Here’s a lofty one for those Philosophical turners:)
Woodturning is considered by most turners to be an art form, and a cathartic one at that. It’s a fantastic way to kill time (before or after retirement), and excellent medium for self expression. Like all artistic mediums technology has impacted woodturning. On one extreme end of the scale, CNC machines and computers plot designs to lathes and cutters in no time flat for consumers. However, this technology cannot match or take away from the true artist essence of a hand-crafted bowl or vessel. So then, why do we turn wood if it can be done so easily by a machine? and for whom are we turning??
Before we go any further, I am going to spoil it and answer the question this very blog title begs. In a nutshell, technologies impact on woodturning has been on safety. We’ll come back to the side topic of “purpose” in a moment for fun.
Centres, tapers, belts systems, swivels, and user controls (interfaces) have all evolved for our safety, as well as ease. Woodturning can still be dangerous, but we are less likely to hurt ourselves turning wood than we were 2oo years ago. Tools are also better. Handles are more ergonomic and promote optimal use and muscle memory, and carbide inserts are machine sharper and designed to do a more efficient job than ever before. Hollowing systems are also better engineered to get the job done more efficiently, faster, easier and yes, safer.
So, coming back to he question and purpose of wood-turning, brings out my luddite cynicism, and reminds me of other cautionary tales such as the “ballad of John Henry” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OF-3t8Id6mA . Ned Ludd of course (historically debated) destroyed the printing press in fear of his economic security. Same reason John Henry took on the steam driver. I think many artists, craftsmen, and hobbyists contemplate this today, as they grapple to use technology as a tool and even as a medium. Do they wonder how far technology will go? Should we care as craftsmen or artists? Many art forms and professions become antiquated as technology presses on. You can’t stop progress. However, my purpose for turning is as personal as the next woodturner. We turn for ourselves, art admirers, and for people who just appreciate beautiful and useful things made by another human being. the rewards can be fun, lucrative, and relaxing all at once. Now, it is all of that and safe.
At the end of the day It’s not craftsmanship, thats coming from a computer.