Feature Mondays - In The Workshop With - June McKimmie archive

Monday 21 July 2014

We meet June McKimmie, who shows us around her workshop and tells us about her turning journey


June McKimmie, an Australian woodturner, began turning 15 years ago and hasn't stopped since. As a member of the Sydney Woodturners Guild, June is no stranger to woodturning symposiums, demonstrations, workshops and Turnfest, taking inspiration from all of the woodturners she has met over the years at such events. We take a closer look at June's woodworking life.

How, why and when did you start turning?

About 15 years ago I overheard a conversation about someone who'd taken a woodturning course. I just had to try it. After four lessons I was smitten. I had my first lessons from John Ewart, who was one of the founders of the Sydney Woodturners Guild over 25 years ago. By the end of the fourth week of lessons, I had made a set of serviette rings, a clock, a dish with a curved rim and a goblet. I then joined the Guild and met with a handful of turners in my locality. I was totally hooked!

What and who have been the greatest influences in your work?

Just about everyone I have watched and read about has had some influence. Personally I do not aspire to highly decorative or sculptural work. I like to make functional articles in our beautiful timbers, often burls of red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), red mallee (Eucalyptus longicornis), coolibah (Eucalyptus orgadophila) and jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata). I let the wood speak for itself.

If you were to offer one sage piece of advice to someone what would it be?

I would encourage anyone to attend symposiums, demonstrations and workshops, to watch and learn from some of the best. By doing this, you make great friends and enjoy the camaraderie of the woodturning community. I would also advise that there is more than one way to turn, and to not be afraid of experimenting.

What music and which book are you currently into?

I love Beethoven symphonies, Mozart concertos and several other classical works. I also love traditional jazz and all kinds of folk music. I don't like crime, fantasy or chicklit, but I do enjoy good fiction, especially by Australian authors. Tim Winton writes wonderful prose but often his stories are a bit dark. Richard Flanagan is also a favourite. I do cryptic crosswords and sudokos. And of course I read Woodturning magazine!

What is your silliest mistake?

This is easy. Not checking the lathe speed before I turned the lathe on. I had a delicate Norfolk pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) hollow vessel, which I had reversed into a heavy jarrah faceplate jam chuck for some finishing touches. I had previously used the lathe at high speed. When I turned it on there was a huge BANG as the faceplate flew apart, and my delicate turning broke into five pieces. I affixed them all together, using CA adhesive, then disguised the glue joints by burning a dot pattern.

What has been your greatest challenge?

Unfortunately my tiny workshop only has room for my Teknatool lathe and my grinder. I have my tools on a shelf behind the lathe, and some bench space on the opposite side. There is only 1sq.m of floor space in my workshop. I believe I am the only turner in the world who has her bandsaw in the guest bathroom!

Name one thing on your turning 'to do' list.

My club is participating in a fund-raising fete for the local hospital. I need to make some small items that will sell. Probably pull-along toys with a revolving ball, such as tortoises, which require four small balls for wheels and a larger one on top. I do not have a ball jig, but will use our Guild motto: "By Hand and Eye."

Tell us about the piece you are currently working on.

I have recently been given some pieces of 100-year-old fence posts from a farm. I am making them into table lamps. I have cleaned, sanded and oiled them, and turned tiny mushrooms from driftwood to put in some of the cracks.

What is the one piece of equipment or tool you would not be without and why?

Obviously my lathe, my tools and my grinder. But apart from these, I think I could not do without my hot glue gun! It allows me to hold wood in unusual ways, and it is a very trustworthy attachment device. However, as far as possible I always have tailstock support.

If you could change one thing what would it be and why?

I would like to have been a professional woodturner. I am 79 years old now, and I get more satisfaction from my hobby than I ever did in my career as an educational psychologist and school counsellor. By this, I mean I enjoy the instant feedback after putting a lump of wood on my lathe and turning it into something useful and beautiful, in a fairly short time, whereas the results of my counselling may not be known for years, if at all!

What is your favourite type of turning.

My favourite kind of turning would have to be any kind of bowl. The variety of design and purpose is endless. Finding the most aesthetically pleasing form can be a challenge, but it is so satisfying when I feel I've got it right!

If you could have one wish, what would you wish for?

I guess I wish I continue to remain physically strong and fit enough to keep enjoying my woodturning hobby for many years to come.

If you could have one piece of equipment what would it be, and why?

There really is no room in my small workshop for other equipment. There is no denying that woodturning creates an incredible mess and it is very difficult to keep things shipshape. If I had the ceiling space, I would dearly love a powerful overhead dust extraction system, but instead I have to make do with a small air filter.

Latest home-made jig

I haven't used many jigs made by myself. A few years ago, I tried my hand at offcentre turning on the first Escoulen chuck, although not very successfully. I bought one but have not persevered sufficiently to become familiar with its use, which is for spindle turning. I have had more success with using hot glue on a faceplate for varying the centre for lattice work.

Woodworkers Institute

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Contact Details

Email: junemckimmie@gmail.com

Handy Hints:

1. Always check your lathe speed before starting any turning job
2. Take the opportunity to watch how others turn
3. Make the effort to go to woodturning events
4. Don't waste time with poor-quality wood
5. Try wet sanding to get rid of cranky grain
6. Keep your toolrest clean and smooth; this will allow for smooth cutting and efficiency
7. Try using hot glue to help attach your work to a faceplate. It is amazing!
8. Read old and new woodturning magazines for ideas and inspiration

Likes & Dislikes

1. The smell and feel of wood, and the surprise when you see what is under the bark!
2. The satisfaction of creating something useful and beautiful from a lump of wood
3. Doing something no-one else seems to do, e.g. ring turning - to make animals
4. The friends I have made through my hobby
5. Regular meetings with other women turners from the wider Sydney area
1. High gloss finishes on wood
2. Leaving evidence of how the article was attached to the lathe

5 Things That June Has Learnt With Her Woodturning

1. To be very patient and focussed on what I'm doing. I find woodturning hypnotic and meditative. I lose all track of time as I am so engrossed in the process
2. The importance of really sharp tools is an absolute necessity, which has taken me ages to learn
3. I am happy to experiment with double bevels on gouges and even a convex bevel on a skew chisel, as I once saw demonstrated by Eli Avisera
4. To admire the skill and creativity of others and really appreciate their artistry
5. I have learned that everyone I have met in woodturning has been generous with advice and only too willing to help