Name: Bill Boehme (my Mama calls me Billy – she stopped calling me “Billy Ray” after I turned 50)
How young are you?
November 6, 1946. I was not born in a log cabin, but my Grandpa did take my Mama to the hospital in a horse drawn wagon after my Dad’s Model T Ford got stuck on the muddy country road on the way to town. Back in those days, the world was black and white, people spoke in “closed caption”, and they walked real fast (check out the old silent movies if you do not believe me). Everything changed after I was born. People quit fighting (for a while), color made its appearance, captions were no longer needed, and we moved to the yet-to-be-big city of Houston.
I have grown tall enough that the top of my head has managed to poke through my hair – not too different than the timberline on tall mountains. Well, OK then would you believe that I am 5’ 11” and bald as a cue ball? My weight is in the neighborhood of 200 pounds, but I am not saying which neighborhood.
Where is home?
After graduating from college in Houston, I moved to Dallas and then to Arlington. For the past couple decades, my wife and I have lived in a tiny town near the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
My wife and I have been married so long that I can’t remember life before it. She teaches at a middle school, and before we were married, she taught at a small college. She retired a couple years ago and then immediately went back to teaching because of a shortage of science teachers. Our children are our kitties (saves on college tuition and buying cars). Our current Master of the House is a giant Tuxedo ex-tomcat named Squeaky. He had his paradigms shifted several years ago and sees the world from a completely different perspective now. He has since turned into a sweet lap kitty. Our newest addition to the family is Daisy Mae, an eight-month-old Maine Coon kitty. I predict that she will be huge when fully grown. Already, she can almost put her paws on the kitchen table while standing on the floor.
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Do you have a website? If so, what’s the URL?
Yup, but I have not bothered maintaining it, but there are some pictures of our cats and some backpacking pictures. You have heard the expression “the cobbler’s kids go barefooted”, well that’s me – I spend my time doing web sites for others. I am the webmaster for my woodturning club, the Woodturner’s of North Texas. Our website won first place in the AAW annual website contest this year.
I am a retired Rocket Scientist. Well, that’s what we jokingly referred to ourselves as. I was an engineer and primarily did guidance and control system design and analysis.
Shop size — way too small – it was bigger before I filled it up with “stuff”. I have all the big stationary machines: table saw, planer, jointer, radial arm saw, drill press, bandsaw, compressor, and dust collector. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I got the dang fool notion that I ought to buy a lathe.
For many years, my woodworking world was flat and square – and using a ruler actually meant something. Then I retired (at least I did do one smart thing) and they gave me a gift certificate to Rockler’s – I told them that I intended to use the money to buy a bandsaw.
I can’t explain it, but something strange happened when I got to the woodworking emporium – there I was just minding my own business and looking at bandsaws when out of the corner of my eye I saw several lathes sitting there. I quickly turned away, but before I knew it, I found myself standing next to the lathes and even touching them. My head started swirling – I knew that I had to get out of there and get some fresh air.
I had always told myself that I was not interested in turning “spoolies”, you know, chair rungs and legs, table legs and the like. Bowls? What’s that? Maybe it was the new found freedom of retirement that caused me to lose my reasoning. I confessed to Paula that I had been seeing a lathe. “Why”, she demanded, “isn’t a bandsaw good enough for you?” “It’s … it’s that Rockler’s place that you always hang out at, isn’t it”, she asked. “After all”, she insisted, “you promised everyone that you were going to get a bandsaw.” “Things change”, I replied. “I just feel that my woodworking life needs a new direction.” “Besides, I still plan to get a bandsaw eventually – just not right now,” I pleaded. It was not until later that I realized that it was the vortex that drew me in.
How many lathes do you own? Tell us about 'em. Even the ones you no longer have. Why did you choose these lathes? Is there something new in the works?
Well Paula eventually gave in to my temporary insanity. She said, “I know that it is just going to sit in the corner and gather dust after you turn a set of table legs.” She might be right. So far, I have turned only one table leg and have three blanks – just waiting for the confidence that they will all reasonably match.
I got my first lathe, a Delta 1440, with the gift certificate. It is a nice lathe, especially for the money, but my impression at this stage is that it is better suited for spindle turning than bowl turning because of the swing and bed length and also this particular type of Reeves drive. Being a tinkerer, I have constantly modified this lathe over the past couple years. Most of the modifications were made to improve the performance of the Reeves drive, which I have managed to do. However, the overall weak link in the design is that the variable pulleys are made from die-cast zinc – that is OK for fixed pulleys, but zinc is too soft and wears too easily for this application. I decided to dispense with the Reeves drive system and I am currently modifying it for a variable frequency drive system. Since control system design was my forte when I was gainfully employed, I lurked in the industrial motors and controls areas of eBay and managed to snag a couple great deals. I got a true three-phase vector motor designed to operate from 0 to 6000 RPM (it uses a shaft mounted position-feedback sensor and a separate blower motor). New, the motor sells for around $2400 – I got it for a bit more than $50. I had to cough up around $300 for the matching drive, but again the new cost is over $2400 and the unit that I bought had logged only 160 hours on it. Don’t ask me why I am doing this. Economically, it doesn’t make sense, but once an engineer, always an engineer – cost is something for the bean counters to worry over. I am always disassembling and/or rebuilding something to improve the way it works.
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I also have a Jet mini lathe (six speed model). It is one sweet lathe. Since my Delta lathe is in the middle of being rebuilt, the Jet is my main lathe currently, which means that I am only doing small things like pens.
How many turning tools do you have? Store bought; home made; favorites?
I am afraid to count. I have said since I acquired the somewhat suspect habit of turning pieces of ugly half-rotted wood that there ought to be a law that provides for habitual woodturners such that once you become certified as an incurable turnaholic that you should be given a lathe on the condition that you buy a certain number of turning tools and chucks as a necessary part of a public welfare therapy program. I have somewhere over 30 turning tools and I am still waiting, but no free lathe has shown up. I have made several hook tools and a negative rake scraper. The skew is one of my favorites because it is so versatile. Why heck, I just recently found out that it can even be used to cut wood in addition to its traditional uses of opening paint cans and scraping mud off your boots. I also have a stump in the back yard that I use for skew throwing practice – I believe that event has a long history of being part of Celtic games.
How long have you been turning, and what got you started in the first place?
I have been turning for almost three years not counting some breaks when my lathe was disassembled for repair or modification. I think that it was temporary insanity that got me started.
What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Braum’s Butter Pecan with a sprinkling of sliced almonds on top. Sometimes I add a helping of Smucker’s Blackberry topping as the coup de grâce. I think that it ranks somewhere around 100,000 on the AC (artery clogging) scale.
What do you enjoy most about turning?
My favorite thing is making long wet streamers of wood followed closely by the relaxation given by not starting out with any particular strong notion of what the final product is liable to be. Somewhere along the way, I get some ideas of what I want to make. I usually try to get the wood involved in the decision-making.
What was your first completed turned project? You get bonus points for a picture of it.
How many bonus points? Are they redeemable for lathe tool purchases? I am still hoping for that free welfare lathe. I think that it was this hollow form, which is a piece of post oak (a variety of white oak) burl. However, Mother Nature gave me a big hand on this one: she took care of the inside and all that I had to do was the outside. Don’t forget about the bonus points.
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What’s your favorite individual piece that you have turned, and why?
I would say that my favorite piece is a vase that I did while taking a class with Trent Bosch. He helped me to think outside the bowl (or vase) and taught me about carving and texturing. Before this, I could not have considered taking a saw and carving tools to a turned object. The wood is spalted pecan and I decided to not apply a finish because I have left the surface with a fuzzy texture like an opening bud.
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What’s your favorite form that you turn?
That would be whatever my current project happens to be. I like hollow forms, but so far, I have turned very few.
What do you not turn now that you want to - or plan to - in the future?
I would really like to turn a hat. One of our members brought a hat for show-and-tell to the very first Woodturners of North Texas meeting that I attended and it blew my mind that something like that could be turned.
How do you take your Moxie? (Straight up? beer chaser? neat? with corn flakes?)
I had to go to the source of all wisdom, knowledge, and truth on this one: the Internet. I learned that it is the regional soda of choice in the northeast. I found that “Moxie Nerve Food” was said to cure ailments ranging from “softening of the brain” to “loss of manhood.” Well, I might admit to “softening of the brain” when I decided to take up woodturning, but that’s all. Here in Texas, Dr. Pepper is the drink of choice. It is purported to promote “vim, vigor, and vitality.” Sometimes, I do feel like I need a bit of “vim” although I am not quite sure what it is. I also must make my annual pilgrimage to Dublin, Texas to the oldest continually operating Dr. Pepper plant where they still use the original formula. I also must make frequent visits to the original Dr. Pepper plant in Waco, Texas, which is now a Dr. Pepper museum. I have not tried Dr. Pepper with corn flakes, but a Dr. Pepper float made with the original formula syrup and vanilla Blue Bell ice cream is one step closer to Paradise than being in Texas.
What’s your favorite form someone else turns?
I like the large hollow forms that David Ellsworth turns.
What’s your favorite individual piece someone else has turned, and why?
I don’t have a particular favorite individual piece, but I really like the basket illusion turnings that David Nittmann has done. After seeing some of them at SWAT this year, I am even more impressed. I took one class from David Nittman, but missed his class on coloring.
What’s your favorite wood to work with and why?
That’s an easy one – mesquite because it is a very beautiful wood, turns wonderfully when green, has very little cracking problems, and is free. Around here, mesquite grows on trees (to steal a phrase from Bill Grumbine).
What brought you to SMC?
A friend and fellow woodturner, Max Taylor – he was having some computer problems getting registered so I gave him a hand – and in the process, fell into the creek also.
Have you met or hung out with any fellow Creekers? Tell us about it.
As mentioned above, Max Taylor and I pal around a bit. We both joined the Woodturners of North Texas at the same meeting.
What was your first post about? Or don’t you remember?
Hey, I can hardly remember which shoe goes on which foot.
That's okay, SMC remembers everything.
Do you recall the first thread you started?
See previous answer.
See previous answer.
Got any nicknames? How'd you get them?
Bill. I gave it to myself. It seemed like a good nickname for Billy.
Now let's get a little deep... If you were a tree, what tree would you be and why?
Sequoia, I hear that they live a long time.
If you won the Irish Sweepstakes what part of your life would change?
I would expand my workshop and maybe even get a Robust lathe. I would also hire Max Taylor to keep me supplied with fresh mesquite and shovel the shavings.
Thanks, Billy Ray. Your club's website is great. I do the one for my chapter, so I know how much effort it takes. Well done. Happy to know you better.