Getting back to working for a living

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Blog entry by garyjs posted 08-10-2011 04:19 AM 6268 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hello, folks. Allow me to introduce myself.

I’m a writer now. I write novels – murder mysteries set here in Florida. But I really miss working for a living. I’ve spent much of my life in workshops – gold and silver smithing, designing and building hardwood furniture and furnishings, ornamental turning and antique restoration. I love the smell of a busy workshop, and I even miss the sweating and swearing sometimes.

If you care to visit my web site, check out the Photo Gallery for some samples of the type of work I’ve done over the years.

So we just moved into a 3-bedroom home here in Orange Park, and it’s got a 2-car garage that will never see a car in it as long as I live here. It’s a workshop – not a big one, and nowhere near as well-equipped as I’d like, but then we just moved in. We’re still walking around boxes in the living room and kitchen, and a lot of the overflow is taking up valuable room in my workshop.

I put together a workbench about a week ago. 4×4 Pine legs with 2×4 and 2×6 stretchers and a 1 1/2” thick ply top. I used to European style cabinetmakers benches and know just how inadequate this workbench is, but right now it’s what I have to work with, and I’ll make the best of it.

One of my nephews lives in Deland and told me he’d just gotten an old DuraLast lathe, model WL 1236, and did I want it. And a Sears 16 gallon shop vac, and did I want that, too? I said yes to both, sight unseen. I picked them up this morning. The lath is covered in rust, and the tool roll was filled with rusted steel. Most of the tools will be either recycled into something useful – the steel is still good – or tossed, but a few of the gouges, skews and parting tools have another year or so of use in them.

This lath has a large 4-lug knuckle-buster chuck mounted on the headstock, and no tail center of any sort. I THINK it’s a #2 Morse taper – it’s certainly not a #4. Does anyone know for sure?

I’ll be cleaning and polishing this critter for another week or so, and haunting pawn shops and yard sales for an 8” dual wheel bench grinder.

Oddly enough, I don’t need a lathe. I’m going to be building 36-string lever harps starting next year, but I sure do miss turning for fun and profit.

Glad I found this site!

-- garyjs

7 comments so far

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2620 days

#1 posted 08-10-2011 05:01 AM

Thanks for sharing. The sweating and swearing part reminded me fondly of my time as a jeweler.

Don’t wait too long on the bench. Even a simple one that is sturdy enough to let you know what you want in the long run is worth the effort.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Toolz's profile


1004 posts in 3708 days

#2 posted 08-10-2011 02:07 PM

Welcome aboard Gary. Visited your website too. It’s great.

-- Larry "Work like a Captain but Play like a Pirate!"

View garyjs's profile


27 posts in 2448 days

#3 posted 08-10-2011 04:04 PM

To RGTOOLS and LARRY and everyone else:

Thanks for the warm welcome. I’ve got some more boxes to haul from the old apartment, but later today I will grab the digital camera and post some photos of the workbench, office desk, that old lathe and the tools that came with it. So far, I know I need turning centers for the headstock and tailstock, along with a 10” tool rest. And I need to figure out how to remove that old 4-jaw knucklebuster chuck without breaking something…

The workbench I built is heavy and massive, and it does have a tool tray on the back side. When I post the photos of the bench and the office desk I built at the same time, I’ll add a few dimensions.

Glad you like the web site, Larry! I spent a lot of happy years building and restoring stuff! Wish I had more photos to post!

-- garyjs

View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2833 days

#4 posted 08-10-2011 08:00 PM

Gary, welcome to Lumberjocks. You should feel right at home here. I went to your website and looked at your woodworking and shop and both are very nice. The Holtzapffel ornamental lathe is absolutely beautiful and I can’t imagine having the privilege of owning one.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View garyjs's profile


27 posts in 2448 days

#5 posted 08-10-2011 08:11 PM

I was working for a fellow in Jerusalem, Israel at the time, making all of that fancy ornamental stuff you can see in the Photo Gallery, to sketches he drew up with his clients. Then I did the technical drawings and built the pieces. That Holtz came to him from South Africa, along with a large selection of exotic hardwoods. The parts for the lath, believe it or not, were listed as “junk”. It took me about two months of full-time work to restore that machine, but I fell in love with it long before it reached our shop. What an incredible piece of fine machinery.

-- garyjs

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 2984 days

#6 posted 08-10-2011 08:22 PM

Welcome to LJ, there are many,many beautiful things to see here and get inspirations from. There is no end to the amount of information you can find here too. Stuck on a project and don’t know what to do? Ask your question and someone is very likely to know the answer!

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View garyjs's profile


27 posts in 2448 days

#7 posted 08-10-2011 08:58 PM

Hello, Bearpie. I’m just south of you, in Orange Park. Thanks for the welcome!

-- garyjs

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