Gary - the serpentine stone turner
“ I’ve been turning since I can remember, standing on a stool to reach the lathe with my fathers assistance”
For those of us who live in the lovely land we call home, ie Cornwall, you’ll be more than familiar with the fact that we have an abundance of tin, copper and other minerals. What you might not be too familiar with is that Cornwall is one of only two places in the UK where you will find Serpentine stone. A stone that I’d never heard of until I popped down to the Lizard and met up with Cornwall’s youngest Serpentine Turner, Gary. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been down to the Lizard but Ive never noticed Gary’s workshop before.
Gary’s family have been in the business of turning serpentine stone for generations. It was his grandfather who started the business back in 1945 after he left the Merchant Navy. When he retired, his father took over. Gary remembers the experience of turning stone as a young lad. Standing on a stool in order to reach the lathe whilst under the instruction of his father. However, Gary chose engineering as a career at first but soon returned to the family business and has been turning serpentine stone ever since.
Gary’s workshop was raw. It was full of old school tools that had been passed down over the years. Tools that had been specially made by his father and grandfather before that. His lathe looked homemade too. A huge leather belt driving its motor. Gary gave me a visual lesson on how you transform a raw piece of stone into one of his finished designs. I stood my distance as the lathe fired up and watched as Gary shaped the stone. Within minutes, the stone began to evolve into a more manageable shape and Garys design unfolded, a lighthouse. Further polishing followed and within 20 minutes or so the piece was completed. The beauty of working with serpentine stone is that each piece thats worked is different to the last making each one unique.