Master and apprentice

One cannot exist without the other. The master and the student together form a team.

“The process is certainly not one-way traffic from master to apprentice. Both learn from the process.”

Pieterjan and Martijn met at Draaifeest, a pole lathe event in the Netherlands. This provided the impetus for the close collaboration

Apprentice Pieterjan

Over the years I have been passionately working with green wood in a mostly non-machine way, mainly in my spare time. Working with wood gives me great satisfaction because I can work with local raw materials and thus ensure that the short chain is put into practice. In 2020 I decided to switch do doing my regular job part-time and become self-employed as a secondary profession as De Houtbewaarder.

The mission of De Houtbewaarder is to give trees a better future than simply firewood and this has now resulted in the operation of a mobile sawmill and many other projects in which I work with local wood (playgrounds, benches, shelves, flower boxes, etc.).

Two years ago, I attended a four-day spoon carving workshop in my spare time, which only fueled my passion and made me decide to continue with the craft side of woodworking. I explored green woodworking with hand tools, shave horse and related tools. More courses followed and more and more I started looking for the origins and reason of existence of various wooden objects.

In the summer of 2022 I made a Jenny Chair, a traditional green wooden chair, together with Sjors van der Meer and Job Suijker in the Netherlands. This also sparked my interest and in the autumn I built my first pole lathe to turn the spindles of a chair. As if by coincidence, the very first turning festival (DraaiFeest) was organised in the spring of 2023. The very first gathering of people who turn on a pole lathe in The Netherlands and Belgium.

In preparation for this festival I made my second lathe, one to turn bowls and cups. I met Martijn at Draaifeest and I was amazed by his knowledge and skills. This is where the first seed was planted for the collaboration we now envision.

After Draaifeest I continued turning in my spare time. Through demonstrations at craft markets, I try to introduce the craft to the wider public. I noticed that I still had a lot to learn. The learning curve is quite steep, so one can quickly turn a simple bowl, but the variety of objects and finishes demand more than just a hobbyist trying to do his best. The opportunity to understand Martijn’s knowledge of forging hooks and turning wooden objects as well as the historical background is exceptional. We can only achieve this because the funding by the Flemish Government allows us to free up time to gain and pass on knowledge.

As a final part of the process, I would like to continue turning on a pole lathe in Flanders by organizing periodic meetings. These can be gatherings of people with a passion for green woodworking in general, but preferably with a very strong focus on turning on a pole lathe. It would be great if I could do this as a sub group of the Association of Polelathe Turners and Green Woodworkers, the UK organization for green woodworking that also organizes Bodgers Ball.

I also hope to further professionalize the organization of workshops and demonstrations with the help of the financial insights I have acquired towards the end of the process, so that it remains possible to promote the craft in the longer term. In any case, there is room for further professionalization during the two years of the program and I will fully commit to that.

In addition to further developing myself professionally, I also hope to become a reference for researchers (e.g. experimental archaeologists or historians) who want to work with me to understand the objects they have found. Thanks to the technical insights I have acquired, I can then provide answers to questions they still have.

Master Martijn

Pieterjan’s question whether I wanted to act as a master in a master-apprentive program got me interested immediately. The opportunity to apply the knowledge and experience of turning on the pole lathe in a more intense and extensive way than with a short workshop or demonstration appealed to me very much. It is fascinating to be able to discuss the theories and techniques with a student in a more in-depth way.

My experiences as a teacher in secondary education have taught me that scholing works in both directions, in the sense that not only does the student learn from the teacher, but that one’s own understanding of the subject can certainly also increase enormously by teaching this to someone else. In addition, the process offers a wonderful opportunity to form a heritage community that is more broadly based and of higher quality than it is now, partly due to the opportunity it offers to properly document the entire process. In this way, knowledge about the craft and its history can be spread more easily, and hopefully the appreciation and recognition of this craft in particular and the crafts as a whole more generally as well, and more people can be motivated to take up the craft.

The Flemish-Dutch collaboration, which is already growing within the green wood community, also offers very interesting opportunities in the field of archeology and historical crafts. There is of course a long historical bond between Flanders and (particularly the southern part of) the Netherlands, with a shared language and culture. This makes the many turned objects that have been found in Flanders and are preserved in museum depots also very important to me.

The fact that Pieterjan, as the apprentice, took the initiative for this process himself, as well as his enthusiasm to make a link between the technology and the history of turning and the turned products, gives me confidence that we can shape a beautiful process together and are able to kick off the reintroduction of the professional use of the pole lathe in Flanders with a great event.