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Woodturners of the Hunter History


Newcastle has always been fortunate in having a very good Technical College, offering tuition in most trades. Woodtuming has been taught at least since the 1940s. In those days it was an adjunct to Wood Machining. From 1970 it was relatively easy to apply and be accepted for a craft course, or a full 3 year trade course. During this period, and on numerous occasions, the subject of forming a Society or Guild was debated and it was decided that an attempt be made in Newcastle to promote the craft in furthering the skills of woodtuming. This was originally mentioned by teachers at the Tech. College and by students during tea breaks.

There was a Queensland Society operating and two fellows from Newcastle had just returned from a Seminar organized by the Queensland Woodturners Society. They were completely enthused, and explained just how advantageous it would be here. How to go about it was the big question.

Discussions took place during 1983, when some serious statements were made about the formation of a club. The idea caught on and eventually 5 very interested people met and discussed the necessary procedures. Over the period of July, August and September, about 6 meetings were held at the homes of our group members. We felt we were on the right track, as inexperienced as we were. After several meetings we had a better idea of what was needed and we became more enthusiastic. A matter that created a lot of discussion was "Would we attempt to own our own building for meetings and as a workshop?" This proved financially impossible. At this stage we envisaged a membership of between 20 to 30 members and expected only qualified woodturners would be interested. How wrong we were!

However in September a decision was made to call a Meeting on 18th October at 6.00pm to see how many people would be interested. We had pamphlets printed, and distributed to anyone who would display them. A letterbox drop was organized to most suburbs. Telegraph poles were decorated and ads were placed in local newspapers. A word of mouth campaign appeared to be most successful. We were a little apprehensive about the outcome, and wondered whether it was all worthwhile.

A trip to Wyong to interview two well known professional woodturners to see if they could make any suggestions, or help in any tangible way proved very disappointing. They were just not interested in our problem.

A visit to the Sydney Guild of Woodturners gave us a good idea of what was needed as they were functioning very well with a very strong membership.

The amount of work and organisation put in at this stage was large and determination was showing.

The appointed evening in October eventually arrived. The weather was fine and warm. The publicity must have found its mark. Our group was elated to see so many people turn up to show interest. We met at the Tech. College Wood Preparation Room. Approximately 80 people attended. "This was magic." 55 signed the presence book, and each person filled in a membership form. The interest gave us the confidence that was needed and to say that our work was not in vain. The acting chairman opened the meeting and introduced several college teachers. They in turn replied with pledged support and wished the group every success in the future.

It was pointed out that there would be many advantages for the members of such a society. At this meeting a steering committee of 7 was appointed to look into the following matters and report back to the next meeting which was to be held on 15th November, 1983.

They were;

  • Membership eligibility
  • Fees
  • Activities
  • Newsletter
  • Affiliations
  • Constitution
  • Sponsors
  • Legal matters

The 80 odd people who attended this meeting were most interested and many questions were asked.

The main question being "Would we be teaching woodtuming?" Obviously we were not equipped nor did we have the facilities to entertain the idea. How could we compete against the Tech. College?

The meeting closed at 7.30pm and the coffee and biscuits were served. Two gentlemen donated $5.00 each to pay for supper. Between 18th October and 15th November, the steering committee held 4 meetings to deal with the above matters. The main task was to have a constitution for the 15th November meeting. Each of the remaining matters were dealt with and duly attended to. The first newsletter was organized, printed and delivered to all who had signed the presence book at the October meeting. It was a unanimous decision that the newsletter be printed monthly and posted in time to advise of date, time, venue and who would be the speaker or demonstrator for the next meeting.

Several other items for mention at the next meeting were

      1. Publicity for a Tech. College exhibition

      2. Submission of ideas for a Society logo

Recommendations for the next meeting

                     1.     Membership cards to be large enough to act as name tags

                  2.     Membership application forms to state name, address,
                            postcode, age & occupation, (retiree's former occupation)

3.     That the name of the Society be
The Hunter Valley Woodturners Society.

4.     Club activities:- members would submit, in writing, to the Secretary, comments and ideas pertaining to club activities.

5.     That an auditor be elected from the floor.

6.     Work for the formation of a library. Also representation had been made to the College Principal and permission to use the Tech. for meeting was granted.



However, even woodturners have been inconvenienced by union action, which eventually prevented us from meeting at the Tech. If anyone has any doubts about what our Society has attempted to develop from the beginning, they should read the rules. Here is an example from one of the first editions: - The objectives shall be to encourage, develop and promote the study, practice, art and craft of hand woodturning. Promote fellowship, communication and co-operation between members, and other persons interested in woodturning and associated crafts. Hold regular meetings, discussions, seminars, demonstrations and visits. Regular production and distribution of a newsletter. Work for the formation of a library.

As you can see, the council has guided you well and has done a very good job during the years we have been in existence. Just what our Woodtuming Society does for its members is obvious to every member. The majority are elderly and undoubtedly getting older. So just being interested means so much, i.e. obtaining timber, cutting it into suitable sizes, planning the article, making a drawing, turning and polishing and then when finished, giving it to someone who will appreciate it. The reaction of receiving something 'for free' these days is most gratifying. Of course selling the article for a price helps to pay ones expenses. So you see, doing all these things takes time and we old folk certainly need some way to pass the time in a pleasant way. "Old woodies just seem to live longer."

It was Tuesday 15th November 1983 when the first constituted meeting of the Hunter Valley Woodturners Society was held. (Now known as Woodturners of the Hunter Co-operative Limited). The venue was Newcastle Technical College (T.A.F.E.) Tighes Hill. 56 paid up members attended. The proposed constitution was read, one amendment was made, and it was moved and seconded that the constitution be accepted.

The acting Chairman, the late Mr. D.H.Appleby, called for the election of officers for the ensuing 12 months,

The late Dave Appleby was one of the original 5 who worked most diligently in formulating our first constitution. He was acting Chairperson at the inaugural meeting on 18th October 1983. His speech to the gathering recommending the Society, pointed to the need for fellowship, exchange of ideas, use of exotic timbers, display of work, arranging seminars, visits to other clubs with similar activities. He was not enjoying good health, but lived to see our society achieve most of these ideals.



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