The calendar pages are turning. There is a birthday, anniversary, or special event coming up. Out comes the wallet and off the store you go in that awkward search for something affordable but special, unique but available, heart felt but not too sentimental. On the other hand, you may be a wood turner and the whole story changes.
An opportunity has arisen for one of your special pieces to find a new home. Somewhere on one of those shelves at the back of the work shop or in a box under the work bench, resides a wood turning for a friend or relative.
Most turners go through a progression of giving. The first attempts are amazing only to people who are surprised you could make anything at all, something like the dancing bear in the Russian circus. It is not so amazing that the bear dances well but that the bear dances at all. Everyone needs to keep a few of those first turnings for the sake of humility or at least later to realize how far you have come.
Then come turnings with reasonable lines, good sanding and an adequate finish. Some of these are given or sold to co-workers or are snatched up by spouses and children. There may be a phase of pen turning or the making of other small craft in the thought that this hobby might make money. However, after buying a new tool or so, it begins to feel like work and more esoteric turnings start to come off the lathe. A couple of craft shows sell a few pieces but most realize that full time turning is hard work.
So the pieces start to pile up. How many salad bowls does a family need, after all? Boxes hide some great turnings with wonderful lines and amazing patterns. Then Christmas makes its way around the yearly corner and you get together with your spouse and say things like, “Well, one of the kids might like this one.” or “Does this piece of oak burl not remind you of Ed’s nose? He has to have it.” One by one, off go the pieces to new homes.
I think of this as the hidden returns of turning. First there is the satisfaction of having made a nice piece. Second comes the knowledge that the piece fits the person who receives it. Third is the knowledge that this unique gift is handmade in a world that does this less and less. Fourth is the financial reward of the unsold piece. For instance, ignoring birthdays and such for a moment, think of giving five turnings each year for five Christmases. Assume those turnings took the place of gifts averaging fifty dollars each. That is one thousand, two hundred fifty dollars earned by the hobby less expenses. Even if the expenses reached an unlikely two hundred fifty dollars, this is still a one thousand dollar profit. This is not bad for hours spent having a lot of fun.