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Just about the only part of the Symtec that ever wears out is the cutter. Mine were both worn down to the last little stub and only held in the Tool Jig by the front edge of one grub screw. Symtec had gone out of business, leaving me to my own devices. I had tried to get a local toolmaker to make one for me, but it was not a success. He must have used poor quality steel because bits flaked off the cutting edge when I was turning soft pine table legs, and the central v groove had somehow become more of a u groove. Then, two or three years ago, I spotted a mention in the Australian Woodworker of someone offering Symtec cutters for sale. I rang the phone number in the magazine and had a long chat to Lloyd Russell in South Australia where the Symtec originated. I bought two cutters from Lloyd for myself and one for another member of the Victorian Symtec Network. Lloyds cutters were cheaper than Symtecs had been and held a sharper edge. I found that I could peel a stream off Red Gum whereas previously it used to come off as dust. Over the next couple of years, Lloyd and I were in contact from time to time and he sent me a video disc of some turning, which took place at one of the South Australian Symtec Users monthly get togethers. When I mentioned to Lloyd that my wife and I were thinking about a couple of weeks holiday in South Australia, he invited me to attend one of their monthly get togethers. So to cut a long story short we spent an interesting afternoon with the South Australian Symtecians and their wives after an excellent BBQ lunch. We were knee deep in Show and Tell items for a long time. Most of the accompanying pix were taken by Greg Eustice of the Adelaide Symtecians.

This sign caught my eye outside Lloyds house. The last time I saw it was at the Symtec Factory.

Lloyd Russell, our host for a memorable afternoon, was part way through making this beautiful classic style wine table in Cypress

These are just a few of the many eye-catching pieces the South Australian Symtecians brought along for Show & Tell

Believe it or not, the speckles are actually hundreds and thousands

The magnificent spinning top below was hardly your average finger spinner. In fact it was the biggest I had ever seen. It was made in two halves; if you look carefully you can just make out the join. It is hollow and hums because the double holes on either side are slightly off-set. A powerful electric drill was needed to start it spinning, but once it was turning it spun for ages.

Icy Pole Sticks believe it or not

Apart from the turning skills of the South Australian Symtecians I was greatly impressed by their ingenuity in making the cutters and scrapers below from valve stems out of old engines, which just happen to be a perfect fit in the Symtec tool jig. The night before this memorable get together at Lloyds home I thought I had come up with a brilliant idea for a round nosed scraper. When I mentioned it to Lloyd the next day, he said, Oh, do you mean one of these? Reaching across to a nearby shelf he handed me the round nosed scraper third from the right in the left hand pic below. Once again I had re-invented the wheel, so to speak.

Ray Horrocks was kind enough to give me two of these valve stems. Neville Condie, of the Barwon Valley Woodwrights, ground them into similar shapes for me.

I have found the round nosed scraper perfect for finishing off the inside of bowls and the golf club cutter allows me to under-cut bowl lips much better and deeper than the proper Symtec cutter, particularly if I work from the back side of the lathe. This might seem a bit awkward and kack-handed the first time you try it, but it works really well. You can see right into the part of the bowl which is being cut and up under the inside of the rim without twisting your neck. Those of you whose Symtec stands hard up against a wall should think about repositioning it so that you can also work from the back sometimes. This can make life so much easier.


South Australia does not seem to have woodwork growing on trees like Tasmania where every tourist information centre stocks plenty of goodies for woodies. Although my main objective of meeting up with the SA Symtecians had been achieved, I kept an eye open for more woodwork. The Design Centre in Adelaide had a very small number of high quality woodwork items. I came across a handful of wineries which had small galleries offering local crafts, including an occasional item of woodwork, but they were few and far between and the standard was ordinary. One historic winery had some interesting old wooden items like this turned handle for a two man cross cut saw.

The Maritime Museum in Port Adelaide has a wonderful collection of ships figureheads carved and painted. It would be well worth the entry money just to see these.

I suppose in the 1880s tradesmen had the time to turn fancy handles like these in the historic horse drawn tram shed at Victor Harbour.

Hahndorf is a picturesque historic tourist trap, with every business anxious to part you from your money; nevertheless I was delighted to stumble across a couple of woody treasures. At their Saturday market, on the small village green, I found some wood carvers demonstrating their considerable skills. They were advertising the South Australian Woodcarving Academy in nearby Adelaide.

Alongside this tiny market was a gallery called the Hahndorf Academy? Amongst all sorts of art works and historic artefacts was some superb wood turning by Charles Greig and John Beswick. Their own words describe the background to what I thought was a small exhibition revealing a very high order of skill of the sort that always inspires me to try harder.

John Beswick

Charles Craig

Sorry, but I cant now tell who made which piece. --ooOoo The only other place that I came across in SA of the remotest interest to a woodie was a small display of very large and excellent pix showing the process of oak barrel making. I stumbled across this by chance at the Wolf Blass winery while my wife tasted their wares.

--ooOoo-From South Australia I returned home via Mildura to make contact with the Mildura Woodturners & Woodworkers who exchange Club Newsletters with my other Club, the Barwon Valley Woodwrights. The Mildura newsletter had always struck me as the most interesting, so I was keen to meet some of their members, in the hope that I could learn the secret of their motivation with the aim of applying it to BVW.

They operate under the umbrella of MADEC and have their own large workshop which is very well equipped with solid professional level gear. This was undoubtedly their greatest asset. Members really didnt need their own home workshop, because they could make almost anything at the club in an atmosphere of camaraderie, encouraging the exchange of ideas, unlike my club which only meets for a couple of hours twice a month. On a personal note, I found their dust extraction system so impressive I installed a couple of overhead air filters when I got home.

Mildura residents often notify the Club when a tree becomes available to harvest. The Club has the use of a large industrial yard where they store a lot of timber, much of it slabbed and properly stacked for air drying. During what the Club calls the Merry Month of May, woodies from far and wide are invited to attend. They can purchase as much of this timber as they as they can haul away.

Apart from the workshop pictured above, the Club also runs a small workshop at the old Mildura Homestead, which is a tourist attraction on the bank of the Murray River. Members are rostered to do regular demos for the tourists. Apart from being fun it also gives them a retail outlet. All in all the Mildura woodies must be one of the most enthusiastic and well resourced Clubs in Australia and well worth a visit if you are within striking distance. Indeed, I was tempted to move to Mildura after this brief visit. --ooOoo-The last leg of this Woodies Odyssey was the home stretch from Mildura back to Geelong with a short pause at Hamilton to visit the workshop of Andrew Alstin, the famous furniture maker and restorer. [Just Googlehis name - his website is well worth a look]. Or have a look at the Australian Wood Review no. 41 of 2003. On a bleak and blustery afternoon Andrew was busy in his cosy workshop which is very well appointed and quite roomy. His Symtec can be seen in the pic below. As far as I could tell during my short visit, Andrew is less concerned with the artistic side of woodturning, but rather sees his Symtec as a means to an end, namely producing legs, finials and the like, for his furniture making.

Andrew showed me the special router holder he had had made to mount his router vertically. I think the idea is to use a straight cutter with a bearing that runs on the template to give a better finish on the legs he turns.