Previously a cosmetic dentist, Housley has recently taken up carving wood instead of teeth. “It is just another form of arts and crafts!” Housley has been dabbling in woodworking for the past forty years, and only began specializing in turning after retiring. Housley turns small functional pieces such as finger bowls, pepper grinders, cheese platters, tooth pick holders, etc.
Ornamental wood turning was an all-but forgotten art form until just over a decade ago when Rose Engine lathes were produced again for the first time since the 1800’s. Back in the British Industrial Revolution, these complicated lathes were incredibly expensive to build and tricky to use, so only royalty could afford the expenses of using one. The Rose Engines used by the European royalty turned out figurines and intricately lidded boxes: often in ivory or exotic African hardwoods.
Several years ago, a clockmaker and machinist from Pennsylvania began attempting to recreate the manufacturing of a Rose Engine, and has so far produced over 70 machines. These machines, thanks to modern equipment and materials, can be produced at a much lower cost than those of the early 19th century. Housley is the proud owner of Engine 38: currently the only Rose Engine in Maine!
But what does the Rose Engine actually do, you ask? The basic structure is that of a normal lathe: a block of wood can be placed in the center of the machine and spun, so that the carver can quickly and easily turn out something like a bowl or chair leg. The Rose Engine is unique in that it has special cams which can move in an out, as well as up and down and side to side, of the block of wood while it is spinning. This allows for detailed designs to be cut into the wood (in a similar manner to how a spirograph draws out patterns). Because the Rose Engine is so rare, and its uses are so varied, Housley has said that he hates duplicating pieces. “It’s boring, to duplicate” he says, when there is so much possibility in what can be turned!