Sandie Croft and Ray Charsley – a talented couple!

Turning around 2020

Many of my friends are musicians and this year has been hard for them, to be stuck at home with little or no gigs, the detrimental impact on their income and not being able to do what they love the most. It is not just the enjoyment of playing, it is the pleasure that they get from the audience’s reaction, from entertaining and providing joy to others through their music.

Musicians Sandie Croft and Ray Charsley are fortunate in that they are both talented in other ways, turning what were initially hobbies into another source of income.

Ray was 14 when he started playing cornet with the Salvation Army. His father insisted he learn a trade, so he became an apprentice tool maker’s machinist and then worked as an engineer making surgical instruments.

Inspired by The Beatles who were just arriving on the scene, Ray learnt to play the guitar, joining different bands as a singer and working in some big venues and often appearing on British TV. He gave up his engineering ‘day job’ when he went on tour for nine years.

Sandie has been a professional singer all her life, having started singing in a local band when she was 15 and performing in holiday camps, pubs and restaurants. After attending Drama College, Sandie was hired as the resident singer at a country club, which is where she met Ray in 1979.

They formed a duo working the club and theatre circuits and Ray also undertook an upholstery course so that he could renovate furniture using his woodturning hobby and old machinist skills. Eventually they decided to tour through France and Spain arriving in Portugal in 1988. They fell in love with the country and the culture, and decided to settle here, forging a successful musical career and working with other local musicians.

Visit to know more about their story.

Whilst they both love performing, the pandemic has meant that they have had more time to pursue their hobbies and also to use them as a means to make a living. Sandie has been an accomplished artist for many years, selling her paintings at local craft fairs and galleries. She also makes wonderful natural soaps having started the craft when she could not buy any for herself locally.

This year Ray has joined Sandie at the fairs because having been used to performing up to six times a week with the New Orleans Jazz Band, he found himself with so much spare time that he began woodturning, something he has always wanted to return to but never had the time or equipment to pursue.

Woodturning is the craft of using a lathe and handheld tools to cut shapes that are symmetrical around the axis of rotation. The piece of wood is secured in the lathe which rotates at high speed allowing for the cutting, shaping and sanding.

Many shapes and forms can be created, and Ray has produced an amazing variety of things. From detailed Christmas tree decorations to beautiful bowls, rolling pins, candlesticks, key rings etc. Each piece is a work of art, beautifully made to show the wood’s natural grain. My favourites are his unique pens turned in pine wood with a gloss finish and with brass fittings.

Did you know that woodturning originated in Egypt around 1300 B.C. The lathe was operated by two people. One would turn the wooden piece with a rope while the other would use a sharp tool to cut and shape the wood.

The Romans improved the design, but it was during the industrial revolution that motorised lathes allowed for products to be made commercially thus reducing the need for craftsmen. Modern woodturners use their skills to restore furniture or to produce customised pieces.

Whilst Sandy cooks up her soap recipes in the kitchen or paints in her studio, Ray works in his workshop shed and he loves every minute. He gets the beautiful mahogany and teak wood from old furniture found next to bins in the streets, or olive, pine and almond donated from friends who are clearing their gardens.

Ray likes working with all types of wood, appreciating their different grains and using their forms and knots to decorate his work with beautiful natural patterns. “I am helping to recycle old furniture by giving it a new purpose. A woodturner must understand the different wood textures and grains to appreciate what can be made from it,” he told me.

“The easiest to work with are woods with straight grains and the hardest are the spiral or interlocked grains. Wavy grains and irregular grains with swirls and twists such as knots give wonderful effects on objects. You cannot work with wood that is recently felled. It must be left for at least a year to fully dry out or it will crack when being worked with.

“Friends are all on the lookout for discarded furniture and I was recently given a beautiful mahogany bedstead which I used to make a specially commissioned Ula Fijian war club. That was an interesting challenge!”

Ula’s are clubs with a ball head which were held with great respect in Fijian society as families passed them down through the generations.

I asked Ray what it was about working with wood that he enjoyed.

“I love the feel of wood and it is a fascinating medium to work with. I like its softness and the smell as I turn it. Wood from olive and almond trees has a lovely fruity smell. I also like seeing the swirls of wood that come off as I turn!”

Ray was also asked to make some hand rails for a friend’s yacht and a ‘spurtle’, a special Scottish kitchen utensil used to stir porridge! The variety of items he can make is incredible and each is beautifully crafted and polished to perfection.

There is a quote heard in woodturner’s circles that says: “When you buy from a woodturner, you get more than the item, you get years of practice, mistakes, innovation and creative inspiration. You not only get a gift, you get part of the artist’s soul.”

I think this applies to all artists and they need everyone’s support this year. Between them, Sandie and Ray can supply you with all your Christmas presents for family and friends. They are one couple that has taken advantage of the 2020 restrictions.

So now you know!

For more information visit:
Facebook: Turners Den

By Isobel Costa
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Isobel Costa works full time and lives on a farm with a variety of pet animals! In her spare time, she enjoys photography, researching and writing.

Sandie Croft and Ray Charsley – a talented couple!
Christmas models
Some of Sandie’s soaps
Some of Sandie’s soaps
Wooden art
Wooden art