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Southington man’s wood projects win awards

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series of Saturday profiles of area residents and their stories. To suggest a profile, contact features editor Burton Cole at bcole@tribtoday.com.

SOUTHINGTON — When Paul Santone Sr. wants to spend the day relaxing, he goes to his garage, where he has set up a shop for his wood-turning equipment.

With his tools and talents, he crafted several segmented wood-turning bowls that earned first-place honors this summer at the Ohio State Fair.

His decorative bowls built from pieces of various sizes, wood types and designs also have been featured at both the Trumbull Art Gallery and the Butler Institute of American Art.

“We were on vacation once, and a lady was interested in the bowls that I made. She suggested that I enter the bowls in the Ohio State Fair. That was a couple of years ago, and I did not have any bowls ready,” Santone said.

He began working on the showpiece bowls in February. One bowl took three months to complete as it has 555 pieces. He entered three bowls and won with two.

“I was very surprised I received two first places. There are some wood turners whose work would blow your socks off. I have seen their work, and there are wood turners who do really great work,” Santone said.

One prize winner had varied designs and shapes focusing on the skill of woodturning. The other featured an Ohio theme with state flags crafted from wood pieces, as well as block letters — from real blocks — of O-H-I-O. The third bowl with a zig-zag design did not receive any award.

Santone said the Ohio State Fair was the first time he has entered the bowls in a contest and was surprised he had such success in winning the top prize twice.

“When you enter the state fair, there are so many bowls. To win first place was fun. Everyone got a kick that I won first place. Carmen, my brother, was surprised,” he said.

WOOD TURNING

Wood turning is the craft of using a lathe with handheld tools to cut a shape that is symmetrical around the axis of rotation. Like a potter’s wheel, the wood lathe is a simple mechanism that can generate a variety of forms. The operator is known as a turner, and the skills needed to use the tools were traditionally known as turnery.

Santone said he created a room in the garage with the equipment, materials and books he needs.

With many of his woodturning projects, many different wooden pieces are cut at different angles. The pieces are stacked in different sizes and the bowls built from there.

“It takes a couple of months to complete a bowl. You can give different designs a try. I will start off with one design, and then I try something new,” he said.

LEARNING THE CRAFT

In the late 1970s, Santone had done woodworking but slowed down with the activity while raising his family and working.

“After my children were adults and I retired in 2012, I got back into woodworking. I was making wooden tables and chairs,” he said.

It was his wife’s great-uncle Ken Betterker who got him interested in woodworking.

“He had a table saw and the tools. It was always interesting to see him work. Uncle Ken was the guy who helped me get started in woodworking. There was no doubt about that.” Santone said.

While doing woodworking, he saw a book on woodturning and started giving that a try.

“I really can’t do anything else but this. It is really relaxing for me,” he said.

A DAY IN THE SHOP

Santone said he begins his day with a cup of coffee and then heads out to the garage for pre-planning of his bowls.

He uses graph paper to sketch designs from the computer or books for the bowls.

He said one bowl at TAG in Warren was to be raffled off with Patricia Galgozy, director there, telling Santone people loved the work he did.

Santone said he makes three to four bowls each year. He said in addition to bowls, he also has made boxes and trash cans.

“You have to have the patience to do this,” he said. “You see people who do quilts, and I wonder how they can do that. When you like something, you find the time.”

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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