You’re new to turning, but where to get advice, inspiration and tool techniques from? The internet is great, but you need to be cautious.
I’m a largely self-taught turner, so what I’m going to say in this article in one respect is a reflection on my own experience, but it may also make me sound like a massive hypocrite – so I’d better be careful!
If you are new to turning, like a huge number of people throughout the 2020/21 pandemic, you’ve bought a lathe and set about learning by watching Youtube videos and asking for advice on social media. There’s nothing wrong with that at all – I did, and so did plenty of other people. But you need to be careful, particularly in your earliest days.
More Than One Way to Skin a Cat
Social media is full of groups with wonderfully helpful members keen to help newcomers get to grips with their new hobby or new piece of kit. The community spirit on Facebook and other social platforms is incredible. But . . . (why is there always a ‘but’?)
For a beginner (and I vividly remember this from when I was learning), one question on social media often creates an avalanche of advice with much of it seeming contradictory to other replies. Why? Because there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Some ways are safer than others, and what works for one cat owner, may not work for another, and some may even be construed as being downright dangerous by those with more experience.
What I found was, that at times, there was too much advice to my questions which ended up being confusing because (as already noted), one piece of advice would contradict another – so I would try each of the ideas, as I am sure you will to find what works for you. Sadly, some of the advice I received ended up being rather painful – but that was either down to my inexperience at the time, or the quality of the advice.
In the end, I found a turner on YouTube whose technique suited me, so I emulated it and as my experience grew, the technique changed to suit me. By sticking to one experienced turner’s techniques you will keep your mind clear of potentially contradictory advice from others. Here comes another But….
Social Responsibility, or Lack Thereof.
For this part of the article, I’m not going to pigeon-hole woodturning, as this extends to everything and all practical things shared on social media.
Many social posters have an underlying motto of ‘My Hobby, My Rules’, apparently at times disregarding their own safety, either on purpose, through ignorance of basic safety precautions or just a simple lack of knowledge or who knows what else . On the face of it, that’s fine in the privacy their own space, but what if what you are doing and sharing on social media is a potentially dangerous hobby? Perhaps then, this motto is not the wisest thing to do, nor follow if you are a newbie.
Would it not be nice then, if everyone on social media had a sense of responsibility to post methods and videos that show safe practice in the understanding that others may copy you? Others who wish to emulate, copy or learn from what they see can then do so in a way that was illustrated as safely as possible in the first place. Sadly this is not the case and there are countless posts showing bad practice every year which could lead to injury.
Whenever there is a potentially dangerous post on social media, there are some brave souls who take it upon themselves to point out the dangers in the post. They are genuinely concerned about the poster’s safety and those who may copy it. 99% of the time, their well meaning (though sometimes not well thought out) comments are shouted down by a handful of other members of the community, avidly defending the ‘My hobby, my rules’ motto discussed above. These commenters are known as ‘The Safety Police’ and they are ridiculed for speaking up for the safety of the original poster when really, they are doing the right thing for the safety of their community members. Bizarre.
Whilst there is no way for social media platforms to actively enforce good practice of arts and crafts (or anything, really), there is also no organisation in the UK that moderates the safety of arty/crafty social media content. It is left up to the individual to self-police their content, and decide if it is suitable for publication. Then, the self-appointed ‘Safety Police’ put their head above the parapet and mention safety issues when they are apparent on social media.
Personally, I applaud their efforts in doing their best to safeguard their communities and I equally despair at those who post potentially dangerous content in the first place.
It is not until you join an organisation that has rules (or a social media group, for that matter) about posting responsible content that the level of posts illustrating poor practice decreases.
Wouldn’t it be really good if everyone posting their arts and crafts on social media did so by thinking about ‘Safety First’. You see it often enough in the workplace, so why not social media? The answer – because there is not enough emphasis on safety when purchasing a potentially dangerous product, in my opinion.
Instruction manuals include mandatory safety information, but in reality how many people actually ingest the safety stuff before jumping ahead to the ‘How to use this thing’ section?
The Moral of the Post
The hive mind of social media is amazing. There is so much that can be learned by those willing to share their techniques and ideas with their wider community. Some have a huge amount of knowledge. Others, less so. And it is down to the individual to listen to what they feel is best for them.
They do though, need to learn and understand that there is often more than one way to do things and some things they will see on social media may be potentially dangerous without the right tools for the job, or the experience to undertake such a project.
A sure-fire way to learn the safest and efficient way to do something well is to get some lessons from someone who knows what they are talking about and has experience in teaching. It may be more investment in perhaps an already expensive hobby, but what price can you put on your safety and probably shortening your learning curve?
If I could go back to when I first started turning, I would like to have had similar advice, or taken some lessons to ensure I had a good grounding from the start.
Thank you for reading.