Rural Missouri - March 2021 - 56

TURN OF THE LATHE
Joplin couple creates beauty
from fallen trees

It wasn't until 2014 that Steve's wife, Valerie, also a retired educator, joined him in the shop. " Steve would disappear for hours downstairs. It was as if aliens had abducted
he air hangs heavy with the pungent scent of
him, " Valerie says, then smiles. " I jokingly say I got into it
freshly worked wood as you walk into Steve and
so I'd know how to use all of the tools and machines he'd
9DOHULH'RHUU·VEDVHPHQWZRUNVKRS7KHÁRRUVKRZV
purchased. I told him, 'When you die, I'm going to inherit
HYLGHQFHWKDWWKHFKLSVKDYHEHHQÁ\LQJ
all this so I'd better know how to use it.' "
" This is camphor, " Steve says as he nods toward a block
Steve laughs, then quickly replies, " What makes you
of wood on the lathe. " Every time I work on it, the aroma
WKLQN,·PJRLQJWRGLHÀUVW " µ
gets stronger, but I think I'm used to it because I rarely
Like any good husband, he did pass down his small
smell it anymore. "
lathe for Valerie to work on and, of course, upgraded his
The unique wood is only one of many types of fallen
machine to one which allowed him to work on larger pieces
timber the couple purchased after a hurricane hit Florida.
of wood.
Steve opens another door to a backroom where other
7KDW·VZKHQWKHFRXSOHRIÀFLDOO\EHJDQ7KH:RRGHQ'R
pieces cure, awaiting their turn on the lathe. Thousands
err and have since shared a retirement business they both
of board feet are neatly stacked as if in a game of Jenga,
love and which allows their own styles to shine.
ranging from more commonly known oak, maple or walnut
Steve makes bowls, platters, hollow forms such as
to more uncommon species such as Australian red coovases, pens and wall hangings. Valerie's style leans toward
libah or red lemon eucalyptus, Hawaiian koa and South
QDWXUDOHGJHERZOVDQGEHDXWLIXOSHQGDQWVDGGLQJDUWLÀ
American monkeypod. And that's only a few of the nearly
FLDOWXUTXRLVHDQGEUDVVNH\ÀOLQJVLQWRWKHQDWXUDOFUDFNV
100 types the couple has on hand.
and crevices in a piece.
" Any wood we use comes from trees which
Once the couple has turned the desired form on
have had to be downed for some reason or
the lathe, they hollow out the piece if needed. Next,
have fallen due to storms, " says Steve. " There's
the items are sanded and dipped in a denatured
a lot of beauty which can be brought out of the
alcohol bath. The pieces are bagged and allowed
wood even then. "
WRGU\WKHQGLSSHGLQDEOHQGRIRLOV7KHÀQDO
Steve, a retired Joplin school administrator, is
step is to add coat of carnauba wax to give each
no stranger to woodworking. He began his foray
SLHFHDKLJKJORVVÀQLVK
into the creative outlet nearly 40 years ago by
Joplin
7RP/\QFKDUHWLUHG6SULQJÀHOGGHUPDWROR
creating Shaker-style furniture for family and
gist, is a big fan of the Doerrs and their art.
friends. " But you know how it goes with a busy
" You might say I plant trees for a hobby, so
career. You get tied up with projects or meetings
when it was time for some of them to be trimmed by the
and pretty soon months have gone by and your projects
city utility, we ended up with about nine different species
DUHQ·WÀQLVKHGµVD\V6WHYH
of wood cut into logs, " recalls Tom. " I put the word out to
Steve began showing an interest in woodturning around
the local woodturners club to come and get it, and they
2007 and decided to add a lathe to his workshop. When
did. That's when I met Steve. "
he retired in 2010, Steve started woodturning as his new
Over the years, Tom says he's had the Joplin woodprofession. A lathe spins the wood between two secure
turner make gifts for his family as well as for people he's
points, allowing Steve to scrape, gouge and carve pieces of
done business with. " I can't say enough about Steve and
the wood with razor-sharp chisels as the wood rotates.
Valerie's work. I know a lot of woodturners and their work
´7KLVZD\,ÀJXUHG,FRXOGDWOHDVWWXUQVRPHWKLQJHYHU\
is absolutely top of the line. It's simply gorgeous. "
few days and have the satisfaction of knowing it was nearly
He also appreciates the fact the Doerr's always include
ÀQLVKHGµVD\VWKHZRRGZRUNHU

by Heather Berry | hberry@ruralmissouri.coop

T

56

RURAL MISSOURI | MARCH 2021



Rural Missouri - March 2021

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