Some families go camping. Others go fishing or play golf. The Tolly family turns wood.

It has become a family tradition that now includes three generations who turn wood into artful display pieces, ornate platters, vases, writing pens and canisters for children fighting cancer to hold their “beads of courage.”

The Tollys were among 900 members of the Southwest Association of Turners who are in Waco this weekend for the group’s 26th annual convention at the Waco Convention Center.

John Tolly and his wife, Marcia, of Austin; their son, Johnny Tolly, and his children, JJ and Sohpia, of La Vernia; John Tolley’s twin brother, Jimmy, and his grandson, Andrew, of Dripping Springs, all pitched in as the convention’s operations team and also displayed their skills and wares in demonstrations and collections.

John Tolly said about 1,000 members attended the group’s silver anniversary convention last year in Waco, adding that Hurricane Harvey forced some to leave the show early and kept others from attending.

John, who retired from the Air Force after 26 years, has been coming to the convention for 20 years, while his son, Johnny, who also retired from the Air Force after 20 years, has made it the past 10 years. JJ, a 13-year-old in eighth grade, is a five-year veteran.

Visitors entering the convention Saturday morning could see JJ working on a lathe to make an ornate wooden writing pen, while his father and grandfather supervised. Prominent in a large display room is an 8-foot plant, reminiscent of the giant man-eating plant in the movie “Little Shop of Horrors.”

The colorful wooden plant called “Faerie Wind” took Marty Kaminsky two years to make and is made from mahogany, oak, ash and mesquite.

“You can have 100 different turners and 100 different ways to make the same thing,” Johnny Tolly said. “You can say, ‘Go make a table leg or a platter,’ and they will all be different. And there are many different ways to stain the wood, different ways to finish the wood. Each wood turner tries to put their own spin on it. You can watch a demonstration and say, ‘Oh, that’s the way you do it? This is how I would do it.’ ”

The group started out about 30 years ago with a handful of hobbyists as the Texas Turn or Two, named for the lathes used in their work. The membership now has chapters in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

“It’s a hobby that can turn into a business for some people,” John Tolly said. “Most of the work is more art than functional, but they can be functional, also.”

Also on display are dozens of canisters that were made by association members that will be donated to children with cancer at children’s hospitals in Temple and Austin.

Johnny Toll pointed to one he made, which features a colorful green dragon painted by his wife. He said it took him about four hours to make the wooden canister, which the children will use to store their “beads of courage,” wooden trinkets handed out to the kids after cancer procedures to encourage them to keep fighting.

Besides displays of the ornate wooden items, many of which are for sale, and demonstrations on how to turn wood, the convention also features vendors with tools, air-brushing equipment, lathes, all types of wood and more.

The convention is free and open to the public and continues from 7 a.m. to noon Sunday.

Staff writer at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering courts and criminal justice. Follow me on Twitter @TSpoonFeed.

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