5 Day Class at Peters Valley July 12-16, 2019

I am going to be teaching my 5 Day Woodturning Workshop class at the Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton NJ (in the Delware Water Gap National Recreation Area) on July 12-16, 2019. Their name for it is “An Exploration of Woodturning”.

Click here for more info or to sign up on the Peters Valley web site.

There is also more info in the Student Material List. Lots of info, not just a materials list. Click here for additional info.

P.S. My Pennsylvania Dutch Cake Stand was just selected as the “AAW Turning of the Week” on 3/6/2019.

There are no fixed projects in the above class. Students are free to do there own thing. Pick there own projects. Thus students can make a cake stand in the above class if they want. With or without the decoration. Or we can do similar decoration on a plate, bowl, etc.

Click on the photo below for more photos of my recent work.

Turning Smocks & Low Cost Alternatives

Turning Smocks & Low Cost Alternatives Photo: pm_smock.jpg

Over the years I have owned a number of different turning smocks. Here are MY thoughts.

Sooner or latter every turner decides they need a turning smock. Because, sooner or latter nature calls and you just don’t have time to shed all the wood chips, etc. She who must be obeyed, has a no wood chips in the house policy!

In A Nutshell

I like the AAW Turning Smock best. I absolutely HATE the blue color. The dark grey one is not a whole lot better. But, I have found the lightweight, short sleeve and roomy design works best. It is easy to get on and off. It easily sheds wood chips.

I also hate the price! $65 on 2/2019. However, all the available Turning Smocks are in the $60 range. See below for some cheaper alternatives.

There are some cheaper look-a-lines. In better colors! See below.


Photo: aaw_smocks.jpg

Features I look for the following in a turning smock. Basically everything the AAW turning smock has.

  1. Easy on/off

    This implies I like jackets, rather aprons. I don’t want to fiddle around with tying and untying apron strings in the back when I need to go!
  2. Something that will keep me cool in the summer.

    Some people are naturally always cold, while others are always hot. I am the kind of person who never gets cold. So, I am looking for a turning smock that keeps me cool in the summer. If I am cold, I will add a layer under the smock.
  3. Short sleeves.

    I don’t like the elastic and/or knit cuffs on long sleeve turning smocks. Long selves violate my easy on/off criteria.
  4. Loose fitting selves. Like the sleeves on AAW smock.

    You need a loose fit to stay cool or if you want to wear something under a turning smock.
  5. Simple tight (but not to tight) fitting collar.

    You should be able to just zip the smock up and that’s it. No extra neck flap that you need to dork around with. The collar needs to keep the shavings from going down your back. You should be wearing a face shield that deflects away any shavings in the front.

    I don’t like a knit collar that fits really tight in the front. It traps to much body heat. Makes me to hot.
  6. Water resistant and breathable. NOT waterproof!

    A soft lightweight brushed nylon fabric (like the AAW Turning Smock) that is water resistant (sheds water) is best. I don’t like waterproof fabric that does not breath. Waterproof gets to heavy and hot. You don’t really need waterproof! You just need something that sheds water and dries fast.

    When I turned my first green log and all that water came flying out, I got a waterproof turning smock. It was good that winter. When summer came that smock had to go! It was just way to hot. After a couple of false starts, I eventually replaced it with an AAW smock and lived happily ever after.
  7. Loose fit.

    I don’t want something that clings to me like a knit shirt. I want something with room to add a shirt or what ever under it for warmth. Something that keeps me cool in the summer.
  8. A flap over any pocket on the front. Or no pockets.

    Any pocket on the front that does not have a flap over it will quickly fill up with wood shavings and become a huge pain in the back side.

    I personally never use the pockets in my turning smocks. Thus, I would like to see manufacturers lower the cost of smocks by leaving out all the pockets on the front and back.

    Note: You can close up a pocket in a shirt, etc with some masking tape. The tape keeps the wood shavings out.
  9. Pockets on the back are a don’t care for me! Your mileage may vary.

    I never use the pockets that are the back of turning smocks. Thus I don’t care if they exists. Pockets on the back do not need flaps.
  10. Left or Right Zip. I don’t care. But, some people may.

    In the US most men’s jackets are right zip. This means you grasp the zipper pull in your right hand. In other countries things may be left zip. i.e. you grasp the zipper pull in you left hand.

    Most US turning smocks are right zip. Those made by or for European markets are left zip.

Three Types of Turning Smocks

Below is my not so humble opinion. There are basically 3 different types of smocks available. The field has narrowed in recent years. Several manufactures have dropped out.

Note: Lee Valley no longer sells a long sleeve smock with a collar flap. Packard now only sells an apron. No smock.

  1. The AAW Turning Smock and look-a-likes Photo: aaw_etc_smocks.jpg

    Lightweight. With underarm vents. Good for people who are not looking for warmth. Want something that is cool in the summer.

    I like the AAW Turning Smock best. I absolutely HATE the blue color. The dark grey one is not a whole lot better. But, I have found the lightweight, short sleeve and roomy design works best. It is easy to get on and off. It easily sheds wood chips.

    I also hate the price! $65 on 2/2019. However, all the available Turning Smocks are in the $60 range. See below for some cheaper alternatives.

    The Powermatic Turning Smock is an exact copy of the AAW Turning Smock in a nice mustard yellow color! Well, almost. It is left rather than right zip. It’s only $50 on 2/2019. I own one. The only retailer is Beaver Industrial Supply (BIS). https://bispowermatic.com/search/?cat=0&q=turning+smock

    The Highland Woodworking sells a Shop Smock that also appears to be a copy of the AAW Turning Smock in a nice red color! I DO NOT own one of these and have never seen one up close and personal. $57 on 2/2019. https://www.highlandwoodworking.com/shopsmock.aspx
  2. The Old Tan Craft Supplies USA Turning Smock Photo: cs_smocks.jpg

    Mid weight. No under arm vents. Good for people who are looking for warmth and can live with being hot in the summer.

    Craft Supplies USA makes two turning smocks. A new Black “Lightweight” one and a old Tan one. The old tan one is “mid weight tan twill material”, “100% polyester”. I would describe it as mid weight canvas. A lot heavier than the AAW smock. No underarm vents like the AAW smock.

    $56 on 2/2019. I own one of these. I never wear it. It is way to hot for me. Please keep in mind that I am the type of person who never gets cold.
  3. The New Black Craft Supplies USA Lightweight Turning Smock

    $45 on 2/2019. I have only worn this smock once. I don’t like the way it hangs. It is to tight and cling fitting for me.

Low Cost Alternatives

  1. Red Kap 1P60 Convertible Collar Shirt Jacket Photo: redkap_1p60_shirt_jacket.jpg

    Price varies by size. Around $32 for 2XL. I own and like this lightweight jacket. Its really more like a shirt in weight. Tough, 65% polyester, 35% cotton fabric that sheds wood chips and dirt.

    If you put some masking tape over the pockets it works well as a turning smock. I really like it for painting things in my studio.

    It was a weird zipper. It zips down from the top. It is easy to use, after you get the hang of it.

    It only comes in navy blue or black. But, the price is right!

    Red Kap is a very old and well known manufacture in the automotive and uniform business. They make things in a ton of sizes. From small to ultra large.

    Google “Red Kap 1p60” then look for the best price. I use “Automative Workware” when they have it.
  2. Red Kap KP44 Men’s Zip Front Smock or KP43 Women’s Zip Front Smock Photo: redkap_kp44_smock.jpg

    Price varies by size. Around $20 for 2XL. I DO NOT own one of these. It just looks good to me. However you will have to sew up or masking tape over the lower pockets. The price is right!

    It only comes in navy blue or white.

    Google “Red Kap kp44” then look for the best price. I use “Automative Workware” when they have it.
  3. Green Cotton Welding Jacket Photo: ironcat_amazon_jacket.jpg

    Cotton welding jackets have been around for a long time. They tend to be cheap. Around $30 for XXL.

    No pockets on the front. Very tough yet flexible fabric. They are mid weight like the old Tan Craft Supplies USA turning smock. Often a light green in color.

    The old one I have and like was made by Weldmark. Go down to your local welding supply store and find one you like. Or via Amazon, etc.

    I found a green jacket on Amazon made by West Chester and a tan one made by Revco.


Photo: redkap_vt22_quilted_vest.jpg

I have a Red Kap VT22 Quilted Vest that I wear in my studio under my turning smock when it is cold. While I am waiting for the heater to do it’s thing.

I like it. Not to thick, not to thin. $30 for L on 2/2019. The price is right. Thus, if it gets screwed up, I don’t care.

I have a Large Red Kap VT22. It is a bit tight on me. But, fits nicely under my XL AAW Turning Smock.

Google “Red Kap vt224” then look for the best price. I use “Automative Workware” when they have it.


Photo: redkap_jt50_panel_jacket.jpg

30 years ago, I picked up a jacket at local used work wear place for $10. Over the years, I learned to love this jacket for outside work.

It works good for chain sawing. It is not to heavy, not to light. Reasonably warm, but not to warm. Etc, etc. The exterior is a tough fabric. You can wash the jacket in any washing machine.

The slim looking jacket fits over my round figure. It does make me, sort of look like a UPS man. But, who really cares if the jacket works. After years of hard use I recently decided to get a new one due to an ugly paint stain on my old one. 30 years latter, and they still make the same jacket!

It is a Red Kap JT50 Perma-Lined Panel Jacket. $48 for XL on 2/2019. It comes in a number of dark colors in both regular and long versions.

I like this jacket a lot better than my Carhartt jacket.

Google “Red Kap jt50” then look for the best price. I use “Automative Workware” when they have it.

Pants & Shirts

Well, I have gone this far. I mind wells tell you about my favorite work pants and shirts for my studio.

I like the Red Kap brand work pants and shirts. They are low cost, tough, permanent press, and yet soft!

They are NOT like the old Sears or JC Penny work pants and shirts that I hate. Because, they are so stiff they stand up on there own. The Red Kap stuff also comes in better colors. You don’t have to look like a gas station mechanic.

Red Kap is better than Carhartt in my not so humble opinion.


Photo: redkap_pt10_work_pant.jpg

I have several pairs and like Red Kap PT10 Men’s Red-E-Prest Work Pant”. $20 on 2/2019.

I really like these paints. Really tough, but still soft. I have a very old pair of these that I have run into the ground. Lots of paint stains and heard wear. No holes. These pants are like Dockers that don’t wear out and get holes. They look great. A lot better than an ugly genes that are to heavy, get holes to easy and cost a fortune.

The BEST thing about these pants is that you can get them in any waist size with any inseam length!!!

I recommend you get these from “Automative Workware” www.automotiveworkwear.com for any waist and inseam options. They hem the pants if necessary. No extra charge.


I have several Red Kap shirts that I like.

  1. Red Kap SB12BS Men’s Long Sleeve Industrial Stripe Work Shirt. Photo: redkap_sb12bs_stripe_shirt.jpg

    Like a dress shirt with a tough soft fabric. The fabric is a little heavier than a fine dress shirt. Around $19 on 9/2019. Price varies with size and color.

    It comes in lots of colors. Some are real nice dress shirt colors. Others are ugly. The style number varies from SB12, to SP10 and SP14 based on the color. Go on the Red Kap or Automotive Workwear web site and look thru the colors.
  2. Red Kap SP10EX Men’s Long Sleeve Microcheck Uniform Shirt Photo: redkap_sp10ex_check_shirt.jpg

    This is really a dress shirt. Not a work shirt. Lighter weight than the above. The microcheck fabric really makes this shirt look like an expensive shirt. Around $22 on 9/2019.
  3. Red Kap SP74GB Men’s Long Sleeve Mini-plaid Uniform Shirt Photo: redkap_sp74gb_miniplaid_shirt.jpg

    I also really like this shirt. Really a dress shirt… Different colors. Around $26 on 9/2019.

All of the above shirts work ok under a short sleeve turning smock. i.e. the fabric in the shirts is smooth enough so it does not easily catch a lot of wood chips on the long sleeves, like cotton plaid shirts do.

Note: I DO NOT like the fabric in Red Kap SP14BY Men’s Long Sleeve Industrial Work Shirt (solid color, not striped) that I have. It catches wood chips easily. I don’t known if this applies to all colors or just the burgundy one that I own.

Carl’s Photo Studio 2018

Chick here for printable PDF

Carl’s Photo Studio 2018 Photo: Photo Setup 2018

Here is my new photo setup. I started using it in 2018. I am very happy with it.

I am now using "softbox lights" with a big graduated black to white background. See photo above.

Previously I used a "Photo Tent". (See photo at the end of this blog post.) Like recommended in AAW Symposiums, etc. It worked ok for years. But then I decided I was tired of it. I did not like the lights all that much. The tent was to small. I wanted to take photos of bigger things and groups of things. Moving things around and positioning them inside of the tent was a pain.

I looked around and decided that "softbox lights" were the way to go.

Photo: Softbox Lights Softbox Lights

I found some softbox lights on Amazon that I liked the looks of in my price range.

They are "LimoStudio 700W Photo Video Studio Soft Box Lighting Kit, 24 x 24 Inch Dimension Softbox Light Reflector with Photo Bulb, Photography Studio, AGG814". $64 on 2/2019.

I like them.

Photo: Big Light Bulbs Big Light Bulbs

The bulbs are big. Really big. 4" diameter by 9" tall.

I think big is good. They create lots of light that is soft from the start because it does not all come from a small point source.

The bulbs are marked "eTopLighting photo bulb PB-85 120V 85W". No other markings. But, I think they are 6500K, daylight neutral.

Photo: Big Black to White Background Big Black to White Background

I decided to get a big background so I could take photos of big things. I like the background in photos to trail off from grey to black. Thus I use a graduated black to white background.

Real photographers use a huge studio and let the light trail off naturally. I don't have room for that.

My background is from Amazon. It is a "Flotone Vinyl Graduated Background 43" X 67" Black to White #609". $74 on 2/2019.

There are lots of similar choices on Amazon. The price was more than I would like. But, it was the best I could do.

I wanted a vinyl background so I cold wash it off when it got dirty. However, that does not work well, because all these backgrounds scratch really easily!

Note: I use the smudge tool in Photoshop to wipe out any scratches I see on the background in my photos.

If you want to go cheaper you could just use some photo gray paper. Something that is a “Dove Gray” color. Something like “Savage Seamless Background Paper – #84 Dove Gray (53 in x 36 ft)”. $45 on 2/2019. Pick something that is the right width for your application.

Photo: Photo Studio Stowed Photo Studio Stowed

Here is my new photo studio all stowed. I just roll the background up to the ceiling. Then shove the lights, back out of the way. The table is part of my photo set up. I just, leave it up and use it for other things. Stowing things takes just a minute or two.

I made my own background roller. More about that latter. Before, I made the roller, I used some big binder paper clips that hung the background from the ceiling from some wires. I never put the background away and thus ended up with scratches on it.

Note: I had to use the flash on my camera to get a photo of the screen up against the ceiling. Err… I hate on camera flash! The light is just way to harsh.

Photo: Photo Studio Ready To Go Photo Studio Ready To Go

Here is my photo studio set up and ready to go.

The tall light is lighting the background and the over all scene. The low light is my accent light. For this big group with lots of shiny things, I have the accent light higher than normal. Later, I had to dork around with the accent light, quite a bit to get rid of hot spots on that glossy red plate.

I am using an old GOOD tripod, I got from a friend. A good tripod is a must! A cheap tripod that moves around will drive you crazy.

The big black binder paper clips on the bottom of the background just add some weight so it hangs down, out of the way. The paint cans, keep the background from slipping off the table.

I adjust the height of the background and paint cans to get a nice almost black background at the top of my photos.

I always take my photos in a dark room at night or on a cloudy day. The photo lights are the only source of light. I don't want any other sources of light that may reflect off my work, cast weird shadows or color shifts.

Note: My good camera is on the tripod. I am taking this photo with my old camera. Thus the quality of the photos in this blog entry, vary a lot.

Photo: My Camera My Camera

Here I have my camera set up ready to take a shot. I am going to live with the hot spots in centers of bowls. They are virtually impossible to get rid of in a group shot like this. The top of the red plate is still a little to bright. I need to adjust my lights a little more.

In the viewfinder you can see the edge of my background on the left. For this big group, I have to frame the photo based on top and bottom of all items in the photo. I will cut left and right off latter in Photoshop. I also leave some room on the top and bottom of shot for cropping in Photoshop.

My camera is an "Olympus TG-3". I really good camera. I really like this camera. But, it is totally the wrong camera for this application. But, it works just fine. This camera is designed to be really tough for travel. It can be bounced off a concrete floor, dropped in a lake or you can take photos in pouring rain. I have done most of these things. It has a piece of glass in front of the internal folded lens to make it really waterproof and thus totally the wrong camera for this application.

You can put this camera in manual mode. And lots of other stuff. But, I never do, because it takes FANTASTIC photos in AUTO mode. Here I have forced the flash off, set it to 8m (3216 x 2144) photo size (not the max), 3:2 photo with a 1 second self timer, in auto mode.

The most important thing here is to FORCE THE FLASH OFF! No flash for any reason come hell or high water with digital cameras.

A 1 second self timer is also real important. i.e. take the photo 1 second after I push the shutter button. Wait until, I let go and the camera stops shaking then take the photo.

These days, any good point and shoot camera will get the job done.

Note: If I had a ton of money to waste then I would get a fancy OFF CAMERA flash unit that I could ADJUST the brightness of. Then I would not need to dork with my lights, etc. I could just use the flash. On camera flashes like I have and can afford, do not work! Only one brightness (usually super bright) flashes like I have and can afford do not work!

Photo: The Original Photo The Original Photo

Well, sort of the original photo. The original is 3316 x 2144, 1.46 MB. The photo here has been down sampled to a reasonable size for the web.

Here is the photo I decided to go with. It is one of 10 or so, taken from slight different angles and heights. I picked the best one.

If you are taking photos on Auto. Just moving the camera a little often makes a BIG difference in how the light is captured by the camera. Big differences in ISO, F stop, shutter speed, white balance, etc.

I have found the best solution for ME is to take 10 or more photos on AUTO and then pick the best one. Because, I don't really known what I am doing. Taking photos on manual is a waste of time for ME. What F stop, etc should I use? I have no clue. Once in a long while, I will take a photo on Auto and then switch to Manual, where I tweak the settings that Auto mode came up with.

I often rotate the pieces around a little or lot. The grain on some pieces only looks great from one angle. Often not the angle I start out with.

There are lots of scratches and some dust/dirt on the background in this photo. Can you find them? I did not touch them up. I can't find them even in the 1.46 meg original with out a lot of zooming.

Photo: The Cropped Photo The Cropped Photo

Here I cropped the photo a little in Photoshop. Remove the edge of the background on right. Leave a nice amount of space all around.

Auto Levels in Photoshop often does wonders. Makes the background look better. Removes the dull gray cast. Auto levels did not do much to this photo. I got the lights, etc right from the start. My TG-3 camera is not the right camera for the job, but it does a pretty good job.

In Photoshop I did an Export, Save for Web. Saved the photo at 1600 px wide (1600 x 1160), 648K. Then I let Jalbum program down sample it to 828 x 600, 93K for my blog on the web. I normally shoot for original images saved on my computer for the long term around 600K to 800K. If just one object in the photo than I save at 800 px wide. If you save photos anywhere on the web (Flickr, Google Photos, etc) they frequently get saved way below this size.

Photoshop use to be head and shoulders above any thing else. That is no longer true. The programs that now come with most digital cameras are pretty good. They all support cropping. And most support some form of "auto levels". You don't need Photoshop. Photoshop is a tool. A tool with a HUGE learning curve. The programs that now come with digital cameras are often a lot easier to use.

Note: This is one of the promotional photos for my Woodturning Workshop class at Peters Valley on July 12-16, 2019. PV is calling it "An Exploration of Woodturning". See http://petersvalleyworkshops.bigcartel.com/product/an-exploration-of-woodturning

Photo: Pick the BEST Photo Pick the BEST Photo

Like I said eariler. I ALWAYS take 10 or more photos from slightly different angles, heights and rotations of the subject. Then I pick the best one.

Photo: Photo of a Big Thing Photo of a Big Thing

Here I am taking a photo of a lamp that will definitely not fit in my old photo tent. I have raised the background up to make this work.

Photo: Background Rolled Up for Storage Background Rolled Up for Storage

Here is what my background looks like when rolled up for storage. The big black metal binder clips add a little weight to the end of the background. They make things a lot easier.

Notice that my roller is roughly 6" wider than my background. I did this on purpose. I didn't want the edges of my background getting all screwed up.

I made the roller out of 4" Sewer and Drain PVC pipe from local big box store. I wanted a big diameter roller. I did not want the background to get screwed up by being rolled to tight. I also, did not want it to develop a memory and try to roll back up on it's own.

Note: Before, I made the roller, I used some big binder paper clips that hung the background from the ceiling from some wires. I never put the background away and thus ended up with scratches on it.

Photo: Background Rolled Down Background Rolled Down

Here you can see that I put 3 feet of heavy construction paper above my background. This allows me to roll down the background further.

I REALLY like this roller because it has a clutch mechanism built into it. It will not roll down on it's own while I taking photos, etc. You have to pull on the white chain on the right to roll it up or down. See next photo.

Photo: Clutch Mechanism for Background Roller Clutch Mechanism for Background Roller

I purchased some roller brackets with a built in clutch mechanism. I purchased "Good News Roller Blind Shade Metal Core Clutch Bracket Cord Chain Repair kit 38mm" from Amazon. $9 on 2/2019.

I turned some pine wooden disks to reduce the 4" PVC pipe down to the 38mm required by the rollers.

Photo: Close Up of Roller Bracket Close Up of Roller Bracket

Here you can see that I cut the long slots off of the roller brackets in previous photo. Then I drilled my own new mounting holes.

Photo: Old Photo Tent Old Photo Tent

Here is picture of my old photo tent with lights. The one, I no longer like.

Photo: Carl's AAW Photo Gallery Carl’s AAW Photo Gallery

Recently, I decided to start posting one photo per week of my recent work on the AAW’s Photo Gallery.

Go here to see some recent photos taken with my new photo studio set up: http://www.aawforum.org/community/index.php?media/albums/carl-ford.842/