Featured Turner: Jeff Hornung, In His Own Words. Jeff Hornung tells us his woodturning story, from car crash to creativity!
Full Name: Jeffrey C. Hornung
Year of Birth: 1968
Place of Birth: St. Louis, Missouri. USA
Where do you currently live? Florissant, Missouri. USA
What is, or was, your main job? I have been a full-time woodturner and supplier since March 2016. The 24 years before that I was a retail florist
What would be your dream job? I think this full-time woodturner and supplier gig may actually be my dream job. I can create, sell, experiment, talk shop with awesome people AND work from home!
Other than woodturning, do you have any other notable hobbies? Fly tying and Fly fishing. I do also enjoy hiking and kayaking too. Haven’t had much time for any of that but I’ll work something in soon!
ABOUT YOUR TURNING
Are you a professional turner, hobby turner or something else? Hmm…I am an artist and supplier that turns. So, “Something else” is probably accurate! Lol. I’m also a recently hired woodturning instructor at the Craft Alliance here in St. Louis.
When did you begin turning, and why? I began turning in October 2012 as therapy for a minor brain injury I sustained in a car accident in March of 2011. I received a minor concussion in the accident but had pretty severe Post Concussion Syndrome; Headaches, trouble focusing and concentrating. My wife wanted to take a vacation and I wasn’t helping choose anything. She tossed a course catalog, for a place called John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, at me and said to “just pick something I’d like to do”. “Folk School…but I don’t want to be a hippie, honey!!”…Ok, I said that last part on the inside.
I wanted to take blacksmithing but was pretty sure St. Louis County wouldn’t let me build a forge in the backyard if I ended up liking it. I settled for Woodturning because I was fairly sure I could pick a lathe out of a product catalog if I needed to. Fairly sure. We went and I really didn’t feel well. Classes started and I really didn’t want to be there. My head was pounding and I was just going through the motions…figured I’d get through an hour or two then go back to the room and lay down. The instructor had us put a spindle blank between centers, pick a tool and mess around for a bit. Just to get the feel for things. My head was really hurting but I figured we spent the money and I needed to at least try.
Now, I doubt this is what actually happened but it’s how I remember things…
The second the gouge touched the wood, my headache stopped. I swear, it just stopped. Next thing I knew it was lunch time and I didn’t want to turn off the machine. Before the week was over, I had a wobbly old mid-’80s vintage Craftsman lined up from Craigslist and picked up the $45 turning tool set from Harbor Freight when we got home. Have been addicted ever since and I know this not only helped me finally recover from a brain injury but has also made me even sharper, mentally, than before.
Are you a member of a turning club and if so which one? Yes, I am a member of the St. Louis chapter of the AAW…Woodturners of St. Louis.
Can you share contact details of the club (address, website etc) We meet at the St. Louis Carpenters Joint Apprentice Building in Afton, Missouri. The website is http://turnedtreasuresllc.com/wstl2/
Who (or what!) has had the greatest influence on your turning? Kirk DeHeer has been the biggest direct influence on me. I’ve been fortunate to not only have been able to attend 2 different week long classes with him, I’m also (still) allowed to contact him by phone. His influence has been game changing for me in technique, tool use and sharpening.
Carmen De La Paz has been the biggest indirect influence as I’ve not met her personally yet but we have talked many times and her input tends towards things more artistic and business related.
Who is your favourite woodturner? I cannot honestly answer that. I also cannot honestly answer who my least favorite would be, either. I see turners as a group of people I’m honored to be a part of and understand that we all bring something different to the lathe.
Do you have a favourite artist, in any medium, other than woodturning? Same answer, I can’t honestly say. Art is subjective so I try to keep my view of art and artists as fluid as possible. I might like or dislike a piece of work or a style but I try and understand what that piece or style means anyway.
Do you have any formal training that helps your turning (e.g. Art, Design, Photography, Engineering etc)? I started my work life in the family ceramics business back in 1984. That evolved into a retail florist in 1991. I think everything I’ve done up to this point has contributed to my turning.
Do you have any other similar or allied skills? I’ve started doing more with pyrography and plan to start dabbling with carving. I’m also going to start a metalsmithing class for jewellery making… I have ideas to incorporate metal into my turned art pieces but have no experience with any level of smithing. Time to change that.
What is the most unusual thing that you have turned?
Don’t tell anyone but I did try to turn crushed glass inlay once. DO NOT TRY THIS!!! I ruined a HSS tool and risked getting glass in my eyes and lungs, even though I was wearing a filter and eye protection. Another unusual but successful turning was a piece I ended up calling “Discarded”. It was mystery wood and just really oddly shaped. I was able to use the natural “dents” in the piece to create a bowl that when finished with reactive metallic paint, actually looked like it could be an old discarded metal bowl.
What are your favourite pieces that you have turned?
In no particular order:
The Clarinet Pen. This was my first real concept piece and my first attempt at metalsmithing. Yes, those are real clarinet parts.
Smoke and Mirrors. Dyed, textured and silver leaf in the bowl.
Cherry Vase With Crysacola Inlay. Some carving of the natural flaws and cracks first.
Celtic Pool. Inspired by the Viking Sunset Bowls of Nick Agar
Large Ambrosia Maple Platter. 18 inches diameter and hard as stone
Pill Boxes, inspired by headaches! Threads are hand chased
What is your favourite ‘sphere’ of turning (e.g. Bowls, Platters, Boxes, Pens, Hollow forms etc)? I can’t honestly answer that. I’m the kind of person who gets bored easily and one of the major things that appeal to me about woodturning is the vast variety of things we can do. Though, I do like making “spheres”.
Are there any other woodturners (or artists / crafters etc) in your family? My Mom was a certified ceramics artist and instructor.
What has been your biggest disaster? I’ve been fortunate to not have anything overly disastrous happen yet. The scariest thing was discovering the quill on my Powermatic didn’t have a built in stop…while I was drilling blanks with a 10mm bit…and the bit got stuck…then the bit, Jacobs Chuck and quill all came out of the tail stock…while the machine was running and I was on the other side of the spinning mess and couldn’t reach the power button. That was tense. The drill bit snapped and the assembly hit the wall…and the wall held. Whew!
ABOUT YOUR WORKSHOP
Is your workshop a dedicated space or shared with other activities (i.e. a garage shared with a car, art studio etc) I have about ¼ of a very small 2 car garage. The deal is my wife’s car is supposed to sleep inside the garage every night. I also lay claim to one of our spare bedrooms. This is my office as well as paint, pyrography, pen prep and new design development work area.
How many lathes do you own? 3
What is the make and model of your main lathe? Powermatic 3520B
Have you had any previous lathes? Yes, that 80’s vintage single tube Craftsman
What is your ‘dream lathe’? Not sure I have one as my Powermatic does exactly what I need it to do. If someone were to say “I’ll give you any lathe you want, just pick one.” I’d probably say a Robust. Just don’t think that I have a dream lathe.
Other than your lathe, what is your favourite tool or machine? This is kind of the same deal as asking what do I like to turn the most. It totally depends on the moment. If you asked what my one go-to tool is, I’d say a 5/8 inch bowl gouge. I’m not brand specific. Right now I have a Woodriver and a Sorby.
Is your workshop very tidy, a ‘work in progress’ or a disaster zone? It will never be “Mike Waldt” tidy but it’s a lot better than it used to be. I’ve discovered I need a certain level of clean and tidy in order to function best. Right this second, it’s a disaster zone because I’ve been pretty busy. Before I turn anything again, I’ll have to clean up first!
Do you have a public YouTube channel that you would like to promote? Yes, you can find my channel on YouTube at The Walnut Log Studio. My current series is The Turning Shed. I’m still newish at vids and don’t have as big a selection as many.
Do you have any websites that you would like to promote? My website is www.thewalnutlog.com
What is your favourite drink and snack food whilst in the workshop? Coffee for favorite drink and Poptarts for favorite snack. Now, if you want shop time or lessons…I can be bribed with pizza. Just saying.
Anything else you would like to say or be known about you and your turning life? I fully believe woodturning not only brought me back from a brain injury but has also made me not only a better artist but a better person. Woodturners in general seem to be some of the best humans I’ve come across. Doesn’t seem to matter where in the world they are from, either. Outstanding group of people. Much respect to everyone who reads this.
Two favorite quotes:
“The best I can ever hope for is to stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before me”
“Give good, get good”
Carmen De La Paz
Jeff Hornung is a US reseller of Teknatool (Nova) products, Yorkshire Grit and Hampshire Sheen. Stop by his website, The Walnut Log, and check him out!
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Coming up in future Featured Turner articles we have, amongst others, Sam Angelo (The Wyoming Woodturner) and the ‘Goblet Master’ himself Mike Waldt.
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