It gets you off the chair in the evening while the television is banging away. I watch the news and get out and do a little bit of wood turning while the rest of the rubbish is on,” says master woodturner Paddy O’Connor as he brushes some sawdust away from the bench.

Paddy would not be shy about telling people to get up and get going.

He left Mullinahone, Tipperary, in 1962 to join the army apprentice school and has been an adopted Lilywhite since, being based out of The Curragh for his working life.

Pierce & Co, Wexford

The Irish Woodturning Guild (IWG) is made up of 18 clubs (chapters) across the island of Ireland, and Naas is home to the midland chapter.

Irish County Living met Paddy and his colleagues in their training workshop over Fay’s Carpentry Store just off the M7. Meeting once a month, this group of professional and hobbyist woodturners are thrilled to have their team effort recognised after winning the chapter challenge (competition to create any agricultural item, modern or historical, found or used on a farm) last autumn when they created a Pierce & Co Wexford seed sower using only turned Irish wood.

Not only taking home the honours for the nationwide chapter challenge, individual honours were secured by chapter chair, Liam Quirke, and the guild’s honorary president, Emmet Kane. It is fair to say this group are reaping what they have sown.

At the Midland Chapter of the Woodturning Guild Paddy O'Connor demonstrated the process of woodturning. Also in attendence were Emmet Kane, Majella Smith, Liam Quirke, Patricia Berns and Noel Roache. \ Philip Doyle

Founded in the ’90s, chapter member and professional wood turner Emmet from Castledermot recalls his early days in wood turning: “There were no classes, no YouTube and very little access to machinery and tools,” he explains.

So, one of the first things he did was join the guild.

Meeting once a month for workshops and demonstrations, it is at these meetings where members share their knowledge and friendship flourishes.

Before we get into how they managed to turn wood into a seed sower, Irish Country Living asks; how does woodturning differ from carpentry, joinery and wood work teaching?

“Carpentry and joinery will be looking for beautiful straight wood. A wood turner will be looking for the stuff with the knots and the holes in it,” says Emmet.

“Wood work teaching will cover a number of topics from joints to construction studies and will include some wood turning.”

“In fact, wood turning can seem a bit cruel – spinning the piece of wood on a machine – whereas carving is done in the hand with chisels,” he adds.

And what is it about wood that is so fascinating?

“Wood is seen as one of the most valuable materials we have as civilized humans. Without wood, we would not have shelter, we could not have cooked food. Wood was the basis of how humans evolved.”

At the Midland Chapter of the Woodturning Guild Paddy O'Connor demonstrated the process of woodturning. Also in attendence were Emmet Kane, Majella Smith, Liam Quirke, Patricia Berns and Noel Roache. \ Philip Doyle

Chapter Challenge 2022

With a brief to create “any agricultural item, modern or historical,” a Pierce & Co seed sower from Co Wexford was decided upon.

“It was one thing we felt we could do with the size requirements. We felt it was something that could be achieved and that it would test the skills of the group,” says chapter secretary, Noel Roche.

With an original Pierce & Co seed sower secured, team member, Eugene Kelly got down to creating drawings that scaled the sower to the required dimensions.

As the original was made of metal, with a lot of rectangular sections, the challenge was to turn these and to retain the true scale of the machine. A competition requirement was to use Irish wood, so the expertise of chapter chair, Liam Quirke, was an advantage here. Having trained as a cabinet maker in the ’60s and ’70s, he understood the different textures that different wood brings to a project.

“We were lucky to have some elm. It is one of the things we won’t have in the future unfortunately [due to Dutch Elm Disease],” he tells Irish Country Living.

Oak was also used, along with beech and ash for the sides. The handles are made from walnut and cherry and the pins are turned bog oak.

“How you can use different woods – one for colour and one for texture –so that when it is finished, it all comes together,” says chapter secretary Noel Roche on what he learned during the process.

From working on this project, Liam sees people are now improving their technique. With his emphasis on the finish of pieces, he sees people realizing the results you get from spending as much time sanding as they do on the lathe (primary tool used for turning wood).

Noel estimates that between the coffee and meet-ups, it took the team of 13 two months to complete the seed sower.

He sees his role as keeping the connection between people.

“It’s great to see new people coming in and to keep them all connected. They don’t believe they have any talent but they do.”

Woodturning women

Chapter PRO Patricia Berns was responsible for the turning of the tiny screws on the seed sower. Having started woodturning just before the pandemic, she sees how much being part of this project has improved her skills.

“Last year I did not have the skill but this year I might do something for the 40th anniversary [of The Irish Woodturning Guild].”

Similarly, Majella Smith is enjoying developing her skills.

“It is a lovely feeling to see the pieces we make,” she says. “Paddy O’Connor is a master craftsman. I am coming to understand the grain, the finish of wood. It is a beautiful material and I want to get better and keep learning about the wood.”

“We have some gifted members,” says Noel. “They are great friends and that’s what it is all about. If we can’t look after one another, what are we doing?”

New members

The IWG would like to welcome new members and are offering three free visits to any of the chapter meetings nationwide. Local chapter details can be found at

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