Presidents Blog 2024

Submitted by Ron Comtois on

Presidents Blog, June 2024

May 2024 was yet another great month for the club. The monthly meeting on May 21 was well attended with close to 40 members in attendance. The demo was on "Shapes and Proportions" by Gordan Sloane and Randy Gleckleer. This is an often overlooked subject and I know myself as well as others in attendance really thought the demo worthwhile.

I just want to take time to thank the volunteers that showed up to the Wears Valley Ranch cleanup on May 11th. We had 11 members show up which made the cleanup much easier. From what I understand the kids were thrilled with the state of the turning area and how organized it was.  

As usual the Arrowmont weekend was a great event and a big thanks once again to Andy Milligan who organized the weekend. We had 10 members from SMWT and 2 from Crossville attend. The Arrowmont facility is world class and the accommodations and food were great. The feedback from all who attended was very positive and we hope to do more of these in the future. The 2 members from Crossville want to start collaborating with SMWT on these events going forward and maybe even other training workshops. This is something that needs to be discusses at the next board meeting but has great potential for bringing in additional talent in the future.

I would like to encourage everyone to make a "Beads of Courage Bowl" for Children's Hospital. There is also a need for wig stands.  We received Feedback from Bill Thurman who reported that there is a shortage of these at the moment. So let's do our part and help out the kids and the women who have cancer.

The June meeting will be featuring a demonstration by Colin Chalmers on "Texturing a Bowl".  

The next meeting will be June 18th at the Woodcraft in Knoxville. I hope to see everyone there.

Ron Comtois - President SMWT

Presidents Blog. April/May 2024

April 2024 was a great month for the club. The monthly meeting on April 19th was well attended and the demo by Mike Anderson (Eggception) was outstanding and we're hoping he'll come back next year for another demo. The club also hosted another weekend at Arrowmont in cooperation with the East Tennessee Woodworkers guild. The Arrowmont weekend featured four demonstrations; 8 point star by Jim Vogelsang, lidded bowl by Dick Hoffman, forms and shapes by Randy Gleckleer and I demonstrated a square rimmed bowl. We got to meet 2 members from the Crossville club who joined us for the weekend. In my opinion, the weekend was a great success and I received a lot of positive feedback.

On another note, the club was recently contacted by Mathew Greenwood from Baileyton, TN. He is in the process of clearing out his Dad's (Robert Greenwood) estate. His dad was a long time turner and he was offering the SMWT's first shot at his dads wood collection. I went up there on April 21st with Dick Hoffman, Bruse Pharis and Colin Chalmers. With permission from the BOD we purchased pretty much all the viable wood he had which consisted of about 30 rough turned bowls and about 15 logs of cherry, walnut and maple. we're in the process of prepping a bunch of bowl blanks for the wood auction in August. We paid $235 for a substantial amount of wood.

Just  a reminder we have a clean up day planned for Wears Valley Ranch on May 11th from 10AM to 4PM. Please contact Bob Law or Randy Fritchman if you plan on going. They need a headcount for lunch. Please consider helping out at the ranch. 

The May club demonstrator will be Gordan Sloan -  Gordan will be doing a presentation and demo on shapes and proportion. 

Work is underway for the Brian Horias' memorial plaque for the training lathe. Andy Milligan is drafting the language and I will be laser engraving a wooden plaque that will be attached via magnets to the training lathe.

The next meeting will be May 21st at the Woodcraft in Knoxville. I hope to see everyone there.

Ron Comtois - President SMWT

Presidents Blog. March 2024

After a slow start to the year with the January meeting cancelled and me being in Florida in February. I am hoping we’re back on track and ready for a great year ahead. The March meeting was very well attended with some new faces in attendance. I hope to keep the momentum going in April with a pretty full schedule. Starting on April 3 with the Board of Directors meeting via Zoom, our monthly meeting April 16th and our event at Arrowmont the 26th to 28th.

Please contact Andy Milligan if you’re interested in attending the Arrowmont weekend. I think we have at least 7 spots left. If we can’t fill them in the next couple of weeks, we’re going to open it up to the Crossville and Tri State AAW clubs. Last time we held this event it was a great success, and a good time was had by all.

For our April meeting Mike Anderson will be providing a demo called “Eggception” which I am looking forward to seeing. I hope we get a great turn out for Mike and the club.

I had a conversation with Bob Law regarding the Weares Valley Ranch program and our ongoing support. There is a need for some new chucks and jaws. I’ve asked Bob to provide a detailed list of what chucks and jaws they need. I will present that at the next BOD meeting. There is also going to be a need for volunteers for the annual shop cleanup and prep for the upcoming season. I asked Bob to give me a Saturday date to share with the membership.  It’s my hope we get a good turn out for Bob and his team.

I want to acknowledge Bill Thurman for volunteering to be our Beads of Courage and wig stand liaison to Childrens Hospital. Also, many Thanks to Drue Hogland for his years of service to the club and the Beads of Courage program. This is a worthwhile effort, and I would ask anyone with spare beads to bring them to the next meeting. I have three or four I can hand out at the next meeting, and I’ll try to get more. I am hearing from some folks they’re on backorder.

Ron Comtois - President SMWT


Presidents Blog. November 2023

There is lots of good news to share today. 

The membership voted to purchase a new lathe for demonstrations in partnership with Woodcraft.  The vote was 27 in favor of the purchase and 0 opposed.  We will be getting a new Jet 18x40 with a 2 HP motor.  I relayed the information to Everett today to proceed with the purchase.  The old lathe will be sold along with a Jet band-saw, and anyone interested is encouraged to contact Woodcraft.

Charles Jennings from Tri State Woodturners brought us an interesting demonstration on attaching wood to the lathe.  He brought two friends and several boxes of wood from a late member’s estate.  This wood will be part of the silent auction held at the December meeting.  We had an in-person attendance of 27 and zoom attendance of 7.

The bring-back-box was won by Bruce Pharis, the John C. Campbell scholarship chance by Ron Comtois, and Arrowmont by Bill Thurman.

The pen turning Saturday at Woodcraft was a huge success.  The 8 lathes were mostly busy all day.  There were several walk-ins including some new turners.  One lady turned 7 pens during the day and another turned her very first pen.  I believe Randy reported that around 35 pens were turned that day.  The total number of pens turned in by SMWTS was 572.  Thanks to everyone that participated.

Don reported that on Friday the Fantasy of Trees sales were so successfut that everything was out of the packing boxes and on display.  A sell out is expected.  The store manager increased the prices suggested by the turners. For instance, the memory ornament bags were marked up from $25 to $35 until the last day.  It is projected that the SMWTS effort will yield sales of $6000 to $8000 for Children’s Hospital.  Again, I thank you all for your effort.

Presidents Blog October 2023


We want to thank Bruce Pharis for his three cornered bowl demonstration.  It was done with a good measure of both safety and humor.  He was well prepared with numerous incrementally staged blanks which allowed a complete description of the process within the allotted time.

We welcome three visitors/new members Samantha (Sam) Harrison, Garth Rogers, and Makayla Edwards.  It is exciting to have some young members join us.

Ron brought us news of the passing of Frank Bowers from Georgia.  He was a long time turner and occasional instructor at John C. Campbell school.

The raffles awarded the bring back box to Gordon Fowler, the Arrowmont scholarship to Randy Fritchman, and the JCC scholarship to Ron Comtois.  The winner of the quarterly show and tell raffle is Scott Duncan.

We want to thank Gordon Sloan, Jim Volgelsang, and Roy Cuff for bringing in some nice raffle wood.  We also had a short auction of the first box of wood from Brian Horais’ collection.  The proceeds of this auction will be added to Brian’s memorial scholarship fund.  More of this wood will be available at future meetings.  Anyone wishing to contribute to this fund may do so by sending a check to the club P.O box marked to Brian Horias memorial scholarship fund.

Elections of the board of directors are approaching and the board is accepting nominations.  Board members must be members of AAW.  The board is working with Woodcraft to replace the demonstration lathe.  We hope to have the details worked out to present to the membership for approval at the November meeting.

On Saturday November 11, Veterans Day Woodcraft is holding a pen turning day.  It usually lasts from around 10:00 to 1:00 watch your email for further details. 

Presidents Blog September 2023

My sincere thanks to everyone that participated in the annual wood auction.  I believe it was a huge success and brought in $2467 in sales plus three new members.  Jake Niedling did a wonderful job as our auctioneer and kept everyone on their toes throughout what became a rather long evening.  Thanks to everyone that donated wood and those that kept the wood moving onto the auction block and then off to the piles that the bidders bought.  We were happy to have our neighbors from the Crossville club and a gentleman from Fort Walton, FL.  Apparently the selection of hardwoods is limited in the Florida panhandle.  John Jordan did not feel comfortable making the drive from Clinton but sent some nice wood including more of the bowl blanks left by James McAnally’s widow.  I’ll have to admit that I missed the opportunity to take home a dozen fresh eggs and a jar of honey. 

We welcome our new members Darrell Wiser from Knoxville, Jim Busby from Florida, and Jerry Triplett from New Market.

In October we will return to our normal meeting format with a demonstration of a three-cornered bowl by Bruce Pharis.  We expect the quality of the Zoom connection to be greatly improved as we now can use a wired connection to the Woodcraft router.  This should provide more stability to the connection than the Wi-Fi did.

Don’t forget the Pens for the Troups, Christmas ornaments for Fantasy of Trees, and Beads of Courage boxes for Children's Hospital with all that new wood you picked up at the auction.

Presidents blog supplement August 20, 2023

A note on the AAW board election

Last summer I enjoyed a weeklong turning seminar at Arrowmount led by Matt Monaco.  I made several friends in the class but the one I want to tell you about is Joe Breech from Traverse City Michigan.  Joe is on the ballot for the AAW board of directors.  Joe struck me as a genuine person who was happy to help some of the less experienced turners.  I believe he will strive to be a good director od AAW.  I only pass this along as I usually struggle to select from the group of candidates when I have no information on any of them.


Andy Milligan


Presidents Blog August 18, 2023

We all enjoyed Gordon Fowler’s demo on making a graceful two-part pitcher with attached handle.  He included in his demo the use of a deep hollowing fixture.  There was a good turnout for the meeting with 32 members and visitors present plus several on Zoom for the first part of the meeting.  We did lose the Zoom connection early in the meeting.  Jim has been talking with Woodcraft about getting a wired connection to the store router which should help the stability of the connection.

Gordon Sloane has volunteered to take over the newsletter.  We have been missing it sorely since Pauline’s last issue last December.  Please send any news or photographs to Gordon for inclusion in the newsletter.   Gordon can be reached at or (902) 655-1038.

Randy Fritchman won the bring back box and it contained a turned wood handled screwdriver.  I would like to see more of us participating in this activity.  It is intended to give us an opportunity to try something new to stretch ourselves.  Everyone is expected to turn something to their ability as simple or as complex as they want. 

We had three new members join during the August meeting.  Jimmy Thompson, Bill Penicks, and Chris Land.  Let’s be sure to introduce ourselves and welcome them to the club.  Chris took advantage of our raffles and won both the John C Campbell and Arrowmont raffles.  His tickets will be entered into the raffles at the December meeting.  Based on the low level of participation in these raffles, I fear many of you do not know what is being offered.  The winner of each month’s raffle is entered into a pot during the December meeting and a winner is drawn from the monthly winners.  Those two winners receive tuition (up to $600) for a turning course given at John C Campbell Folk School in Brasstown NC and at Arrowmont school of arts and crafts in Gatlinburg.  The tickets are only $2 each for a chance at a wonderful prize.

The September meeting will be the annual wood auction.  Please bring any good wood you wish to donate.  I had someone ask me exactly what we meant by “good wood”, and I will try to explain.  Any species of wood, wet or dry is acceptable.  We ask that the wood be crack free and trimmed such that most of the bark is removed and the color and grain of the wood is exposed.  Wet or green wood should be sealed on the end grain or all over to reduce shrinkage cracking.  It is helpful to write the wood species if known.  We will also auction off tools if you have some to spare.

Presidents Blog July 29, 2023

My apologies for missing the May and June editions of this blog.  It was not until a new member commented on the fact that the blog was so out of date that I realized the importance of keeping up to date.

In May, Tom Knight brought us a demonstration on embellishment using pyrography and stains and basket illusion.

In June our own Colin Chalmers showed us a small elegent lidded bowl with a contrasting finial.  We also received thanks from Blount Mansion for the turned objects donated for their fund-raising auction.  Only 12 lots sold on the web auction and raised $410.  The remaining lots will be offered at a live event in September.

In early July we were saddened to learn that Brian Horais had passed away due to health complications.  His love of art and constant exploration of new innovations in turning will be missed.  He led the club into an exhibition at the Emporium and published several articles in American Woodturner.  One such article was highlighted in the July AAW toolbox: Brian's segmenting article.  Watch your email for notice on arrangements.

We have four new members Randy Gleckler, Mike Johnston, Bill Thurman, and Jared Bruckner.  Jared is a former member that is rejoining us.

For the July meeting demonstration, Gordon Sloan and John K. Jordan gave us a lively discussion on preparing green wood for turning and preserving wood.  The quarterly Presidents show and tell challenge was won by Dick Hoffman.  Randy Fritchman supprised us by including a chalice in the Bring Back Box (along with the anticipated pen).  Ron Comtois won the box contents.  Unfortunately, we lost Wi-fi and the Zoom attendies midway through the meeting.

We look forward to Gordon Fowler giving us a demonstration on making a three-part pitcher in the August meeting.  Saturday August 19 we will have a meet the mentor event at Woodcraft where several of our mentors will demonstrate various skills and projects. After the demonstrations there will be lathes available to try out these skills with supervision by the mentors.  Watch your email for details as we develop them.  We are also looking forward to the annual wood auction September 19 at our regular meeting time.

President’s Blog April 2023

We had a fun April meeting with Daniel Sauer from Crossville showing us how he makes his Hummingbird House Ornaments. If you missed it be sure to check out the video and dimensional sketch on  We had 39 members and visitors in attendance, 29 at Woodcraft and 10 on Zoom.

I want to thank everyone that came out to wish the Jefferies a happy retirement and meet the new owners.  Bob said he plans to spend some time teaching woodworking to his grandchildren.

In May we will be starting a new fun activity called the “Bring Back Box”.  Ron Comtois built us a 6” cube box (inside dimensions) and will bring it with a turning inside to the May meeting.  The box will be rafelled off.  The winner will get to keep the turning and then will be responsible for turning something to put in the box and bring back to the next meeting where it will be rafelled off continuing the cycle.

Don’t forget the AAW symposium in Louisville, KY June 1-4.  

If you get a chance, be sure to thank Randy Fritchman for volunteering to photograph the show and tell pieces for those of us that have difficulty loading our photographs on to the website.

Lets all keep working on our ongoing projects; the pens for the troups, turnings for the fantasy of trees, beads of courage boxes, wig stands, and turnings for the Blount Mansion fundraiser auction.

President’s Blog March 2023

Well, there was a lot of wind this weekend.  I can already hear chainsaws in the distance and know some interesting turning blanks will be available soon.  These green wood sections are usually available at little or no cost as the owners have to pay to carry them to the dump. 

We have had two good meetings since my last note.  John Lucas brought us a remote demo of a Christmas ornament using a miniature tea light and a clock in February and our friend and former member Jared Bruckner showed us the turning aids and a lot of neat little gadgets that can be created on an inexpensive 3-D printer in March.

The display at the Emporium in February was well received and we received some good exposure from the event. We thank Brian Horais for his work in setting that up.  We also hope he recovers and is back with us soon.

For the April meeting we are expecting Dan Saur from Crossville to show us how to make humming bird house Christmas ornaments.  That will be well timed for us to start turning ornaments for the Fantasy of Trees event in November.  Also keep turning pens and beads of courage boxes and wig stands.

Also don’t forget to drop in at Jeffries Wood Works at 10:30 on Saturday April 15.  We want to wish Bob and Cynthia a happy retirement.  Tom said he would have a bowl there to receive cards wishing them well.



President’s Blog Jan. 2023

“There they go, and I must catch them for I am their leader.”Ledru-Rollin

And that’s sorta how it feels to start this year as the new president of the Smokey Mountain Woodturners.  Our first meeting of the year was well attended with 38 in person and 14 on Zoom and included visitors Dan and Christa Greenlee and Gary Dalby and his grandson. We hope you will join us again.

We thank Drew for his demonstration on turning a natural edge bowl from a log.  Drew stated that his health will not permit him to demonstrate in the future and we will miss his participation as he has brought us many excellent presentations in the past.  I encourage everyone to give green bowl turning a try, it really is fun.

Brian Horias collected the turnings to be displayed at the Emporium during February.   The First Friday Artwalk will be a good opportunity to view the display and other artwork.

It was reported that Arrowmont has extended their long-standing local resident discount from the four counties bordering Sevier county to all east Tennessee counties shown on the attached map.  This discount is a 50% discount on one cource tuition per person per year.  This is a great opportunity as Arrowmont is considered a premier turning studio with beginner to advanced instruction.

The board is researching methods to allow Zoom attendees to participate in the Arrowmont and John C. Campbell drawings.  The use of Paypall or Venmo requires that we register with the state as a nonprofit to use the service without charge.  Before we invest that effort, I want to gauge the interest in participation.  If you would like to use one of these services to buy rafel tickets or to pay dues, please send an email to Andy Milligan .

The AAW national symposium will be held in Louisville, KY this summer June 1 -June 4.  There is a $40 per person discount available if we register through the chapter.  This discount requires a minimum of 10 attendees from our chapter.  Please let me know as soon as possible if you are planning to go and I will arrange for our registration.  I will contact AAW next week and determine the particulars of qualifying for this offer.

I have faith that this year will bring us opportunities to learn, make new friends, and enjoy our time together.  Keep turning,

Andy Milligan