The Ginger wood turner February 01 2016

He’s an unusual mix of wood turner, male model and photographer. Oh, and he has an impressively fulsome and impeccably-maintained ginger beard, which gives Bavarian Franz Keilhofer his unique appearance and name for his business – Ginger Wood.

We persuaded Franz to dwn tools and come out of his workshop in south east Germany to chat about his work with wood. And, of course, that beard!

Hi Franz, tell is a little about where you're based?

I’m based in a small town called Bischofswiesen in the very south-east of Germany in Bavaria. Some of you may know the Watznann, the Königssee or the Eagle's Nest, that's where I live.

How did you start wood turning?

I started woodturning in my garage, with all of my remaining money spent at (what I thought at least) everything it needs to become a woodturner: a lathe, a chuck, some basic tools and a grinder. I'm completely self-taught, which has been a process of trial and error, but I prefer to figure out techniques on my own, since handing down knowledge from generation to generation sometimes leads to a lack of innovations.

What is it about wood turning that appeals to you?

I can do everything on my own. From selecting the tree, cutting it down, making blanks, seasoning the wood, turning it into something useful and/or beautiful, to the photos of the finished products. Everything lays in my hands.

What products do you generally make?

wood turned bowlsI prefer to make wooden bowls. I make simple bowls for everyday use, as well as gallery pieces. Some other things I make are hollow forms, pens, spheres and some other useful things for kitchen.

Why do you work in wood over other materials?

It’s pretty easy to work with compared to other materials like stone or metal. And if you mess up a piece, you can sill use it as fire wood!

Which woods do you use?

Mostly I work with locally-sourced timber. We have our own small forest and there is a lot of wood in my area, so easy access. I try to work with all types of wood from fir to maple. Not every wood turns well, but for me, the result is what counts in the end. I generally work with green wood and turn it into, either blanks (bowlblanks) or greenwood bowls.

Do you fit into any particular design tradition?

I try to keep all of my work simple. I like reduced designs so that the wood is more in the focus because I think it’s not my task to make something fancy or “artsy”, my task is to reveal the beauty that is already in the tree.

How long does it take to make a product?

It depends on the size and design, but just to give you an idea: I can do a small bowl in 40 minutes from scratch. The average time on a medium-sized bowl is about an hour, and the longest time I worked on a bowl was ten hours when I turned my biggest one so far.

wood bowlWhat advantages does working by hand offer?

Today, most spindle turning can be done very effectively by machines, with almost no rework necessary. But sidegrain-turning, especially bowls and hollow forms, will always be done by hand, since you constantly need to adapt your operation mode to the changes in the wood grain. If you want do produce quality work you need to change tools, position, rpm and a lot of small aspects in the way the wood demands. 

Where can we buy your products?

I sell the most of my work in my own shop. It’s directly next to my workshop which is below my flat. So no long ways to walk! I also sell some of my works via selected shopping centres and galleries.

How much demand is there for wood turned products?

There actually is a increasing demand for hand crafted good, since everything in our world keeps changing very fast, people like to have something that represents consistency. The problem is, that in woodturning like pottery, there is a big community of “hobby” (semi professionals) woodturners that overflow the market with too cheap and often low in quality work, making it hard for a professional to earn a living.

You’ve got an impressive beard – how do you stop it getting covered in sawdust and keep it in good condition?

Thanks a lot! First I want to say, that my beard is not only for fashion, it also has a practical benefit, since it protects my skin from abrasive shavings and also provents them from getting into my underwear by passing through my shirt collar. I usually brush my beard three times a day, use a good shampoo and conditioner; that’s all it needs.

As a model (see Franz in action here) and woodturner what does a typical day look like!?

A typical workday usually starts at 7am, when the alarm clock rings. Most of the time I have breakfast with my family and then move on to my workshop. Four days a week I work as a self-employed tutor for maths in the afternoon, so I have to quit working in the workshop at 3pm. I generally do modeling jobs about once a month since I only do (well) paid model jobs! I also do a lot of woodturning demonstrations, classes and workshops at big woodworking supply companies and woodturning clubs in europe.

In the workshop or in front of the camera – which do you prefer?

In the workshop! Basically everything I do apart from woodturning is to support my woodturning business, so the income through my other professions is only to ensure my living and allow me to not do comission work in woordturning.