Published in the Journal of The Irish Woodturners Guild
by Peter Lyons
Frank Fox is a very special wood turner, a member of the Down Chapter. Frank is 93 years young. I had occasion to visit Frank recently in his workshop close to Ballynahinch, to see his set up and get a feel for the man. I was welcomed like a long lost cousin and brought into the kitchen for a cup of tea and some freshly baked scones and jam, produced by Frank's wife Annie. It was Annie's birthday that day, so it developed into a birthday party. In the kitchen was another gentleman waiting for Frank. In his other role as a JP, Frank was able to help this man with his driving license application. There appears to be no end to Frank's talents.
Frank is a wonderful character, full of stories and a font of knowledge. He is still actively working and making pieces both for his own enjoyment and also is the wood turner of choice for the company that makes the Game of Thrones television series. Frank regularly gets calls from HBO, the film company, to make pieces for the set of this very successful series. These are mostly normal woodturnings that most Woodturners could tackle.
Frank also has a wonderful machine that he has developed himself over the years that enables him to repeat patterns on his turnings.
The machine is a lathe bed mounted on a set of strong legs. Atop the lathe bed at one end are a set of geared cogs that work through a gearbox to enable Frank to index accurately up to 960 different positions. At the other end of the lathe bed is another motor that is capable of driving cutters on the same axis at the turning, or at 90 degrees to that axis. Frank's set up would be at home in Heath Robinson's workshop. It is not make believe, it works very well. Frank can also use this setup to make twisted spindles and also put flutes onto pieces very accurately.
Frank's wonderful machine is in an upstairs shed close to his house. He then took me to his other workshop, further down the yard. What an Aladdin's cave. No new modern lathes here, everything is from an earlier era. It is all working and used by Frank regularly. There is a lot of history in Frank's workshop, if walls could talk. Frank told me how all things worked, he showed me drawings of spindles he was making for the Dracula movie to be filmed in Belfast. He showed me a wonderful spindle steady that works on a bearing and holds different sized spindles by the use of wedges.
Back at the house Frank showed me the dining table and chairs he had made some years ago, as well as lots of embellished bowls and spindles, they are all over his home. Frank is the sort of man that if a visitor says they like something, he gives it to them. Frank and his wife are a breath of fresh air. I am really glad that I took up Tony Rea's idea of visiting them. They are a credit to the Down Chapter and the IWG. Of the 5 chairs in this years Chapter Challenge, Franks Fox's influence was very evident in the Down Chapters entry. I hope I can stay as fresh as Frank in my oncoming dotage.