For our summer Field Trip this year we visited Mark Supik & Co., a production woodturning shop in Baltimore, Maryland. Mark Supik & Co. is a family-operated business employing ten woodturners and artistic finishers. Their shop is currently located in southeast Baltimore City, in the Orangeville Industrial neighborhood. They have been turning wood since 1981, producing custom architectural millwork for historic restorations and wood turned products for furniture makers. In 1995, they began making beer tap handles for the craft brew industry. Tap handles now comprise as much as 50% of their business, and they ship them all across the country. On weekends, the shop becomes a woodturning school, offering all-day classes for hobbyists, tradespeople, artists, and crafters.
At around 10 AM on Saturday morning, July 21st, eighteen First State Woodturners Club members and guests arrived at Mark’s shop. Mark and his wife Nancy greeted us in the front office with donuts from a local bakery, and gave us a brief overview of their operation. We then all moved out into the workshop for a tour of the facilities, including descriptions and demonstrations of the various equipment.
Mark has been buying old woodworking machines since 1981, restoring and modifying them for production use. His current collection of lathes were mostly rescued from local schools and industries. They include 7 vintage Olivers (one with a 96″ swing!) and a 1927 American that will turn a 14 foot column with a 30″ diameter.
Other shop equipment include an 1876 wooden-wheel left-handed Atlantic band saw, and a 1943 Oliver face plate lathe that will turn up to 40″ diameter curved mouldings. Two high-production copy lathes are used for turning beer tap handles and for high volume spindle copying jobs.
During the shop tour, Mark demonstrated and operated several of the lathes used for their production work. He also showed us how he duplicates a spindle or baluster by hand. Mark’s tool of choice for spindle work are detail spindle gouges, but he is also quite proficient with the skew. In the photo below, the original that Mark is copying can be seen on the lathe bed, just below his right hand.
To wrap up the tour, Mark showed us his method for turning a bowl. Starting with an approximately 8″ blank between centers, Mark shaped the exterior and formed a tenon. He then used a 4-jaw chuck to grip the tenon while he hollowed the bowl. Mark’s emphasis during hollowing was to keep the wall and bottom thickness consistent to minimize the chances of the bowl cracking as it dried.
Before leaving, our group enjoyed a catered lunch provided by a local Italian deli. Thanks again to Mark and Nancy Supik for an excellent and informative morning! Additional photos from the day can be viewed at the First State Woodturners photo archive.