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From hobby to art: Fergus wood turner takes his work to next level

'My favourite part is when you start cutting into the wood and to see what type of grain is there, to discover what the wood really looks like'

In what many people see as a piece of wood, one Fergus man sees the potential for birdhouses, Christmas ornaments and other creations. 

“I mess with wood and some things turn out pretty nicely,” said Dirk Hoogendoorn, a hobbyist wood turner. "My favourite part is when you start cutting into the wood and to see what type of grain is there, to discover what the wood really looks like."

Hoogedoorn first began learning about the practice 15 years ago. Since then, he has been featured in galleries across Clarksburg, Flesherton and Mount Forest. In that time, he has also sold his work abroad to people in Europe, Australia and the United States. 

"I've been fortunate to have sold some stuff," he said. “It’s a hobby, but I truly enjoy it."

Although he has led wood turning demonstrations in a few regional symposiums, Hoogendoorn said he is no professional.

“I go out there (to my workshop) and work for two or three hours and I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m done,’”  said Hoogendoorn. “I’m always looking for something new, but I don’t work full days at it.”

A former real estate agent in Orangeville, Hoogendoorn recalls getting into wood turning after a client sold him a lathe and hand saw a few years before his retirement.

"He (the client) had really bad arthritis, and he said to me ‘Do you want to buy my laid and my hand saw?’” said Hoogendoorn.

“And I said, ‘Yeah, okay, that sounds like a good deal,’ and I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but for a couple hundred dollars, I took them.”

To learn more about working with wood, Hoogendoorn enrolled in a night class at the local high school and learned about chisel sharpening. After retiring and moving to Meaford with his wife, Hoogendoorn said he got involved with the Grey Bruce Woodturners Guild in Kincardine.

“I joined that and learned a lot about the proper approach to woodturning,” said Hoogendoorn. “And I took some courses and I read some books, read some articles, and the rest is history.”

As word about his wood turning abilities spread, Hoogendoorn was made a feature artisit in the Owen Sound Artist Cooperative, where he was the highest selling artist during that month. He was also asked by another artist group, the South Hampton Artist Guild, to run a youth woodturning program in the summer.

“They were just simple projects,” he said about the bowl, honey dipper, pan and vase he taught kids to make. “The kids would sand away at them, and then they would paint them and they would put their designs on it, the kids used to love it and we did that for a number of years.”

Wood turning is an old practice with modern techniques, adds Hoogendoorn.

“I can get two or three bowls out of a larger piece of wood, and in the old days, they couldn’t do that," said Hoogendoorn comparing the tools available to wood turners today and in the past. 

“My hat goes off to the guys, 70 to 100 years ago who could make the spindles for a staircase and make them all the same, like that was hard work, you know?”

Hoogendoorn makes a wide variety of items, including vases, salad bowls, urns, cheese boards and cutting boards for roasts, which he said he has 'sold a number of those.' In Fergus, Hoogendoorn's Christmas ornaments have gained attention on social media in December. After posting a photo of them in a Facebook group, he said he sold almost 14 ornaments. 

"People were quite happy to buy them," said Hoogendoorn. "Between the bowls that I've made and sold, and these ornaments, I've made about $1000 during this time."

One of Hoogendoorn's favourite types of projects to do is natural edge pieces, where the wood has unusual growths called 'burls.'

“It’s where the growth on the tree goes wild instead of in regular rings,” Hoogendoorn said about burls. “And if I can get my hands on those, which can be really hard to find, I turn those as well.”

When it comes to his work, Hoogendoorn said he sees it like a piece of art. He said he has his wife check his work before it goes out to the public.

 "If you give somebody your stuff that you don’t like that got some marks on it that you can’t get rid of, that you messed up on, why would you put that out to the public where for everyone to see? You demean yourself," he said.

With his 80th birthday coming up, Hoogendoorn said he likes to keep busy, but doesn't want his hobby to turn into a business. As a follower of Christ, he said he aims to love others and is glad that his work can provide pleasure for others. Those who are interested in getting in touch with Hoogendoorn can send him a Facebook message to Dirk Hoogendoorn.