Where to buy your tools?

Living in Portugal - particularly living in a rather remote corner of northern Portugal - provides many challenges. For the woodturner, there are some specific tasks that are rather obvious. There are not many turners in Portugal - and although I have been lucky enough to meet some and have even been lucky enough o have Idálio Dias visit and take part in in a joint project, it is not the same as having a few turners nearby!  The lack of turners means that there is also a lack of good sources of turning supplies nearby (something that many people must also experience in other countries). Thus, I rely heavily on the internet and online shopping. The following I find are reliable and always willing and able to provide advice - which is very gratefully received!

ToolPost (in the UK) - a great source of turning equipment and supplies and sound advice.

Steiner (in Germany) - who sell the wonderful VB36 and also have their own online shop – Drechslershop, where they sell a large range of turning equipment and supplies.

Axminster which proves a great online store with equipment and supplies for many interests - including turners

Woodturning terms - some help

One of the many challenges facing anyone who wants to start turning is understanding the various terms used by turners - this is doubly complicated if - like me - you are turning in a country where you do not speak the language of that country as well as you would like. When my wife, Hjördis, and I moved to Portugal we bought a very useful book (which was out of print when we bought it) called Portuguese and English Dictionary - published by Oxford-Duden. It allowed us to be reasonably proficient in understanding various technical terms when renovating our house. I believe it is still out of print, but you can buy it on line - try doing a search – and it costs from about 40 USD for a second-hand copy to about 125 USD for a new copy.

It is also a very useful way of explaining turning to neighbours and suppliers. I find it incredibly useful to be able to use the drawings as a visual aid too. Here for instance is their page on woodturning.

Turning page from Portuguese and English Pictorial Dictionary

The Evolution of Logs to Art Workshop

Plenty to do - always some interesting pieces to play with

My first workshop in Maputo, Mozambique

When I started turning in 2003 we were living in Maputo in Mozambique and our home had a room outside which was perfect as a studio for me at that time - that was some years ago now and in between, we have worked all over the world - mostly with the International Committee of the Red Cross and no time or space for indulging my passion for wood.  Not until we moved to Portugal that is. Now finally we had space.

Covas - a little village nestled into the hills of northern Portugal.
My workshop is just above the farm in the foreground.

Having said that, we live in a small village in northern Portugal called Covas.  It is nestled into the valley with high hills all around and even in the lowest parts of the valley, the land is terraced and the same is true of our garden.

This is where I eventually put the workshop - in the end it was really the only practical space.

Thus, when it came time for finding the best spot to construct a workshop, it was far from straightforward.  Eventually, we found the perfect spot with the help of Americo – the owner of the local building company who has done a lot of work for us inside the house.

During the whole construction I was working in Darfur, Sudan and the site supervisor was my wife, Hjördis - who by this stage was somewhat of an expert in Portuguese building terms and her colourful language went down well with all concerned!  For a long time, they thought she was slightly crazy as whenever they asked her whether she wanted something changed or done a slightly different way, she would tell them that she would ask Sr Robin – and I would get a Skype message or an email with the question and sometimes a photo - which I could then reply to. So, an hour or so later she would go and talk to them and tell them that Sr Robin wants it done this way! They would inevitably give her an odd look - the crazy woman who could talk to her husband in Africa!  One day she showed them and of course they were very impressed with this latest technology - and somewhat relieved that she was not in fact crazy!

By and large, everything went very smoothly with the workshop construction - with the exception of the day when Hjördis asked them where the skylights were going - and there was a certain amount of coughing and spluttering and hands on hips, as they realised they had forgotten to “make the holes”!  It worked out in the end though.


Skylights - what skylights - well no one ever told us.


As it was when the builders walked out


A view over the farm below us and to the river and the hills beyond.

Now I have a space with a view to inspire - it seems to me that finding a space in ones mind in which to create is almost essential - and nature is certainly an inspiration and always has been for me.


It's a dog's life

And there is no one to disturb and on most days a dog who is content to hang out and relax.