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Keith Gilbert in his workshop Photo credit: Rachal Frank

This year the East Texas State Fair will be displaying an award-winning wood turning piece with a romantic story behind it that began over 30 years ago.

A young girl of eight years old approaches a beech tree with her older sister on a small ranch in Gosport, IN. She, with the help of her older sister, marks this tree with her initials, ‘KMO’. Little did she know that years later, this long forgotten tree would hold a much deeper meaning to her.

Keith Gilbert is one of many people who enjoys turning wood as a hobby.

“I’ve been turning wood for six or seven years. I started on a mini lathe and was able to produce small pieces. But, without experience or training, I sooned burned up my mini lathe. Fortunately I was able to get a second-hand midi lathe. It is a lathe that is not quite industrial size, but not quite mini.”

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Beech bowl with mesquite lid and pedestal
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Beech bowl with mesquite pedestal and lid

A lathe is a machine rotates objects about a horizontal axis and allows the objected to shaped by a fixed tool. When this process is done using a piece of wood, it is described as wood turning.

Keith holds many awards, including 2nd place wood turning at the State Fair of Texas 2013, 1st place wood turning State Fair of Texas 2014 and 1st place wood turning East Texas State Fair 2010.

“This particular piece is very special because I turned it as an anniversary gift to my wife of 17 years. The piece itself is a beech wood bowl with a mesquite pedestal and lid.”

“I remember being a little girl and my sister and I would climb to the top of the tree and we would count the cows in the pasture. I remember walking up the hill to show Keith, we held hands and I told him all of the history that it held for me.” said Gilbert’s wife, Krysabelle.

The piece of beech used in his anniversary piece is from the very same tree Mrs. Gilbert carved her initials into as a little girl.

“I was sent to Indiana on business, right after a storm in 2006. I decided to stop by and visit my wife’s family while I was in the area. Her father took me up the hill to where the tree stands. A large piece had fallen and I asked if I could take it home with me. I held onto it for many years until I decided it would make the perfect anniversary present.” said Gilbert about acquiring the piece of wood.

“I love it. I feel like I have a little piece of my childhood in my own home.” said Mrs. Gilbert

“This piece took me about eight hours, including sanding, finishing and gluing up the various pieces. This bowl was sealed with a coat of shellac, followed by four quarts of tung oil finish. Finally, I polished it out on the Beall polishing system.”

Keith is a member of East Texas Wood Turners, a chapter of the American Wood Turners Association.

“Around the same time I got the midi lathe, my wife saw an ad in the paper for an event called ‘Learn To Turn’, which was being hosted by the East Texas Wood Turners. I attended the event and in a days time had learned more with a skilled group of wood turners than I had within a year of trying to learn on my own.”

This group has been meeting for over 25 years. They meet monthy at TJC West Campus for their regular club meeting. This meeting includes a presentation by various wood turners with a specific set of skills, including offcenter turning or wood burning. The following week, club members meet at an open shop in Mineola, Texas. This shop meeting has many lathes and other equipment set up available for hands-on practice and training. East Texas Wood Turners can be found on Facebook.

Gilbert also received 1st place at the 2014 East Texas State Fair. This heartfelt piece can be seen on display in the creative arts section at this year’s East Texas State fair, between September 19-28th.

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