Rising to the challenge of turning a rough piece of wood into a stunning object of beauty is what takes up a lot of Tom Pearson’s time these days.
“You’re making something and have got something to show for the effort. That’s where the pleasure comes from,” says Tom, who’s lived at the St Heliers village with wife Phyllis since 2012.
The Grace Joel resident caught the woodturning bug after inheriting his father’s lathe in the 1990s, prompting him to take evening classes to learn how to turn properly.
He has a full-sized lathe set up in the village workshop and a mini-lathe down at the bach in Whangamata and spends much of his spare time working on the various creations he has on the go.
The retired bank manager has now developed a keen eye for random wood dumped at the side of the road.
“A lot of my creations have come from wood which we call ‘FBR’, or ‘found by roadside’!” laughs Tom.
“You find all sorts of things at the side of the road.”
Amongst the finds were kauri from the discarded framing of an old bach near their place in Whangamata, an old oak desk, two dressing tables and a bookcase made of rimu.
Tom at the lathe in the Grace Joel workshop
And now he’s built himself a reputation, he finds people will just offer him wood, such as branches from old olive trees in Cornwall Park which were damaged in a storm.
“I made bowls and some pens out of that. Olive is great to work with and the word was shared with my fellow members of the South Auckland Woodturning Guild in Papatoetoe.
“And I made honey dippers using cedar wood from the inside of an old piano.
“A branch from a rimu tree felled near the village was delivered to the workshop by our carpet laying contractor. It’s taller than me so that will make some nice size bowls.”
He adds: “My favourite woods are kauri and rimu. Puriri and black maire also turn well, being New Zealand’s densest timbers, but only limited quantities of these are available to woodturners.”
While the strict conditions of the first Covid lockdown meant the workshop was out of bounds, he was able to get in there during the second lockdown.
The resulting market held in the village proved very successful too.
“I suspect people had been done out of their shopping for a few months so they were splashing out!”
Being able to earn a few dollars makes it a worthwhile hobby too, says Tom, who has built up an impressive collection of scrapers, gougers, chisels and chucks over the years.
Then there’s the oils, lacquers, waxes, sandpapers, resins and paua dots, which can be used to make a decorative feature out of a flaw in the wood.
“It’s a hobby that pays its own way,” he says.