Lathe turning is my kind of work. It's quiet, and contemplative. Most all the other machines in the shop shriek and bark at you. The lathe hums and whispers. It feels more like art than heavy lifting. My little son says "daddy is sculpting again" when I do it.
And Maurice Franklin, woodturner, is my kind of guy.
If you were to rise before dawn on Christmas Eve, and walk down the empty Hackney Rd past the dark shopfronts in the early morning, you would very likely see a mysterious glow emanating from the workshop at the rear of number forty-five where spindles for staircases are made. If you were to stop and press your face against the glass, peering further into the depths of the gloom, you would see a shower of wood chips flying magically into the air, illuminated by a single light, and falling like snow into the shadowy interior of the workshop where wood turner Maurice Franklin, who was born upstairs above the shop in 1920, has been working at his lathe since 1933 when he began his apprenticeship. In the days when Maurice started out, Shoreditch was the centre of the furniture industry and every premises there was devoted to the trade. But it has all gone long ago – except for Maurice who has carried on regardless, working at his lathe. Now at ninety-one years old, being in semi-retirement, Maurice comes in a few days each week, driving down from North Finchley in the early hours to work from four or five, until eight or nine in the morning, whenever he fancies exercising his remarkable talent at wood turning. Make no mistake, Maurice is a virtuoso. When rooms at Windsor Castle burnt out a few years ago, the Queen asked Maurice to make a new set of spindles for her staircase and invited him to tea to thank him for it too. “Did you grow up in the East End?” she enquired politely, and when Maurice nodded in modest confirmation of this, she extended her sympathy to him. “That must have been hard?” she responded with a empathetic smile, although with characteristic frankness Maurice disagreed. “I had a loving family,” he told her plainly, “That’s all you need for a happy childhood, you don’t need palaces for that.”Read the rest of the story of Maurice at Spitalfields Life. Great pictures, too.
(Thanks to reader Rob W. from Rowe for sending that one along)