy’ jumped off the lathe and bit me?

And now I find myself in the position of a YouTube Creator.

videosWhat Does That Mean to Me?
Having just topped five thousand subscribers and with nearly 60 project videos under my belt plus close on forty editions of ‘Turner’s Journey, I think I am in a good enough position to discuss this here.

To be honest, it means the world to me to be connecting with so many people in so many countries on so many different levels. My channel has beginners and experienced turners alike tuning in up to three times a week to see what I get up to in my workshop. I am not at all blind to the fact that what I do inspires and influences my viewers into trying things out – my viewers tell me! It is a pleasure to read comments and receive photos about items turned because of a video I produced demonstrating how I do something. Note here how I say ‘Demonstrating’.

Responsible Production Values
Inspiration and influence are very, very similar indeed. On the one hand viewers are inspired to try new things, and by the same token, can be influenced to take on habits, both good and bad. This might be having the tool rest too far from the piece or not wearing breathing protection when sanding, or worse still, using the wrong tool for the wrong job, potentially causing a viewer to have an accident.

So, to inspire people to try new things out when on the lathe is a great thing as it can help to push people forward with their own creativity. Inspiration can help viewers prove to themselves that they can do something they didn’t think they could do, or perhaps hadn’t even thought of before…and that, I think is something all creators can be proud of.

BUT, where the responsibility lies, is in demonstrating and influencing viewers with good practice. I believe this should include following good health and safety practices first and foremost. I constantly remind myself that viewers are influenced by what I do, and how I do it. I don’t want to be setting a bad example – I want my viewers to be as safe as possible when turning their wood, whether employing my demonstrated techniques or not. So, I do my utmost in my videos to be as safe as possible. It annoys me to see videos out there where the turner is not even following the absolute basic health and safety guidelines as written in their lathe’s handbook.

IF a method is employed that does not demonstrate good practice or is potentially more dangerous than woodturning inherantly is, and the creator knows this, then, in my opinion, it should be clearly stated in the video. There is no harm whatsoever in stating that ‘this technique is not good practice, copy it at your own risk.’. We all take calculated risks as turners to get the result we want. As viewers, we are all interested in seeing other people’s methods and we should then judge for ourselves if a technique is within our skill-range. Plus, as a viewer, the anticipation of ‘what happens next’  when watching a ‘different’ technique is a draw too…but that is no excuse for doing something dangerous for the sake of getting more views on the video.

warningNo-one is perfect though. Indeed, due to a bad habit in a video recently (and not thinking fully about the process before filming), I showed an ‘off lathe’ method that was not at all considered to be good practice which was pointed out to me in the comments more than once. I had even overlooked the mistake in the editing process. As a result, I made all reasonable efforts to point out that ‘in this part’ of the video, the method shown is bad practice and ‘should not be done like this’. The methods I employed included putting an annotation on the video on YouTube over the top of the offending footage explaining the error. It is also in the description of the video too….and, I also made a public apology in that week’s edition of my my weekly series, Turner’s Journey.

[membership level=”0″][/membership][membership level=”0″]Hide the adverts! Join now from only £1.00 per month. Already a member? Login to hide the adverts![/membership]

19 thoughts on “Woodturning on YouTube: The Inspiration and the Influence

  1. Hello Martin. I’ve been turning for about 20 years; I’ve only been watching YouTube videos of turning for maybe 2 years. I have, however, found turning videos to be almost hypnotic. I love watching the wood go round, and to see the shavings flying. My ordinary rating of a video involves the ratio of words to shavings. The smaller the better (fewer words, more shavings!) In many ways, Carl Jacobsen is the master of few words. Captain Eddy is not, but he’s the one exception; he is such a fascinating character that he can chat as much as he wants. My favorite recent video was by Yuval Lahav, showing him making a footed torus hollow form. Really beautiful; it was half over before I figured out how he was going to turn it around! In any case, thanks for your thoughtful consideration of this strange art form, the turning video.

    1. Hey Dan – Thanks for the comment. I like your ratio idea! I’ll keep that in mind next time! Lol. Carl is good with few words, and Capt Eddie is different all together. There are many different ways of presenting, and people will be drawn to one or more of them, either for the content, presenter, or both. I accidentally turned a funnel the other week as I was hypnotised by the sweet smell and ever decreasing circles of wet cherry. Before I knew it, I’d gone through the bottom. Ooops. Being quite behind on my viewing, I’ve not had a chance to watch Yuval’s Torus yet, but it is getting higher on the list.
      All the best,

  2. Martin, what an excellent essay. As they would say in the Mother land, “Spot-on”,or here in the US, “Hit the nail on the head”. Although I don’t consider myself a pro, I was fortunate to be one of the lucky oness in life that had a fatjer who was a shop teacher in school and love to make things with his hands. I watch many channels on You Tube and I must say that there are quite a few that sit and scratcch my head in disbelief. There ate only a few I watch tactfully that truly inspire me with ideas of creating new projects or enhsncing my weakened skils. You ate one of those who inspire me. I don’t do videos on my chsnnel as of yet, but hope to start in the near future. Thanks for the work you do for othrrs and for the essay. I look forward to the next.

    1. Hi Monte,
      Thanks very much! I’m pleased you enjoyed it. There is a Page 2 – there’s a link to it a little below the bottom of the first ream of text!
      All the best,

  3. Martin very nice essay, safety is no joke it’s a process of planning ahead and being aware of what could happen and mitigate the possibility of injury. I think you do a really good job on your safety in your videos. It is beneficial showing accidents and discussing what you would have done differently. In the last year I’ve replaced my safety mask with a rated version after spending time reading of several turners that had horrific face/head injuries. I spent significant funds on upgrading my safety gear while climbing during bow season. I do my best to be as safe as possible for me, but also to protect those around and affected by my loss and injury that would impact them. Since reopening my shop I’ve been religious about wearing a dusk while making anything in the workshop till I’ve cleaned up and leaving the shop. No longer having turners cough and symptoms from the dust is great. My opinion is I would rather see safe practices during demos and put up with a bit muffled audio due to using a dust mask and safety shield. Keep safe and keep the info coming.

  4. A interesting article. This is something that I’m sure could cause a big discussion. Myself never owned a lathe and not even held any tools obviously YouTube is having a big influence on how I will progress when I do actually start.

    Every channel will have some people that enjoy it or it would not get any subscribers or comments. If the comments are always negative then the broadcaster would simply shutdown the channel. It is the viewer to decide on if they like what they are watching, which could be safe or dangerous.

    On Woodturning channels I think that when you view a few different channels you soon work out what is best. When I started looking for videos I soon came across Mike and watched every video of his before moving on to yours, woodturner21 and Chris Fisher. All four of you have very different aspects. In everyone there is one common aspect, in that it is the way you do things which may not be the best way but it works for you. The one that really sticks out is woodturner21, however he is a production turner and his use of tools is so confident and skilled that I think even the likes of you wouldn’t attempt. His channel is all real time and just showing on how he makes the item. They are short and just leave you with the wow factor.

    For the other three of you I would say there is something extra. A lot of the video is all about you as the person. As a viewer it is interesting in getting to know you. I’ve commented to you that on one of your videos it was very clinical and lacked your usual character. Yes it was an instructional video so you had to be precise and clear. Now when you did the segmented goblet the whole video came through with your thought process and had bags of appeal because we got what you were thinking and feeling.

    I would say that you are the only person who really does the instructional videos out of the four channels I’ve watched so far. The others are more about getting ideas and seeing how they work. If I decided to attempt one of the pieces then the videos would be used for reference and I would decide how to tackle it rather than just copy.

    YouTube is like the Internet in general. There is an awful lot of rubbish online but there is also a lot of good material. It is learning how to filter it out and we all have different tastes.

    After viewing both yours and Mikes channels my extension of viewing other channels is coming from your recommendations. So also there on the video content you as a broadcaster need to be careful about what channels you give a shout out to. If you are worried about if a channel is not showing the best practices then you should make sure of that before the shout out.

    Looking forward to the next article.


  5. Martin, thanks for this thoughtful article. I am a novice turner, looking to develop skills, and am finding much on YouTube to help me get there, but also developing the bullshit filter you discuss. I’ve unsubscribed from several channels, as I realized that they either did not know as much as they purported to, or I just found them tedious to watch/listen to. I remember with amusement watching one video where I noticed a significant (and unacknowledged) hand injury suddenly appear as the video went from one scene to the next. It was certainly possible that the fellow went out and got in a fight between scenes, but more likely that he had a run-in with his gouge or lathe, and just hoped it would not be noticed.
    I turn to YouTube for all kinds of advice, from auto repairs, to home repairs, etc., and in all areas you can tell pretty quickly when someone’s video is worth watching, and when it is trash. I have to say that you and a few others I’ve found, are way up there, and I tremendously appreciate the effort you put into sharing your journey with your audience. Both the demonstration of skills and the skillful filming, editing and other post production, make me look forward to each new offering of yours. Keep it up!

    1. Hi Lou,
      Thanks for the comment. I’m pleased you have discovered your BS filter and it is working for you. Injuries do sometimes occur – I’ve had a couple myself and covered one a good few episodes ago in Turner’s Journey. The incident wasn’t filmed, but I used the event as a safety message. Also, I did give my thumb a small cut between videos recently by being careless handling a freshly sharpened spindle gouge.
      There is a wealth of great information out there on virtually any topic you want and your BS filter will come in handy watching any of them.
      Thank you for following me and enjoying the content I put out there – I really appreciate your support.
      All the best,

  6. This could be the start of an audio podcast on iTunes. I would definitely subscribe to a woodturning podcast, there isn’t one. You could do informative ones like this, or maybe interviews with other turners, tool reviews, interviews with sellers of turning related tools. all sorts of things. i’ld love that.
    Greetings from your fellow woodturner from the Netherlands

    1. Hi Willem,
      Thanks for the comment. I’m really pleased your enjoyed the audio version. I’ll see how the next two audio versions are received before considering a podcast or something like that. It will need some sort of sponsorship, I think as taking on yet more free content is really going to stretch me – but in principle, I like the idea – or even an additional vLog each week which could have an audio only version.
      Greetings and salutations from the UK!

  7. A good topic very informative. I think you would make a good teacher as ive been going thru your youtube instructional videos, I have found you to be very good with how to do projects and correct use of the tools.
    I have found myself looking forward to your next installment. I appreciate all your time and effort that you put into videos for us on this side of the screen.
    I have seen many other vodeos dealing with all forms of woodworking and there are many that I have not gone back because i didnt think they were showing things the right way.

    Final comments you are doing a great job and very clear with instructions, so keep up the great work.

    Your weekly follower of all your shows.

    1. Hey Shaun,
      Thanks for the comment. So pleased you enjoyed the essay. There’s so much to think about when putting yourself out there online that one false move could easily lead to a raft of criticism – much like the essay, I guess, but it had been well received so far. Next week, the dreaded ‘Thumbs Down’!. Lol.
      I’m really pleased you enjoy the channel so much. If there is anything you would like to see me tackle, then please let me know and I’ll see what I can do for you.
      All the best,
      PS – Did you see my reply on YT about Hampshire Sheen?

      1. Hi Martin
        Yes i got the reply about the Hampshire Sheen and I think ill wait to get some.
        I’m waiting to see the fallout from the thumbs down video lol.


  8. Excellent essay, Martin, well-articulated and insightful. Perhaps we might look forward to more on other topics? I want to take this opportunity, too, to thank you for all your effort; I’ve learned a great deal from you and anticipate learning more in the future.


    Best regards,

    Steve Reckner

    1. Hi Steven,
      Thanks for the comment. There are a couple of other essays being written at the moment about YouTube, and if they go down as well as this one seems to have done so far, then I may well continue with them on different topics. We’ll have to wait and see!
      Really pleased you are enjoying the content I create…let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to tackle and I’ll see what I can do.
      All the best,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.