Bendigo's eager beavers

WHEN Jeff Willey joined the Bendigo Woodturners club in 1998, he was planning for his retirement.

But 14 years later, Mr Willey is now the president of the group and was recently made a life member at the club’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

“I just wanted to do some woodwork and, by accident, fell into the wood-turning side of things,” he said.

“I hadn’t done anything (when I joined). I had no experience whatsoever.”

Mr Willey spent 23 years in the army with the survey regiment at Fortuna. He then transferred to the public service for 15 years, before retiring last year.

“You can plan for the financial side as much as you want, but that’s only half of it,” Mr Willey said.

“You need at least one hobby, if not two.

“I’m also with the Bendigo Fly Fishers, so I’ve got an outdoor and indoor hobby, as well as a couple of kids and four grandkids. 

“So my time’s well spent doing more of what I want to do.”

Mr Willey said the amount of experience and quality of teachers in the club made it easy to learn the art of wood-turning.

With 115 members, including 26 ladies, the club is constantly busy giving demonstrations to community groups or turning out items for organisations such as Palliative Care, St John of God Hospital, the CFA, scout troops and schools.

“A lot of the ladies are eager to learn new skills. Some are the wives of members who see what’s going on and say, ‘I can do that’ and off they go,” Mr Willey said.

“They are very good at the fine work that goes into the items. 

“We had a lady join recently. We helped her make a jewellery box and now she’s right into it, despite the little experience she’s had.”

The group is also busy making toys for St Vincent de Paul and to send to East Timor.

“Quite a few items go into raffles – we run a huge one over Easter, including stuff like a miner’s couch or a rocking chair,” Mr Willey said.

“About 100 hours worth of work goes into stuff like that.”

Mr Willey said the wood-turners only used wood that had fallen down. 

They never cut down trees for themselves.

“People ring up and say they’ve got a tree cut down and we go and get it, put it through the slabbing machine, air dry them at the club and cut them into what we want to make,” he said.

The wood-turners can be found in Eaglehawk Road, in a building that was once the Hopetoun Band Hall.

They have spent a great deal of time renovating and extending the building, which is owned by the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

“We’ve been lucky to get a number of grants from various governments and programs,” Mr Willey said.

“We put about $30,000 of our money into it and spent about 7000 man hours working on it.”

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