John Chatelain

I retired and sold my Optometry practice in 2016. This gave me more time to stay in the shop. I honestly do not know how I had time to get any woodworking done while I was working. I never have enough time now. After retiring and moving to central Texas from Houston, I had an extra bay added to our plans for our new house. I had a wall placed in the middle of the 4-bay garage so I could have one side for the shop and not having to move the cars out to avoid getting all the dust on them. I do not have air conditioning in the shop as the heat really does not bother me. I open the garage door and open the window on the opposite side and get great ventilation. I do get cold in the winter but have a couple of small heaters that help. If it gets too cold, I work inside on plans for my next project.
I started my woodworking as a kid helping my dad with little home projects. One of my jobs was to straighten nails out by hitting them with a hammer on the garage floor. Maybe that is where I get my cheapness issues of trying to go too long on the same piece of sandpaper. I made a 12-foot sailboat from plans out of Popular Science or one of those magazines. It came out pretty good even though I did not know anything about sailing. I just wanted to build it. I inherited an old table saw from my uncle when I was in my 30’s and that started my weekend wood projects hobby. I built a couple of chess boards which as I look back was probably my first segmented piece. I copied a chessboard that was built by my grandfather. It had very small, angled segments along the sides, and I could never figure out how he made this without the use of all our modern techniques. One day I saw an article about lamination and figured out the secret. Sounds like the same stuff I read in Malcolm Tibbetts book about lamination trickery. I began watching wood working shows on television and began to build shop tables and cabinets just to build something.
I did not take woodshop in high school because I wanted to be an architect, so I took mechanical drafting instead. I did start at architecture at the University of Houston but did not finish. I still use my old T-square and triangles to make my drawings for my segmented projects. I tried to use the awesome program “segment pro” that Lloyd Johnson’s has, but I am not very good with computer stuff.
I started with wood turning after watching a series of videos that were sent to me from one of the woodworking magazines. I watched Tim Yoder as he made things appear right from a blank piece of wood. I was very interested in learning about turning. I took a one-day class at Woodcraft and luckily my instructor was a member of the Gulf Coast Woodturners Association. He invited me to a meeting and the rest is history. I bought a small Jet 1221 midi lathe for Christmas and still use this today as my first and only lathe. I hope to get a big boy lathe someday, but I am still amazed at all I can do with this small lathe. I learned so much at those meetings. The best 2 things about that club were the monthly turning get togethers at one of our gracious member’s shops and the yearly “retreat” where we had a weekend of hands-on classes about all sorts of turning projects. I also liked the show and tell at our meetings. That was what really amazed me on seeing all the awesome turnings that our members brought in every month. That is where I also saw some fabulous, segmented turnings by Andy Chen. I wanted to be able to do something like that someday. After a few years and a few classes from our club featuring Andy Chen as our instructor, I finally got the nerve to try segmented turning. I was hooked and have not looked back.
Today I am a member of the Central Texas Woodturners Association.
I do have to thank a few people for helping to get me excited about segmented turning. First is Andy Chen, who motivated me with all his fabulous turnings. Andy had a lecture about his segment jigs. These must have been his originals as each sled only could be used for one specific number of segments. This looked difficult to try and get this to be the exact angle to produce the correct angle of segments without a gap. Then I heard about Jerry Bennett’s wedgie sled. That changed everything. I could make one of those. Thank You Jerry for sharing all your knowledge and plans for this. After getting into segmenting, I heard about Malcolm Tibbetts. He was a great motivator after reading his book and seeing him at the SWAT symposium. There are many other people who helped me along the way. Then Andy told me about Segmented Woodturners chapter of the AAW. This is a great group that has helped me so much with the forum and all the helpful comments on my turnings that I put on the gallery.


March 2023