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Mike McKinney Woodturning

Biography of a woodturner

Mike McKinney is a fourth generation woodworker who had an opportunity to work in the shop with both his dad and granddaddy.  His granddaddy, Paul, was his most impressive hero and was very pleased when Mike was with him in the shop.  “Granddaddy made me a workbench from an old wooden crate, he attached a V-block for planing against, gave me a Staley #4 plane, a hammer, all the nails I wanted, a handsaw and scraps of wood.  He was happy for any time I might be able to spend with him.”

Mike’s Daddy, David, was a furniture builder.  He bought a Delta lathe in 1960 which he intended to turn spindles and rounds with.  He began to see bowls turned (Rudy Osolink was his inspiration) and became an accomplished side grain turner after Mike left home.

In 1993, David visited Mike in Murphy, NC, for the purpose of visiting Lissi Oland’s open house and shop space she had revamped after the death of her husband, Knud.  Mike was intriqued with Lissi’s work which he would call, “rustic, natural edge, original,” very well shaped and finished with mineral oil, all kinds of forms, vessels, pots, etc.

So, with that inspiration, Mike asked his dad, “How much would it cost for me to start turning?  $500? His dad responded, “No, Son, it would cost a lot more than that.”  He began combing the pages of the local advertiser and found an ad where a fellow wanted to sell his lathe, tools and workbench for $150.  That was the beginning.  A cheap entry level, (or below) table top lathe with enough spindle turning tools to work and a “want to” to learn.

Mike brought the lathe home and set it down in a vacant corner of the garage.  After a short span of time his wife, Vanessa, said, “What are you going to do with that?”  The only truthful answer he could think of was, “Maybe I’ll make some shavings.”

A few weeks later after lots of shavings he (sort of) completed a pretty little bowl.  He carried it to Vanessa, “Do you think I could learn to make bowls?” Her answer was, “I think you have.”

Mike knew that there would be many more shavings, skill learning and refinement; he still knows that fact.  He would tell you today he tries to learn something each time he works in his shop.

Mike was active in the NC Woodturners group while his dad’s health allowed him to go, and currently the Carolina Mountain Woodturners where, in both clubs, he has had the benefit of seeing and hearing world class woodturners describe “what and how they do it.” He took a week long class with John Jordan (his favorite woodturner) at Appalachian Center for Craft in 1994.  He might say he is self-taught, but would give a lot of credit for these exposures.  He says, “The turning clubs and associations are so very helpful and information to turners and collectors at any level.” 

For several years Mike was not turning as his career as a banker progressed and he had not taken the time to have a place to work  In the winter of 2006, he found himself homebound due to the cold and snowy weather.  He pulled out his lathe and some tools and found out how much he enjoyed and missed turning.  Within a few months his shop was designed, planned, and under construction.

Mike reports, “That was a great day when the shop was complete.”  Very few days have passed since, that Mike is not doing something in the shop.

Today, you may find Mike roughing or finishing his utilitarian wares, working on a natural edge bowl, making a lid for a lidded bowl, turning an ornament, or possibly embellishing a near finished piece.  He enjoys each operation and hopes to be turning, learning, and helping others for years to come.

biography of a woodturner photos

Vanessa & Mac

My biggest supporter and fan has always been Vanessa.  Whether it was the first little bowl I finished or the last one, she is always available for encouragement.

I was very tickled one day recently when I had finished some bowls and set them on the table for her perusal.  When I came back, she said, “have you only put one coat of finish on that bowl?” I answered, “No, it is finished.”  She said, “I believe you need to do something else to it, it doesn’t look right.”

Now I know that she wants to make sure the products we sell are as good as we can possibly make them, my quality control person is in place.

Vanessa will probably be the contact as you look at our inventory or ask her to help you find that special piece for yourself or for a special gift.

We can’t have a website without our house/shop dog being mentioned and recognized.  His name is Mac and he is a Boykin Spaniel.  

When you come for a visit, Mac will greet you with a bark, a jump, and to make Mac’s day, just speak or touch him.

Mac, being the shop dog, is frequently covered in “Daddy’s” wood shavings.  He loves to help his Daddy and his Mommy is frequently cleaning the wood shavings off of Mac!

He provides us a lot of joy and we have never known anyone who likes dogs to not like Mac and he them.  Sometimes he may over love our visitors, but his good nature will win you over.


Anne Warren captured the story of her Mother’s red maple tree which was part of our family’s history with Lake Junaluska and the old red house.  Mike McKinney used his wonderful skill to make beautiful and permanent reminders of the story through five large wooden bowls.  Mike carefully and thoughtfully turned each bowl and then named them:  Miss Annie, Bursting, Methodist, Oxford, and Hummingbird.

Today, one bowls is at our home on Oxford Road at Lake Junaluska and one is at our home in Birmingham.  Each of our three children have a bowl turned by Mike McKinney and we are forever grateful.

Anne and Mike Warren

Annie’s Tree – Once it was decided that the tree needed to be taken down, we determined to find a wood turner who might be interested in capturing some art objects from the wood.

We found Mike McKinney in Waynesville, North Carolina, after seeing some of his work displayed in a local gallery in Waynesville.

Over the several months of this project, Mike and his wife Vanessa became our partners in this project and our friends.

Annie's Tree - The red maple shown behind The Mountain House is at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.  It was planted by Annie McLeod sometime in the 1930's

We receive wonderful testimonials from our clients...

A note from mike about family projects

Some of the fun projects through my shop are the one’s where there is a special tree involved, ususally a family home property, and that tree has meant a lot to the family because it contained a swing, the tree house, was a shade tree for the family, produced wonderful fruit or any number of things that made it special to the family.  Eventually, the tree falls, or has to be cut for whatever reason.  Someone in the family then takes it on themselves to memorialize that tree by having something made from it.

I have had the pleasure and responsibility of working on several of these commissioned projects, whether a tree was located within a footprint for a new home, or a tree planted by a family member years ago, or a tree that was in the front yard as the kids grew up.

Customers always seem pleased with the outcome and to be able to look at the turned and crafted pieces and know that even though the tree is not standing anymore, it is still with them to look at and feel of every day.

Availability: By appointment only


18 Nottingham Road
Maggie Valley, NC 28751, USA

Call Today: 828-926-7655

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