< back to articles

“Turning Tuesdays” with Bill Sands & Mikey Ellison

Recently I was fortunate enough to attend “Turning Tuesdays” which is held in Lubeck, West Virginia, every Tuesday from 10am-1pm. The weekly event takes place not far from the Parkersburg, West Virginia Woodcraft Store at the woodshop of Bill Sands. This is not a club, but a fellowship of men, centered around one individual through comradery, support, and the love for woodturning and woodworking.

Mike (Mikey) Ellison is the reason for the group’s existence. Ellison is also the father of two boys and an electrician for ten years at Borg Warner / GE Plastics in West Virginia. One day Mikey was deer hunting from a tree stand. All alone, he descended from the stand, grabbing on to a branch on his way down. The branch snapped dropping Mikey 21′ as he attempted to land on his feet; the impact shattered his ribs and crushed his spine. As a result, Mikey will be paralyzed from the upper chest down to his feet for the rest of his life.

Mikey had always been a strong and healthy individual; now left with only the use of his arms and hands, he found himself recooperating from this accident with his life partner Suzy, who was instrumental in helping him adjust to his new life.

One of the first things Mikey started to do was enter wheelchair race competitions, but he found he needed more to keep himself active and creative, both mentally and physically. He found his niche in woodworking. For the past nine months Mikey has expanded his interest, “turning” his abilities into the art of woodturning.

One of Mikey’s co-workers at GE Plastics was Bill Sands, an avid woodworker in Lubeck, West Virginia. “Turning Tuesdays” started with only Bill and Mikey (pictured left below).

(Left to right: Tom, Jim, Mikey)

Bill introduced Mikey to Tom Vensel and Jim Morrison (pictured above). Along with these guys, another individual from Teknatool, Tim Geist (not pictured) helped Mikey with his woodturning essentials by getting him a lathe.

Seen in the photos below, Mikey is diligently woodturning on a Nova DVR Lathe fixtured on a Cast Iron Leg Set. The leg set allows Mikey to comfortably work at his lathe from his wheelchair. Mikey has put his craftsmanship into creating some of his own turning tools (pictured below).

During my visit to the “Turning Tuesdays” group, Jim Roberts, Mikey, Jim Morrison and Gene Smith discuss building the Woodcraft hourglass project. Mikey turns the support posts, and then measures with Jim for fit and assembly:

Here is Mikey, turning the hourglass base, adjusting the hole for fit:

Currently, the “Turning Tuesdays” group of outstanding woodworkers, woodturners and woodcarvers average around 10 to 12:

Standing left to right at this meeting are: Tom Vensel, Mike Tice, Rick Cheuvront, Jim Roberts, Bill Sands, Jim Morrison, Ron Thompson and Gene Smith. Kneeling next to Mikey is Dave Bonnette.

Another project started on this day was a large piece of black walnut being cut and prepared for bowl turning and pen blanks. We will follow this project along and feature “Turning Tuesdays” updates from this creative group of guys.

Jim explaining how to cut this black walnut. (nice rug too!)

Another “Turning Tuesdays” woodturner member not pictured in the group shot is Doug Mooney from Artistic Woodturning in Glouster, Ohio. Today Doug brought one of his Native American artworks where he combines woodturning and woodburning for beautiful results:

Stay tuned for an indepth blog with Doug Mooney and his Artistic Woodturning company.

And finally the best reason to attend “Turning Tuesdays” with Bill Sands, Mikey Ellison & Crew…

That’s right, you may have guessed… it’s the food!

These guys pitch in and take turns bringing in the goodies with a magical dessert appearing now and then. Did I mention donuts in the morning too?

Happy turning, burning, and eating!

Thanks for having me…I’ll be back!

This is a great group of guys that work and have fun together, helping each other with all kinds of woodworking endeavors, and they all have a terrific sense of humor. Thanks for supporting Mikey and Woodcraft guys…It’s a pleasure knowing you!

Auf Wiedersehen…Frank