Spindle talk with Joshua Lynch of TexasJeans…
Q: How/when did you start working with wood?
Turning or woodworking? I posted this story in Ravelry: I made a nutcracker for my mother as a Mother’s Day gift, using different pieces of wood but I didn’t turn anything for a long time after that.
I’ve been wood turning approximately 28 years.
Q: You didn’t start out making spindles — what was the appeal? The biggest challenge?
Well, the very first spindle I made was a result of a an argument I had with my now ex-wife. She came home from a fiber show with a bag of, I’m not sure what it was, holding a stick painted black with a stone at the bottom. It didn’t spin.
I said, ‘you know I’m a wood turner…’
Two hours later, I came back with a spindle.
When I started out, I hoped to make toys for children, but it was hard to sell them; making spindles, I find it’s a niche market and I enjoy the challenge of making them.
A great appeal is I get to play with cool and exotic woods.
Wood is in a constant state of movement — it expands and contracts. Certain types, like Maple, which I think is a beautiful wood, are very stable and work well for spindles.
It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour from turning on the lathe and buffing the spindle.
When I use maple, it’s rare to have an unbalanced spindle; when I use a wood like Rosewood or Cocobolo, I might end up with one out of every five that I can sell. I turn each wood exactly the same, but certain woods aren’t as stable. This can even change when I start a new board. It can be frustrating when 95% of the others work, but that’s the nature of working with different woods.
Holly is another popular wood. It’s nice to turn, but I have to put finish on it right away to protect the wood from any dust. There’s a certain beauty that comes from it’s plainness.
Q: In a short time, TexasJeans’ Russians have become very popular; Do you intend to branch out into other support spindles? If so, what styles can we expect in the TJ shop?
Sure. I think the next one is going to be the Tibetan. Not your typical — but I think it’s going to work out fine.
Right now, I asked a couple people to test it out and provide feedback. It spins very long — I can’t get it to stop! It’s not as fast as my Russians, but will still taper to a thin point.
[Follow-up question: When can we expect to see it in your shop?]
I will try to have a Tibetan style spindle this fall/winter when I have perfected the design. I am very close right now but have not had much time to get them just right.
For sure, I will gradually add more.
I have a Victorian Lace spindle that’s ready to go.
Q: The two most definable aspects of your spindles is the perfect teardrop and the thinnest “flick” point — what made you decide to make the tips so thin? Is it a challenge not to break them in the lathe?
I was experimenting with my design and found that the thin flicking tips felt better and spin faster. I don’t have much trouble with the spindles breaking on the lathe but it does happen occasionally.
Q: You recently started to learn how to spin — how has this effected any of your “old” or new designs?
When I first started spinning I noticed that my notches on my top whorl spindles were too shallow. I now file my notches much deeper.
Q: Choosing the right spindle can be overwhelming, esp. for new spinners; from the standpoint of a man that makes spindles, what type of information do you think would be most useful for spinners to consider (in general or in relation to your spindles)?
When I have a new spinner ask me this, I always lead them to my basic Maple top whorl spindle in the 1 1/4oz range. What’s important is that the spindle is well balanced and well made so it does not discourage a beginner spinner.
Q: What are your favorite woods to work with and why?
I don’t really have a favorite wood to work with. I enjoy all the differences each wood has to offer.
Q: Finally, if you were teaching a class how to make spindles, what advice would you give to a new wood-turning student?
Advice for a new wood turner would be to relax and have fun. Skills will develop easily when you are having fun. Also to join a local wood turning club, the men and women in these clubs are a friendly and helpful bunch.
You can locate Joshua’s spindles at TexasJeans on etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/texasjeans