In America, as well as in other countries, opportunities for youth to experience or follow a career in woodturning are being addressed.  In fostering growth amongst the next generation of woodturners the AAW in conjunction with the FEWS (Far Eastern Woodturners Society) introduced an exchange for youth.  Spanning across two countries the Japanese/American Exchange Program traveled far beyond the initial expectations. 

Naoto Suzuki (a Japanese member and president of the chapter most distant from the AAW office) proposed an idea to address the need to inspire and broaden the experiences of young turners.  Naoto’s idea was to send a young Japanese student to the United States and have a young American travel to Japan.  The goal was for each to be exposed to the turning of another culture for inspiration and to broaden one’s perspective.   

The AAW EOG (Educational Opportunity Grants) Committee is pleased to report on the success of the initial youth exchange program.  The project took months of planning with much support from the woodturning community that spanned two countries, so diverse yet equally rich in tradition and cultural heritage.

After careful consideration, by an EOG appointed committee who interviewed a pool of qualified youth applicants, Lucas Hundley was chosen to represent the United States.  Lucas, a young turner from Newland, North Carolina, became interested in woodturning at a very young age.  His father Doug, along with area woodturners Roger Jacobs and Alan Hollar, encouraged Lucas to pursue his interest.  Gaining experience through the generosity of turners’ willingness to share Lucas was given opportunities to grow in the field of woodturning.   Lucas is currently enrolled in the Haywood Professional Wood Craft Program at Haywood Community College in North Carolina.    

The young Japanese student was Minako Suzuki (no relation to Naoto Suzuki).  Minako had just completed the third year, of a four- year training program in traditional turning and lacquer work.  She was selected from a class of twenty-nine students and most eager to begin her adventure.


On June 21st Minako Suzuki‘s visit to America began.  She flew into Seattle, WA and was greeted at the airport by Bonnie Klein. After a brief visit to Woodcraft they enjoyed a picnic lunch, of sushi, at Alki Beach Park across the water from downtown Seattle.  The glorious day provided a fantastic view of Seattle.  Bonnie seemed amazed that Minako didn’t appear to be suffering from “jet lag”.

While in Washington, Minako visited the woodturning shop of Bill Luce, Bonnie’s favorite local woodturner, whose shop is an impressive place for serious turners to see.  Minako was most willing to share her work, photos and information about her studies in Japan.  The best time was spent in Bonnie’s shop with both of them turning and exchanging turning techniques.

 Bonnie was fascinated to see the tools Minako made and how she uses them.  Minako wanted to make a threaded box, so they both made one, blending techniques from each other.  Bonnie learned how to cut the end grain on the bottom so clean that it shined!  Minako learned how to use “our” chatter tool.  Bonnie got a kick out of using Minako’s tool rest over the bed of her Klein lathe.  It worked great!

Bonnie thought the most fun part was when she had a little catch and said “oops” out loud.  Minako quickly picked up on her “new” word as they both had several occasions to use it throughout the day.  It was always good for a giggle.

            Quick to admit that her time with Minako passed too quickly, Bonnie says Minako is a delightful young lady.  Taking everything in stride, Minako was open to any and all experiences.  Bonnie comments that Minako is a great ambassador for her turning school and that her instructor should be very proud of her.



            Trent Bosch remembers when the AAW EOG Committee approached him about hosting an exchange student from Japan.  He was very excited about the idea and a bit unsure about how it would work out because of the language barrier.  When Minako arrived in Denver, Colorado she immediately made a hit with the whole family, especially the kids. Trent and Minako shared woodturning techniques with each other while Minako share origami techniques with his children.  They found Minako to be a very kind young lady who was able to understand English reasonably well.

            Learning from each other was the most exciting part of the whole experience for Trent.  The timing of Minako’s visit was perfect as Trent had one of his workshops scheduled, that she was able to participate in.  She caught right onto the western style of woodturning.  Using the sweptback bowl gouge, hollowing tools and carving tools, she was able to create some very interesting work.  They got into bowls, hollow forms, surface treatment, texturing, dying, bleaching, painting, etc.  It was a blast!

            During her visit some woodturners, from the area, joined the Bosch’s for a barbeque.  Minako shared her techniques and work with everybody during the event.  Everyone was amazed at how different yet similar their techniques were.  Trent shares that the time spent with Minako was enjoyable and educational and he would not hesitate to do it again.  Thanking the AAW for the opportunity to host Minako, Trent enjoyed it thoroughly.



Minako then spent a week at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, Indiana.  As a student at the school she performed the western style turning, as does everyone else in Alan Lacer’s class, something which Minako   had very limited experience in.  On Thursday she was asked to do a demonstration of traditional Japanese turning.  Fortunately she brought her tools and tool rest, necessary to share this radically different manner of turning.  Watching her Alan knew he saw the makings of a master turner.  Minako’s lacquer work probably caused the greatest stir among those in attendance.  Not lacquer, as we know in the west, but Japanese urushi.  Urushi is processed from the sap of the tree and painstakingly applied with spatulas and fine brushes.  Alan feels the special effects Minako achieved with color and texture were astounding, and equal to any of the best we have to offer as to such treatments on turnings.  Alan has made several trips to Japan and commented that he never met a turner who did urushi work nor a urushi artist who turned.  He feels as if Minako’s artistic ability in both turning and lacquer work is a very unique quality. To top that off is the fact that she intends to open her own shop after completing her schooling.  Alan shares that all of this points to a most talented and motivated individual.



Minako arrived in Washington, DC, on July 2nd.  Tom Boley, President of Capital Area Woodturners, and his wife Judi, greeted Minako at Dulles International Airport. CAW (Capital Area Woodturners) was selected to host Minako for part of her visit to the United States because of its proximity to our nation’s capital. Minako spent nine days touring the area of Washington, DC and Northern Virginia.  With the Boleys having lived in Japan for many years, Tom easily communicated with Mianko in Japanese. 

            On Saturday, July 3rd the Boleys took Minako to the local Woodcraft store where the CAW were co-sponsoring a Turn-a-Thon for the Freedom Pen Project.  Minako turned her first pen, which she donated to the US troops stationed in Iraq.  She was pretty excited about it, never having made a pen before, so she made a second one, also for the troops.  Minako signed the tag (which all of the pen makers put on the pens) so the recipients would know who made each pen for them.  Tom and Judy took Minako to a local exotic wood store to see the variety of wood available to US turners.  Later, back at the Boley’s, Tom taught Minako how to make an inside-out ornament.  She made two ornaments, and later took them to the CAW meeting, for show and tell, the following Saturday. 

            Since Minako had been living at such a frantic pace since her arrival in America, she welcomed the opportunity to just relax around the house on Sunday.

Yet, the Fourth of July was not without customary celebration as the Boleys hosted a cookout with their neighbors.  After watching the National Mall festivities on TV, they dashed out to a Springfield, VA golf course to enjoy the live fireworks show. 

            Most of Monday was spent in Tom’s shop, as Minako made pens for gifts to her loved ones in Japan.   Minako had an opportunity to go sightseeing on Tuesday, with CAW member Dani Klorig.  While visiting George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, they stopped to see one of the remaining 13 white ash trees, which have been documented as having been planted by George Washington himself.  Dani took Minako to some galleries and artists’ studios in Old Town Alexandria.  Minako was surprised to see so much Japanese style pottery being made. 

            On Wednesday CAW held a special Skill Enhancement session.  Minako treated the members to a woodturning demonstration, of her Japanese woodturning methods.  After the session Phil Brown, one of CAW’s professional woodturners, took her to visit galleries in Alexandria, VA and Washington, DC.

            Neighbors of the Boleys took Minako for a “walk through town” on Friday.  They visited many large and impressive monuments to presidents and events. She saw the White House and visited several art galleries, including the Renwick Gallery.



Arrowmont School of the Arts and Crafts was Minako’s next stop. She spent a week taking a woodturning class taught by class Christian Burchard.  Many techniques were explored including the art of turning spheres and hollow forms. Minako used tools and techniques that were very different from the ones she uses in Japan.  Christian commented on how quickly she learned. Minako was invited to give a demo for the class on her Japanese style of turning and her traditional tools and their uses.  They modified a One Way lathe so she could use the tool rest she brought with her from Japan.  Christian shared that they were all impressed by her tool technique and speed as well as the perfect surfaces that her tools left.  Not to mention that she forged all her tools herself.  While at Arrowmont, Minako had the opportunity to visit many other classes being offered in other Art mediums being taught that week which Arrowmont is famous for.



After leaving Arrowmont, Minako traveled to Asheville, North Carolina for a few days where she was hosted by Ray Jones and Linda Hynson (members of the North Carolina Mountain Woodturners).   During her stay she attended a meeting of North Carolina Mountain Woodturners chapter, which was an all day session. She enjoyed an exhibit at the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, which was a great place for her to see some excellent regional crafts.  Asheville, known for its wealth in the crafts and galleries, was a perfect place for Minako to tour several galleries and local woodworker studios.  On a visit to Haywood Community College they toured the wood studio of the Production Crafts Program.  Minako shared her portfolio and discussed techniques with the students there.  Minako experienced her first kayaking trip while in Asheville, thanks to her adventurous hosts.

Ray and Linda learned from Minako, about her life in Japan, even as she was living each day immersed in our culture, language and customs.  Their family thoroughly enjoyed meeting Minako and hope to see her again as she travels the globe as a world famous lacquer ware artist. 



Minako was eager to attend the 18th annual AAW Symposium held in Orlando, Florida.  She was looking forward to meeting Lucas Hundley, as her youth exchange was drawing to a close, his adventure was just beginning.  The young artists were introduced during the opening session, along with FEWS president Naoto Suzuki whose initial idea of an exchange program became a reality.  During the symposium Minako and Lucas demonstrated to an attentive group.  In a filled demo room attendees were treated to the talent and techniques of the inspiring youth.  Both Minako and Lucas enjoyed the opportunity to meet many people from whom they learned a great deal.   Lucas and his parents were able to meet Naoto, and spend time with him discussing the details of Lucas’s anticipated journey to Japan.



On Monday, after the Symposium Lucas boarded a plane, bound for Tokyo, Japan.  Excitement mounted as thoughts raced forward in anticipation of the journey that lied ahead.  Traveling to Tokyo with Minako and Naoto proved to be a comfortable trip.  Upon arrival, they parted company with Minako who went to join a friend.  After getting settled into a business hotel, Naoto and Lucas ventured out for an evening meal.  Lucas commented on how quiet the streets were for being as busy with people and traffic as they were.  Having dinner at a Japanese Sushi bar was an eye-opening experience for Lucas, as a conveyor belt full of an enormous assortment of sushi made its way around the bar full of dining patrons. 

The following day Lucas and Naoto met Minako at the bullet train station to travel to Yamanaka, Japan.  Riding the rail across Japan in 2 ½ hours was a fast and impressive ride for Lucas.  Enjoying the scenery along the way he commented on how the landscape was ever changing in between the mountainous terrain. 

Upon arriving at the Ishikawa prefecture, where Lucas would be spending the next two weeks, Minako took Lucas on a tour of the facilities.  Minako who attends school here as well, showed him through the display hall, the lathe and tool rooms, the basic finishing and the decorative finishing room.  Feeling in awe of the facilities, he quickly learned why this was known as the “urushi capital of Japan.”  Naoto introduced Lucas to Mr. Goto who coordinated his stay in Yamanaka.  From there they went to an apartment in the oldest house in this little town.  Lucas met Keinopi, who lived in the apartment and was to be his roommate. 

Lucas began his studies during his first night at The Foundation of Yamanaka Lacquer Ware Technical Center.  After being given small dishes that had already been covered in clear urushi, he was instructed to paint them decoratively with colored urushi.  Nervousness quickly set in when Lucas found out that he was under the instruction of one of the finest urushi masters in the region.  His instructor had a difficult time communicating with Lucas, as he never took an English language class.  He sent one of the students to get a Japanese to English dictionary so he could express to Lucas what a good job he was doing.  Lucas found this instructor to be very supportive and encouraging.

Challenged with a language barrier Lucas was relieved, the following day, to meet his interpreter.  Thankfully the three days she was scheduled to be with him turned into two weeks, which was greatly appreciated.   She traveled with Lucas and Mr. Goto as they visited a small factory that made urushi bowls at production speed.  They also visited some traditional urushi artists.  Lucas immediately noticed that the urushi artists didn’t seem to have lathes in their homes.  Inquiring about this he learned that urushi artists and woodturners were of two different professions.  The only name that goes on the bottom of a finished piece is that of the urushi artist.  Realizing that the woodturners never received credit for contributions towards the finished pieces.  Lucas met a turner whose natural rim bowls won a national award yet the turner never received any of the credit.  As a result he immediately began learning urushi so he could gain recognition for the work he was doing.

Lucas was amazed at the polishing techniques of the urushi artists.  He learned from a urushi artist that they use sandpaper all the way up to four thousand grit.  One artist explained to him, that instead of using grades of sandpaper all the way up to four thousand grit, he uses another technique.  This artist grounds raw sand stone and mixes it with oil to make a paste.  The process makes an even finer surface than the four thousand grit sandpaper.  Yet that is not the end to the process, the final step is to polish it with charcoal.

Lucas was introduced to the Japanese style of woodturning and initially felt as if he was learning to turn all over again.  The lathe he learned on was about three feet in length, most of it housing for the motor and belts.  The far end of the lathe is what might be described as the front of a bowl lathe.  Having no lathe bed to attach a tool rest seemed very odd to Lucas.  Shaped like a miniature saw horse the tool rest is in no way locked down or attached securely to the lathe.  It sits upon a table that is a correct height for turning if you sit on a bench resembling that of a piano bench.  While holding both a tool and tool rest in his left hand Lucas was instructed to grasp the cross bar of the tool rest, just behind a designated notch, with his pinky, ring and middle fingers.  After placing the shaft of the tool in the notch, of the tool rest, the index finger goes over the tool and along the top of the tool rest.  The tools he was turning with were hook tools that required him to lift up on the handle, place the blade under the piece of wood and then push down on the handle to bring the blade up into the wood. While being instructed he was taught not to take the tool out of the notch. These actions definitely took practice, and Lucas admits to having broken several tools in the process of learning.  Lucas learned that even the masters were breaking tools as they were turning as well.  Later in the week he learned how to make tools like the ones he was using .  Making and breaking tools was part of the learning process and Lucas was pleased to report that he managed to turn some fairly nice finished pieces.

The process of woodturning in Japan varies from prefecture to prefecture.  Some woodturners prefer to squat at the lathe, as opposed to sitting on the bench.  Sometimes boxes were built half as big as a room to house the motor.  The turner would have to sit on top of the box to turn as their feet hung into the box to work the forward and reverse levers.  The doll turners Lucas saw worked on smaller lathes and used a massive piece of wood, they let their tools slide on, as a tool rest.

When Lucas began learning the process of urushi, he quickly reacted to raw urushi, the material is processed from the sap of a tree.  The reaction was like that of poison ivy.  Because he does not react to poison ivy, Lucas thought he wouldn’t react to urushi but found out differently.  According to his teachers he had a mild break out and could possibly become immune to it in about a year, if he continued to work with it.  Lucas explains the many benefits of urushi include a gorgeous finish, being food safe and being harder than any finish he’s come across.  

During his travels in Japan Lucas was amazed at the difference in turning from region to region.  Sighting the doll turners using different tool rests, the top turners and toy makers also use very different tools from what he originally learned.  The difference in the tools themselves aren’t that significant but when he asked them about using other types of tools these turners claim that they never even heard of them.   Lucas explained that while visiting doll makers in Nikko, he learned that the head and body of the doll were made from two different pieces of wood.  When the head of the doll was twisted on it would squeak.  A homemade spindle gouge is used to make the hole in the body for the tendon of the doll head to fit in.  These artists have been creating dolls in this manner for centuries, yet two hundred miles away turners have never heard of a spindle gouge.  Perplexed by this seemingly lack of sharing between woodturners, Lucas wondered what causes the lack of communication between such talented and gifted artists.  He found that the answer lies in that of a strong tradition within the Japanese culture.  Many artists learn their craft from family members, which pass their knowledge down from generation to generation.  Lucas met families where many members were experienced in the same craft.

Feeling inspired beyond woodturning techniques and finishes, Lucas and Minako convey their utmost appreciation to the AAW and FEWS for what they describe as the opportunity of a lifetime.  Both young artists experienced cultural diversity, shared memorable experiences and gained knowledge in the world of woodturning. 

The success of this premiere project was astounding, and could only be made possible by the gracious generosity of groups and individuals. The AAW EOG Committee would like to thank everyone who participated in this project.  For it is with your support and dedication that we can continue to provide education, information an organization in encouraging growth in the field of woodturning.



            Mark St. Leger, (AAW VP & EOG Chair), with contributions by those individuals and groups involved in this project.