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Woodturning News: General News

INDEX-JOURNAL: Turning wood akin to meditation for Savoie (01/01/2017)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017   (0 Comments)
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A former tanker captain at sea, Tom Savoie of Abbeville signs his turned wood pieces, “Captain Tom Savoie.”

The New Orleans-born and raised Savoie didn’t turn his first bowl until about nine years ago, but he said he’s “done some type of woodworking” all his life, crafting candlesticks, tables and more. Savoie said he and his wife of 22 years, Judy, relocated to Abbeville after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Savoie is retired from the Military Sealift Command, a transportation provider for the Department of Defense, that refuels Navy transport ships.

“After I took my first wood-turning class, I liked it so much that I kept on doing it,” Savoie said. “I’ve been to a lot of hands-on classes, in Greenville, South Carolina, in North Carolina and in Tennessee.”

Savoie, 78, said a small, wooden goblet his father turned, and gave to him as a young man, inspired him to learn how to do similar pieces.

Savoie said his parents divorced when he was 4 years old and he didn’t reconnect with his father until he was grown with children of his own. But, Savoie said it was a serendipitous meeting that taught him “No matter how bad things seem, it always works out how it should.”

Savoie said his father helped him get a job on a ship and inspired his later woodworking.

“Other people’s work inspires me,” Savoie said. “You can go on YouTube and see demonstrations of other people’s work. That’s where I learned to make cornered bowls and then I devised a way to make six-cornered one.”

Once people know wood-turning is a hobby, Savoie said they’re “always willing to share a piece,” but he also gets pieces from Got Wood? LLC in Donalds, a source for domestic wood-turning blanks.

Fellow wood turner Hal A. Taylor of Greenwood said he considers Savoie a “very good friend and wood artist.”

“We got to know each other through Council of Lakelands Area Woodworkers,” Taylor said. “We share ideas and borrow tools. Tom is very creative. Recently, he’s been doing these diamond-shaped bowls with corners that I haven’t attempted yet. I’m real impressed with that style. He also did a little fish a while back and I have no idea how he made it.”

Savoie has a woodworking shop with three different sized lathes in his backyard, where he and his wife also raise pigeons, doves and chickens and they raise a lot of their own vegetables through aquaponics.

“I have sold a good many turned wood pieces,” Savoie said. “But, it’s very hard for me to let go of them. Generally, about five days a week, I’m turning.”

Challenging pieces are fun for Savoie, whether they are purposefully off-centered goblets with “captive rings” on the stems or winged or cornered bowls.

The latter, Savoie said, are “kind of dangerous” to make.

“You learn how to turn -- or else,” Savoie said. “You learn how to hold your tool, or you get in trouble. I really do like to change up what I’m working on.... Once I’ve got a technique, I will move on to something else.”

Savoie said he’s definitely made some mistakes along the way, but hasn’t “wound up in the emergency room, yet.”

The natural variations in wood appeal to Savoie. For instance, box elder has a fine grain and can contain natural staining, he said. Another Savoie favorite is burl wood -- a tree growth in which the grain has grown in an unusual way.

Savoie is a member of Council of Lakelands Area Woodworkers, Carolina Mountain Woodworkers and the American Association of Woodturners.

The Lakelands area, Savoie said, has a lot of talented artists. As a member of CLAW, Savoie has worked with fellow members to make wooden ornaments for a tree for the annual HospiceCare of the Piedmont Festival of Trees and to turn wooden bowls for Empty Bowls Greenwood, a fundraiser for the Greenwood Soup Kitchen.

“The one thing about turning is that you can put all of your concentration in one area,” Savoie said. “You can put it on par with meditation.”

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