A Christmas wish turned John Styer into the ‘Lathe-Meister’ [video + pictures]

After asking for a lathe (a machine used for turning wood) for Christmas every year, John Styer finally got his wish and The ‘Lathe-Meister’ was born.

As many of us do around the holidays, John and his wife made Christmas lists. Every year John would ask for a lathe, but alas, for whatever reason- perhaps it wouldn’t fit down the chimney- Santa wouldn’t put a lathe under the tree. The real reason John tells me is that lathe can be expensive.

One year he decided there really wasn’t anything he wanted or needed, so his list consisted of one thing: the lathe. “She only had that one option. So she got me an inexpensive lathe and I used it for the better part of twenty years,” Styer said.

After getting his lathe, John had to figure out how to get the wood to use on it. “My first thought was where am I going to get wood.” Styer’s wife got him a box of wood from his father’s Pennsylvania farm.

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“Of course since then it has dawned on me that wood does grow on trees and we are surrounded by them.” Now, much to his wife’s dismay, he has “ten lifetimes worth of wood laying around.”

So what to do with all that wood? Well Styer likes to make things that are attractive and that people appreciate from peppermills and pens to bowls and vases. He makes all that and more, including wine bottle stoppers and clocks and just about everything in between. The ‘Lathe -Meister‘ as John calls himself sells his wares at arts and craft shows all over the tristate area.

One of the more interesting items John makes are pens made from poison ivy. “I’m turning the heart wood and not the sap wood, that’s poison free and makes a nice looking pen and far fewer poison ivy pens are stolen,” he said.

All kidding aside it was quite a sight to watch John make a pen from scratch on his lathe. It didn’t take long, but it was fun to watch and the result was a beautiful looking pen made by hand from just a couple of pieces of wood.

John has been turning wood now for quite some time and you would think that means you get faster at it. It actually takes him longer to make that pen than it did ten or twenty years ago. “It can always be a little smoother, the lines could be a little more crisp it can be polished a little bit better.”

For John and probably anyone that has bought a vase or bowl made from wood, it’s a cherished possession. “You bought it because you liked the way it looks, the way it feels, or the memory that it evokes.”

“I want something that is not only round, but perfectly shaped and smooth and polished so than in my own mind, if its finished than I’m happy.”

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