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Blind veteran Bill Mooney shows that woodturning can be an activity for all

A military charity's recent 100th anniversary celebration provided a surprising reminder of the value of woodturning, even for those who one might have imagined would be excluded from it. Many a shopper in our store here at The ToolPost would be astounded at the suggestion of someone being a skilled woodturner even without the gift of sight - and yet, that is precisely the case for Bill Mooney.

The 72-year old, of Annfield Plain in County Durham, was present at the birthday bash of Blind Veterans UK at the Thistle Hotel in Newcastle upon Tyne earlier this month. Bill wished to thank the organisation for its assistance when retinal detachment meant that he began losing his vision. The great-grandad joined the Royal Artillery in 1964, serving in the UK prior to being discharged as a gunner in 1969. The charity was formed in 1915, and provides lifelong support to ex-service men and women who have lost their sight.

Bill has said that although he can see colours and movement, his vision is blurred, adding: "The best way to describe it is - when you come out after a shower and your mirror is steamed up, that is what I see. When your vision is affected, you can get a great sense of isolation. You don't feel as though you are a part of what is going on."

The loss of his sight caused Bill to presume that he would never be able to resume his woodturning hobby. He was happily proved wrong, however, when Blind Veterans UK helped him to adapt his methods so that he could continue producing his work. He even made a special centenary bowl from Burr Elm, presenting it to the charity.

As Bill explained: "They helped me to retrain and use different techniques so I could continue with my hobby. I now make things like pens and hedgehogs and sell them in aid of the charity. I don't know how to describe the change in my life, apart from that my whole outlook has gone from half-empty to half-full."

We're lucky enough to have met the man himself, through his tutor Andrew Hall, a long-time friend of The ToolPost. Andrew knew Bill before he lost his sight, and while he was already a keen and skilled turner, he understandably lost confidence in his craft following the loss of his sight. With the help of Andrew, we were very happy to help Bill regain his confidence in woodturning through the provision of tools and advice in how to adapt his existing skills in order to take into account his blindness.

Here at The ToolPost, to say that we are impressed by both the charity's work and Bill's wonderful woodturning would be an understatement. It is certainly a story to remind yourself of if you are making any excuses of your own to avoid getting back into woodturning, whatever your own circumstances.

Editor's Note: The ToolPost ( is represented by the search engine advertising and digital marketing specialists Jumping Spider Media. Please direct all press queries to Louise Byrne. Email: or call: +44 (0)20 3070 1959 / +34 952 783 637.

1997-2010 P. Hemsley.  The information on this website is the copyright property of Peter Hemsley.  Coeur du Bois and The ToolPost are trading styles of Peter Hemsley.  Whilst reasonable efforts are made to ensure the accuracy of information presented, no liability can be accepted for errors in this information nor for contingencies arising therefrom.  If you are inexperienced in any aspect of woodworking, we would strongly counsel that you take a course of formal instruction before commencing to practice