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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Ray Key, an internationally renowned wood-turning instructor from England, checks a bowl turned by Joe Herrmann, who came from Ohio for the class.

PROVO — A block of wood has a story to tell, but that story can't be told until a craftsman places it on a lathe and gives it a good spin.

"You just throw the wood on there and it's almost like it tells you what it wants to be," Adam Jurgens said. Jurgens and his dad recently took a three-day basic class in wood turning at Craft Supplies USA.

Jim Jurgens of Mapleton said, "l had my own equipment and teachers who challenged me. Every day I was outside of my comfort zone, but I was able to build bowls, vases and a box with a lid that came out tight."

More than learning the craft, he enjoyed personal father and son time.

"I like the fact I was there with my son," he said. "I really enjoyed it — it's a very creative outlet to take a piece of wood and discover what's in it."

Craft Supplies USA, located in southeast Provo, specializes in wood turning tools and supplies. The wood turning classes are a main draw.

Lucienne Grunder, 76, and her husband, Daniel Titzel, 87, travel to Utah for the classes each year. This year they came for Ray Key, who comes in from England to teach.

"This is the third class we've taken together in Utah," Grunder said. "I like to make little boxes."

"This takes more finesse than strength," said Dale Nish, looking at Grunder's box. "That's why women make good turners. They pay more attention to what you say."

Nish and his son, master craftsman Darrell Nish, founded Craft Supplies USA in 1982. They added the hands-on wood turning classroom in 1987.

Instructors teach classes ranging from "basic" for beginners to "signature" for those who have practiced the art a bit and want to try making more advanced items.

Kip Christensen, a professor of industrial design at Brigham Young University, teaches some of the basic wood turning classes.

Instructors teach a technique, then turn students loose to their own workstations to practice what they just learned.

"Every student has their own lathe," Adam Jurgens said. "Up at the front is a lathe with a video camera above it so if you don't have a good angle they'll zoom in and you can see the technique the instructor is showing."

A blend of local and international craftsmen ply their trade with several coming from as far as England and Australia to teach the signature classes.

Key, renowned in the wood turning world, was in Provo recently to teach a class. He specializes in intricate boxes.

However, "Boxes are just one aspect of what I do," Key said. "I make bowls and vessels as well."

Key's finished objects fetch a pretty price. Some are made of exotic woods from places like Africa, Morocco and Brazil.

"People in his class are here because they admire his work," Nish said.

Key teaches only in the United States, not back home.

"Back there I make cutting boards," Key said. "About 500-700 a year — they're all the same so it's boring, but it pays the rent."

Surrounded by the whir of nearly a dozen lathes and the smell of sawdust, Titzel summed up thoughts on the class.

"This is one of the highlights of life," Titzel said. "My saying is 'If it ain't no fun, it shouldn't be done."'

Call 1-800-551-8876 or visit woodturnerscatalog.com to register for classes.

E-mail: [email protected].