A chance encounter whilst travelling in 2015, saw Josh Stone fall in love with the craft of traditional wood turning. Four years later, he has a achieved an almost dream like transition from enthusiastic learner to earning a living from his beloved craft.
Being a traditional wood turner means Josh does not use an engine powered lathe or electronic machinery. His tool of choice is a treadle lathe, also known as a pole lathe or viking lathe, which at first glance may seem like an eccentric and rickety old DIY contraption!
However, first glances can be deceptive. This is tried and tested technology being at least 1,000 years old. With the wood secured, Josh uses his foot to operate the treadle and rotate the wood. He has also crafted a home made kiln to forge some of the tools needed to scour and cut away the wood.
Finished with hazel handles, the tools are deployed by hand whilst the wood is being rotated to achieve different degrees of cuts and shaving. Logs are transformed before your eyes into beautiful, yet functional, designs including bowls, plates and cups. Josh offers products for sale, including undertaking commissions, as well as hands on have a go experiences for up to two people at a time.
Watching Josh work presents a curious paradox. To see elegant spirals of wood peeling away is a beautiful sight. The sound of the lathe at work is incredibly relaxing and blends harmoniously with the sounds of farm life in the background. This is a mesmerising, even therapeutic, craft to witness and experience first hand.
Yet this is not a defiant stand to preserve a tradition or theme park nod to nostalgia. This style of wood turning is incredibly efficient and the speed at which this ancient craft and home made tools scythe their way through the wood is astonishing. Josh can turn a round of wood into a cereal bowl in about an hour. Using a treadle lathe also enables Josh to craft some bespoke designs simply not possible on machine lathes.
His preferred wood is sycamore, a tree of very low timber value and often regarded as a nuisance weed by many landowners. Yet here, sycamore, with its great turning qualities and stubborn refusal to retain or absorb flavours, finds renewed life and value in a new incarnation.
Most eye catching amongst these are the tankards Josh produces. I find myself placing an order moments after first laying hands on a still drying tankard!
Perhaps the greatest testament to the craft and Josh’s skill, are how they adapt and thrive in the modern day to satisfy the highest and most demanding standards. Josh’s customers include high profile chefs seeking bowls to present certain dishes in a particular way.
Kohlrosing, a way of tattoo-ing wood, is now being increasingly explored by Josh to add an extra dimension to his work with some beautiful and intricate designs.
“I guess the way it’s made is the product really”, says Josh in a unassuming way. To some extent that’s true, but it also risks being an understatement. At a time when environmental concerns top the bill for many, here is an ancient craft being skilfully practiced to meet contemporary needs all with impeccable environmental credentials.
I’ll drink to that and I can’t wait to do so using my new tankard!
To find out more, when and where josh will be exhibiting, to place an order for products or to seek a hands on turning experience, the best means of finding out more and making contact is the Stone Wood Craft Instagram page.
If you don’t do Instagram, Josh can be contacted by email.