Starting Out

Mike was born in Birmingham, England in 1943. He trained as a civil engineer at Birmingham and Loughborough universities, and worked on construction projects in England and Scotland. He emigrated to Sydney, Australia, in 1969, and worked there as a civil engineer for ten years.

In 1975 Mike was inspired by Peter Child’s book The Craftsman Woodturner to take up the craft. Mike was able to undertake the 3-year trade course in woodturning at Sydney Technical College because it was run by the the School of Building and Mike was a civil engineer. A year later he also started the 3-year trade course in cabinetmaking at the same college.

Mike’s Woodturning

After completing both courses, Mike started turning professionally in his garage in 1979. A year later he moved to a leased workshop in the inner-Sydney suburb of Chippendale. As the business expanded, eventually employing 5 turners and a cabinetmaker, it moved to larger premises in nearby Alexandria. Mike Darlow Woodturning undertook every type of turning work including restoration, replacements, patternmaking, and architectural and furniture components. The two main specialties were columns up to 6 metres long, and lamps. Giftware, gallery and craft items, and pieces for interior designers were also important. The business had twenty-one lathes, both hand and automatic, and much special equipment was developed. The depth and breadth of the woodturning experience thus gained is reflected in the wealth of detail and practical discussion in Mike’s publications and magazine articles.

Mike also produced pieces for exhibitions held by the Woodworkers Group of NSW, and two one-man exhibitions: the first at the Old Bakery Gallery in Sydney, the second at Canberra’s Red Hill Gallery.

Mike works are included in the collections of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; the Pinto Collection, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, UK; Rockhampton Art Gallery, Queensland; Boston Museum of Fine Art, USA; and the National Museum of China.

Some examples of his gallery items are shown below.

A stool in ash

The solid wood used is paperbark, Melaleuca quinquenervia. The body of the teapot is made from the plywood and metal angle of a tea chest

My Lopez design of chess set. The objective was to design a set which would be easy to turn. Note how the body of the knight is tilted, so that the piece represents a charger’s head and neck

Woodturning articles and books

Mike’s first woodturning article was published in 1981 in Fine Woodworking magazine, and more than 200 articles later he is still one of woodturning’s most productive writers. In 1992 and 1993 he was the woodturning writer for the English magazine The Woodworker. He also wrote a long series of design articles for each issue of the American magazine Woodturning Design.

Mike wrote his first book in 1981, but after being let down by several publishers, he and his wife started The Melaleuca Press (named after the genus name of the Australian paperbark trees) in 1985 to self-publish The Practice of Woodturning.

The Darlow family decided to “go bush” in 1995, and moved to the 350-soul village of Exeter, halfway between Sydney and Canberra. Once there, Mike first revised his book The Practice of Woodturning, but saw that it could be improved by using many more illustrations, and by having them in colour rather than black-and white. (The costs of colour printing had dropped substantially during the preceding decade.) Mike also saw that by producing an integrated series of books he could present much more information much more efficiently. The first book of the series was The Fundamentals of Woodturning (1998) which covers the basics and superseded the earlier The Practice of Woodturning. Woodturning Methods (1999) and Woodturning Techniques (2001) cover a host of special methods, for example, turning spheres. The next book, Woodturning Design (2003), is the outstanding text on the subject. Turned Chessmen followed in 2004. There was then a gap until Useful Woodturning Projects in January 2021. Mike is now busy on the seventh book in the series.


In 1993 Mike’s first video, the 7-hour The Practice of Woodturning was published. It is now available as a DVD. In 2006 he published the high-definition, 3-hour DVDs Sharpening Woodturning Tools. The DVD The Taming of the Skew was published in February 2007.


In the early 1990s Mike started a very successful woodturning school at his premises in Alexandria. In his teaching He focusses on the basics, and is constantly refining his knowledge of their “how” and “why”. He believes students progress best through gaining a thorough understanding of the basics and the problems turners have because understanding banishes fear and allows self correction. He does not believe that there is such a thing as advanced turning, there is instead doing the basics better and applying them to new situations.

Few amateurs turn competently, not because it’s difficult, but because they haven’t devoted about 40 hours to disciplined learning and practice. Only when the technique hurdle is cleared can turners start to widen their horizons and find real fulfillment and enjoyment. Why when they can turn wood for several decades beginners are so reluctant to commit those few hours to start properly Mike cannot understand.

Mike has taught in Australia, New Zealand, the island of Jersey, and England, and has made five teaching tours to Canada and the United States, and demonstrated at the American Association of Woodturners annual symposium.

Woodturning memberships

Mike is a founder member of the American Association of Woodturners. While living in Jersey between 2006 and 2009, Mike was involved in starting the Jersey Woodturners’ Group. Mike has been an active member of the Southern Highlands Woodies branch of the Sydney Woodturners’ Guild for more than 25 years.

Accounting book

As explained on the accounting book page, when temporarily unable to continue professional woodturning while living on Jersey, Mike conceived a new and graphical way to represent accounting information, and wrote a book to explain it.

A faceplate fully-turned in jelutong

Loading a tallowwood central column for a pole house

The Russian caravan teapot. It pours

Mike’s stand at the Sydney Interior Designer’s Show in about 1990

A hackberry bucket

The hackberry bucket apart