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Maurice Franklin, Wood Turner

December 24, 2010
by the gentle author

If you were to rise before dawn on Christmas Eve, and walk down the empty Hackney Rd past the dark shopfronts in the early morning, you would very likely see a mysterious glow emanating from the workshop at the rear of number forty-five where spindles for staircases are made. If you were to stop and press your face against the glass, peering further into the depths of the gloom, you would see a shower of wood chips flying magically into the air, illuminated by a single light, and falling like snow into the shadowy interior of the workshop where wood turner Maurice Franklin, who was born upstairs above the shop in 1920, has been working at his lathe since 1933 when he began his apprenticeship.

In the days when Maurice started out, Shoreditch was the centre of the furniture industry and every premises there was devoted to the trade. But it has all gone long ago – except for Maurice who has carried on regardless, working at his lathe. Now at ninety-one years old, being in semi-retirement, Maurice comes in a few days each week, driving down from North Finchley in the early hours to work from four or five, until eight or nine in the morning, whenever he fancies exercising his remarkable talent at wood turning.

Make no mistake, Maurice is a virtuoso. When rooms at Windsor Castle burnt out a few years ago, the Queen asked Maurice to make a new set of spindles for her staircase and invited him to tea to thank him for it too. “Did you grow up in the East End?” she enquired politely, and when Maurice nodded in modest confirmation of this, she extended her sympathy to him. “That must have been hard?” she responded with a empathetic smile, although with characteristic frankness Maurice disagreed. “I had a loving family,” he told her plainly, “That’s all you need for a happy childhood, you don’t need palaces for that.”

Ofer Moses who runs The Spindle Shop – in the former premises of Franklin & Sons – usually leaves a list for Maurice detailing the work that is required and when he returns next morning, he finds the completed wood turning awaiting him, every piece perfectly achieved. But by then Maurice will already be gone, vanished like a shade of the night. So, in order to snatch a conversation with such an elusive character, a certain strategy was necessary which required Ofer’s collaboration. Early one frosty morning recently, he waited outside the shop in his car until I arrived, and then, once we had checked that there was a light glimmering inside the shop, he unlocked the door and we went in together to discover the source of the illumination. Sure enough, the wood chips were flying, accompanied by the purr of the motor that powered the lathe, and hunched over it was a figure in a blue jacket and black cap, liberally scattered with chips and sawdust. This was Maurice.

Unaware of our presence, he continued with his all-engaging task, and we stood mesmerised by the sight of the master at work, recognising that we were just in time to catch him as he finished off the last spindles to complete a pristine set. And then, as he placed the final spindle on the stack, Maurice looked up in surprise to see us standing there and a transformation came upon him, as with a twirl he removed his overall and cap, sending a shower of wood chips fluttering. The wood turner that we saw hunched over the lathe a moment before was no more and Maurice stood at his full height with his arms outstretched, assuming a relaxed posture with easy grace, as he greeted us with a placid smile.

“This firm was the wood turning champion of Britain in 1928,” announced Maurice with a swagger. “Samuel, my father, had been apprenticed in Romania and was in the Romanian army for two years before he came here at the beginning of the twentieth century, and then he served in the British Army in the 14/18 war before he opened this place in 1920. He had been taught by the village wood worker in Romania, they made everything from cradles to coffins. All the boys used to sleep on a shelf under the bench then.”

Maurice told me he was one of a family of twelve – six boys and six girls – and he indicated the mark in the floor where the staircase once ascended to the quarters where they all lived. “I started when I was thirteen, I’ve still got my indenture papers” he informed me conscientiously, just in case I wanted to check the veracity of his claim, “I took to it from the start. It’s creative and at the end of the day you see what you’ve made. I’m proud of everything I do or I wouldn’t do it.”

In spite of his remarkable age, Maurice’s childhood world remains vivid to him. “Here in Shoreditch, ninety per cent were Jewish and the ones that weren’t were Jewish in their own way. Over in Hoxton, they’d take your tie off you when you arrived and sell it back to you when you left – but now you couldn’t afford to go there. In 1925, you could buy a house in Boundary St for £200, or you could put down a pound deposit and pay the rest off at three shillings a week. I was born here in 1920 and I went to Rochelle School – They won’t remember me.”

The only time Maurice left his lathe was to go and fight in World War II, when although he was offered war work making stretcher poles, he chose instead to enlist for  Special Operations. Afterwards, Franklin & Sons expanded through acquiring the first automatic lathe from America, and opening a factory in Hackney Wick to mass-produce table legs. “Eventually we closed it up because everyone was getting older, except me.” quipped Maurice with a tinge of melancholy, as the last of his generation now, carrying the stories of a world known directly only to a dwindling few.

Yet Maurice still enjoys a busy social calendar, giving frequent lectures about classical music – the other passion in his life. “I especially like Verdi, Puccini and Rossini,” he declared, twinkling with bright-eyed enthusiasm, because having made chairs for the Royal Opera House he is a frequent visitor there. “I like all music except Wagner. You’ll never hear me listening to Wagner, because he was Hitler’s favourite composer.” he added, changing tone and catching my eye to make a point. A comment which led me to enquire if Maurice had ever gone back to Romania in search of his roots. “I’ve got no family there, they were all wiped out in the war. My father brought his close relatives over, but those that stayed ended up in Auschwitz.” he confided to me, with a sombre grimace, “Now you know why I wanted to go to war.”

And then, after we had shared a contemplative silence, Maurice’s energy lifted again, pursuing a different thought, “I remember the great yo-yo craze of the nineteen thirties,” he said, his eyes meeting mine in excitement, “We worked twenty-four hours a day.”

“What’s the secret?” I asked Maurice, curious of his astonishing vitality, and causing him to break into a smile of wonderment at my question. “All you’ve got to do is keep on living, and then you can do it. It isn’t very difficult.” he said, spreading his arms demonstratively and shaking his head in disbelief at my obtuseness. “Are you happy?” I queried, provocative in my eagerness to seize this opportunity of learning something about being a nonagenarian. “I’ll tell you why I am happy.” said Maurice, with a grin of unqualified delight and raising one hand to count off his blessings, “I’ve got a wonderful family and wonderful children. I’ve been successful and I’ve got an appetite for life, and I’ve eaten every day and slept every night.” Maurice was on a roll now. “I was going to write a book once,” he continued, “but there’s no time in this life. By the time you know how to live, it’s over. This life is like a dress rehearsal, you just make it up as you go along. One life is not enough, everyone should live twice.”

There was only one obvious question left to ask Maurice Franklin, so I asked it, and his response was automatic and immediate, with absolute certainty. “Yes, I’d be a wood turner again.” he said.

“I wake up every day and I stretch out my arms and if I don’t feel any wood on either side, then I know I can get up.”

Maurice’s handiwork.

Ofer Moses, proprietor of the The Spindle Shop

Maurice’s service book from World War II.

Maurice as a young soldier, 1941

Maurice as a child in the nineteen twenties, in the pose he adopts leaning against his lathe today.

The figure on the left is Maurice’s father Samuel in the Romanian army in the eighteen nineties.

Samuel Franklin as proprietor of Franklin & Sons, Shoreditch.

Maurice Franklin

Photographs copyright © Patricia Niven

You may also like to read about Hugh Wedderburn, Master Woodcarver

126 Responses leave one →
  1. jo watts permalink
    December 24, 2010

    i loved reading this :0)

  2. aubrey Silkoff permalink
    December 24, 2010

    Wonderful piece. I laughed out loud at the self deprecating humour of the man.

  3. Zeph permalink
    December 24, 2010

    “I wake up every day and I stretch out my arms and if I don’t feel any wood on either side, then I know I can get up.” Wonderful!

    I’ve often gone past the spindle shop on the bus, and never imagined that this amazing man worked there at night, like Rumpelstiltskin in the fairy tale…. London is full of secrets…

  4. jeannette permalink
    December 24, 2010

    merry christmas, dear gentle author. i think of you and your cloud of witness so often. best wishes for the new year and for your magnificent labor of love.

  5. December 25, 2010

    Hi Maurice

    I hope that you are reading this or that someone will draw your attention to this response.

    Rochelle Street school ?…………….. me too!
    Family of 12 kids ?…………………. mine had 11 🙂
    Hackney Road ?……….. my uncle had an engineering unit there (Goldstein) that used to service your trade.
    Interviewed by the Gentle Author ? …………ditto…. fun, wasn’t it !

    Do keep well, there’s not many of us around !

    Belated Chanukah greetings but still in time to wish you a good year in 2010

    Ron Goldstein
    87 years young !

  6. Jim permalink
    December 28, 2010

    Good grief, I used to take pieces of timber in there to be turned, and buy turned spindles from him 25 years ago when I had a workshop on Pitfield Street! I’m pleased to see that Franklins and some of the other woowork and furniture supply places I recall are still there, like D and J Simons, a little further east on Hackney Road. No more Parrys or Tyzack though, alas.

    I’m a long way from Hackney Road these days and I’m amazed he’s still in business and still working at 90 years old. More power to his elbow.

  7. Tim Hitchcock permalink
    January 24, 2011

    A great post – and a wonderful life well spent.

  8. Ernesto Priego permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Lovely, lovely piece. Thank you.

  9. Noodlefish permalink
    January 24, 2011

    A lovely piece. Thank you for giving me a glimpse of the past in the present.

  10. January 24, 2011

    Beautiful interview and story. Thank you.

  11. Sally W permalink
    January 24, 2011

    I don’t recall how I came across this page, but i’m jolly glad I did. Short well written insight into a gentleman that could keep us all engaged for days on end.

    The BBC should get hold of this and run something with it; from this snippet, it would be well worth doing.

    Thank you very much for introducing me – loved it.

  12. Clare permalink
    January 24, 2011

    This is so very neat, I would be honored to have something made by this gentleman

  13. Byanyothername permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Really good read, thank you for sharing.

  14. January 24, 2011

    What a wonderful blog post and such beautiful craftsmanship!

  15. Sune permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Thank you very much for an interesting and heartwarming read.

    Sune, Denmark.

  16. Robin permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Great post, pass on my regards.

    Hold on to life while you have it.

  17. Ashe Faelsdon permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Excellent article… would have been nice to see more of his work… I’m sure it’s spectacular…

  18. Eric permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Loved this. Tell your grandfather that he is an inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Deborah permalink
    January 24, 2011

    This was amazing to see. So much creativity matched with dedication and truly beautiful craftsmanship. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  20. Rebecca permalink
    January 24, 2011

    What a remarkable man. I am also Jewish, and hearing about his father and his family brings back to memory all of the wonderful and also tragic stories my grandfather shared with me about our family in the war. His lust for life is infectious. I think I love you, Maurice!

  21. Jenny permalink
    January 24, 2011

    I think it’s amazing that in his service book from the war that it says Wood Machinist…and that its still a passion he grew to love!

  22. charles davis permalink
    January 24, 2011

    this very inspiring story god bless

  23. Edward permalink
    January 24, 2011

    What a wonderful philosophy on life, and what a wholesome person.
    When you see someone who has done work like this, and created such outstanding works of craft, as I would doubt he would allow them to be called art, you realize we have really lost something in our desire to have an inexpensive, mass produced world. Please keep up the work for another 90 years!

  24. James Cotton permalink
    January 24, 2011

    This is very interesting, it looks like this man does some great work. Mr. Franklin has inspired me to take a woodworking course.

  25. January 24, 2011

    Simply wonderful and amazing. And I mean that about both the artist and the art. The world needs more people like Maurice or more stories about people like him.

  26. January 24, 2011

    Good read!

  27. Hamish permalink
    January 24, 2011

    This is a fascinating article about a fascinating man.
    Thankyou for sharing.

  28. joe permalink
    January 24, 2011

    wow amazing,what he dosent know about wood isnt worth knowing!

  29. January 24, 2011

    Great photos and a nice piece!

  30. January 24, 2011

    Thank you for writing this post, beautiful! I’ve spoken to a few wood turners before and I always get inspired by their passion for their work. “I’m not the one shaping the piece of wood, I just see what lies within and set it free for other to see”.

  31. January 24, 2011

    Amazing story!

  32. beth permalink
    January 24, 2011

    what a great article. everyone has a story.

  33. Ace permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Wonderful article. I wish I were in need of some spindles!

  34. Victoria Jarvis permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Sir, it was an honor to read about you. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us.

  35. Kristin permalink
    January 24, 2011

    I love this story. =) It makes me smile. I’m always afraid of growing old, and I’m worried that I’ll come to a point where I won’t (or can’t) enjoy life any more. This is how I want to be when I’m in my “senior” years… what a beautiful trade, what a beautiful man, and what a beautiful life. =D

    ps — reddit sent me. <3

  36. Christie permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Fascinating, I don’t know why but this piece resonated within my soul. Never shall true craftmanship and art be lost, I hope.

  37. John permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Very cool. I hope I love my work as I grow to Maurice’s age.

  38. Curtis permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Interesting story about an inspiring gentleman. It was a pleasure to read your story.

  39. Matt Herren permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Makes me nostalgic for a time and a world in which I never got to live.

  40. January 24, 2011

    This is the most wonderful thing I have read in ages.

    “I had a loving family,” he told her plainly, “That’s all you need for a happy childhood, you don’t need palaces for that.”


    You are lucky to have your grandfather and he is clearly very lucky to have you as a grandchild.

  41. Dylan permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Such a great man!

  42. Deby permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Oh my gosh! He is sooooo cute! – and I love that he works with wood. Gotta love a man who works in wood!!!

  43. Richie permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Many more fine artists will be lost when the age of 3D printing comes into full effect.. Furniture, figurines, pottery and sculpture will all be available for download.

  44. Kevin permalink
    January 24, 2011

    This is why we must treasure our elders and look after them. What an inspiring man.

  45. Alex permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Nicely written piece. Best wishes for Maurice!

  46. Alex permalink
    January 24, 2011

    Hi this is truely art !

    You are very talented !

    It’s amazing to have all this experiences to share to the world

  47. sara permalink
    January 24, 2011

    a beautiful life lived with wood.

    simplicity and dedication within your art to find mastery.

    a lovely human.

  48. January 24, 2011

    What a wonderful story. Thank you for writing about Mr. Franklin and telling a story that is beautiful because it is the story of a life well lived.

  49. January 24, 2011

    Craftsmanship and care are somehow lost on a vast number of people in this great country. The fact that you remain dedicated to the fine detail of your work, that you care so much for your craft is an inspiration to me.

    This country is heading for a rebound in all things artisan. Multinational, global, greedy corporations sucked the craft out of life, and their time is coming to an end. The world we will build will be a testament to the world you created, you maintained, you perpetuated through your life’s work.

    My deepest and most heartfelt thanks,


  50. John permalink
    January 24, 2011

    I just love it. Keep on turning.

  51. Josh permalink
    January 25, 2011

    That’s an awesome profession! My father has a serious hobby with woodwork, keep it up that’s spectacular work!

  52. Perry Young permalink
    January 25, 2011

    What would I give to know what you know
    To be able to turn the raw stuff of trees
    into beautiful pieces of useful materials
    to be made into fine furniture or useful objects.

    I would so much love to learn how to do even a tiny tiny bit of what you have known how to do for most of your entire life.

    I stand in awe of true craftsmanship!!!!

  53. sweenis permalink
    January 25, 2011

    beautiful craftsmanship

  54. luciano permalink
    January 25, 2011

    In an era of instant gratification, it’s work like this that really should inspire people to do something about their lifes; with passion, devotion and care.

    Keep up the great work!

  55. Melissa Mixon permalink
    January 25, 2011

    Just lovely!!!

  56. Nick permalink
    January 25, 2011

    A fascinating article about someone who really knows how to live life and, the profession he loves. The world would be a much better place if it was full of more people like Maurice.

  57. dar permalink
    January 25, 2011

    This inspires me to never give up on my dreams no matter how hard it can get sometimes. 🙂

  58. John Lifer permalink
    January 25, 2011

    There aren’t many left like Maurice…….
    I’m a hobby turner and I’m in awe of the men who have done this work day in and day out for decades. Astounding. Beautiful work and all by hand.
    God Bless!
    May you turn for another decade!

  59. January 25, 2011

    Wonderful story. Thanks so much for posting this – the tale and the pictures. There are so few Maurices left in this world. It’s good to celebrate them.

  60. January 25, 2011

    Truly, truly beautiful. This article inspired me to finish my bookcases today. Never give up!

  61. kevintravels permalink
    January 25, 2011

    What a wonderful character!!! He sounds like someone you could talk to for hours about his life, his craft and his philosophy. He looks great for his age. You can see that all those years of doing what you love, surrounded by family that you love and having a great out look on life really is good for you.

  62. DK.Milgrim-Heath permalink
    January 25, 2011

    Such A Gentle Proud Man
    By D.K. Milgrim-Heath©2011
    Such a gentle proud man-
    I lovely history of his began.
    We learn about the history of spindle making-
    How one man apprenticed that job for life for his taking!
    He started working at his lathe since 1933-
    Maurice Franklin’s still doing it today this we see!
    At 91 quite the true age being that of semi-retirement –
    Even Queen Elizabeth II knows how good his work is so for palace repairs he is sent!!
    The Queen thanked Maurice Franklin for his repair work honored him by joining her personally for tea-
    So happy Her Majesty was by Maurice’s beautiful splendid new spindles for her Windsor Castle you see!
    The Queen spoke to Maurice of his background of so many years ago-
    A hard family life they had- he explained to Her Majesty but his loving family gave him a happy childhood one should know.
    The only time Maurice’s lathe was set aside when he fought in World War II-
    But when he returned home his job he went back to it with gusto anew!
    The second lifelong passion he has is classical music being a Royal Opera house visitor often there-
    Because he made chairs for them dedicated with care.
    Happiness he says is due to his wonderful family and children-
    Being successful and counting his blessings daily then.
    If a profession can be done over what would Maurice do-
    Again he’d be that same wood turner again too!
    Yes-Maurice Franklin teaches the rest of us that life’s like a dress rehearsal so treat it nice-
    Even I learned from this lovely story so I’ll take also this dress rehearsal advice!

  63. Lacey permalink
    January 25, 2011

    Amazing story, really enjoyed it! What an amazing life!

  64. January 25, 2011

    Further proof that everyone has a story to tell. Some people just need a little help getting their story told. Cheers.

  65. DeRee permalink
    January 25, 2011

    Great work! What an inspiration..

  66. SueB permalink
    January 25, 2011

    A lovely and uplifting story about a gifted man and his craft. I hope such skills live on, if only in a few people.

  67. January 25, 2011

    Your grandfather seems awesome. I hope one day I can be a master at something, like he is with his wood turning. Also seems like a great way to get out of the house and away from the wife. Currently I don’t have a craft that can get me out for sanity restoration. If I did, I’d be in the garage, radio jamming, making cool stuff like your grand-pappy. Cheers!

  68. Donna Adcock permalink
    January 25, 2011

    What a beautifully written story. Wood-turning becomes romantic. Who knew?


  69. January 25, 2011

    I also happen to be a woodturner. I can’t imagine doing anything else for a living. Maurice is one of the few old-time production turners still around. I’d love to meet him.

  70. Barbara permalink
    January 25, 2011

    What a great story and a nice man! We need more people to come back to this type of work in the States too. This would give us furniture made with fine workmanship rather than the poorly made furniture we receive from overseas. This would provide jobs for people who enjoy working with their hands. There is a real art to this.

  71. Anthony permalink
    January 25, 2011

    Inspiring Great story and photos. Keep our traditions alive or civilization will crumble!

  72. January 25, 2011

    I love bad ass old guys, great photos too!

  73. January 25, 2011

    What an amazing post. Thank you.

  74. Tarik permalink
    January 25, 2011

    I love this.

  75. January 25, 2011

    U think he wood b open to place his creations to be captured ? With his blessing of course. His craftmanship, knowledge and comments, to be shared via webcam or clips. We all might not have time to write a book or get life completely right. I don’t know about you but feel a little more at easy for my dress rehearsal now!

  76. January 25, 2011

    Great story and pictures! Thank for sharing! I recall yo-yo’s made a comeback when I was in high school in the 90’s, but then they were all plastic with flashing lights and noises. I’d love to get a hold of some good wooden yo-yo’s.

  77. Polly permalink
    January 25, 2011

    What a beautiful craft!

    I remember when I was a little girl, I watched on a PBS show as a man worked with a lathe to create legs for a table. It stands out as a vivid memory (next to that, a segment about blowing glass) and I have always wanted to witness it in person. It always struck me as fascinating how the delicate touch of a tool could create smooth sweeping curves in wood while leaving feather light wooden ringlets in its wake.

    Beautiful story overall. Thank you for sharing.

  78. Richard permalink
    January 25, 2011

    Beautiful work and an inspiring story!

  79. Espen permalink
    January 25, 2011

    This guy is a boss, no doubt!

  80. Briah permalink
    January 25, 2011

    Wow just wow. What a wonderful story. I was feeling a little uninspired. We all look for inspiration and stories that warm us inside they are food for the human spirit. We don’t really know it we just have this feeling inside that tells us we need warmth. The stories and the spindles warmed me. Everyone has a magic ability to create magic and share it. Not many choose to do so. Thank you for the magic.

  81. Andy permalink
    January 25, 2011

    What a great story.
    I’d love to still be wood turning when I’m Maurice’s age.

  82. January 25, 2011

    Wonderful article! I never actually considered the work that goes into woodturning. Thank you for opening my eyes to something new!

  83. Larry Yeary permalink
    January 25, 2011

    I met a gentleman in Harvest, AL, in response to a friend of ours that helped us find a source for wood shavings. We have several horses and were looking for a good source. The gentleman answered the door with a cane and a hesitant step, and I learned that he suffered from MS. Despite this challenge, I was given the great opportunity to look at pictures of his past accomplishments with wood, as well as projects in progress. The only word I have for all of this is “unbelievable”. The work he does is just excellent. So, he has invited me over to teach me the trade, on small things to start with, and I was alway saying I didn’t have the time. Well, now I will make the time. Excellent story.

  84. January 25, 2011

    Truly remarkable life and craftsmanship! Thank you for posting!

  85. Carole T. permalink
    January 25, 2011

    What a wonderful story. Please keep up the great work all you artists out there. And be sure to teach someone else so the magic will never disappear.

  86. January 25, 2011

    What a wonderful story about a remarkable man. And after all these years to be still love what he does .Many more years to him God Bless .

  87. Jim Thomas permalink
    January 26, 2011

    As a novice turner, I’m astounded by the skill and patience of anyone who can turn art from blocks of wood. I aspire to find some relative percentage of Maurice’s skill someday. Reading this article gave me new vision and will to achieve that success. Keep on turning, Maurice.

  88. pete permalink
    January 26, 2011

    Being a wood turner my self I stand in aw of this lovely trades man he is an inspiration to anyone who would like to follow in his footsteps. A man I would love to meet

  89. Scott Beverley permalink
    January 26, 2011

    We look around ourselves and see the things we accumulate, all the time thinking how successful and proud we are with ourselves. Then we look closely at someone like Maurice and realize just how poor we are for not embracing life. Here is a man who has lived two lifetimes. One in the enjoyment and opportunity to become a master in his craft. One in his gift of giving to mankind. When youth today look at high tech jobs with all there stress and long hours and know that they will sustain their live with this craft, knowing they will never truly enjoy themselves as Maurice has, it make one wonder.
    I hope Maurice lives as long as his enjoyment of his craft endures.

  90. Romaine permalink
    January 26, 2011

    A fantastic story, people my age could learn alot from this gent.

  91. Abigail Kettlewell Shiley permalink
    January 26, 2011

    This is a lovely article. I have always admired craftsmen who can make such beauty come from such seemingly plain things (wood, rock, etc.). My mother once worked with a man who, before his passing, was one of the last master carvers in marble, who even made some of the gargoyles on the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

    It makes me sad to know that as the world becomes more automated, there are not many artisans like Mr. Franklin left, and less people interested in learning the wisdom that could be learned and passed on.

    Mr. Franklin seems to have had a wonderful life, and I love that he has all of his memories with him, and photos from another time, and an honest sense of humor.

    Thank you ever so much for sharing his story!

  92. RICHARD HARDING permalink
    January 26, 2011

    Your work and life are fantastic ! I have been a wood shop teacher for 35 years and a wood wooker as a student from a youth for 10-12 yars before that. I certainly have no where near the skill on a lathe as you do as a master SIR ! I have a QUESTION FOR YOU MASTER:
    I received a walking cane – stick of @ 1.5 ” dia. – for Christmas that is a two colored wood ( walnut and oak ) laminated stock that has been turned in the form of a “scew” OR “HELIX” ( a full turn over @ 6″, over the lenth of the cane 4 full turns in 24″) , and then a head attached. I am curious as to how this perfect “screw” was turned on a lathe. I can see how it could have been turned on a “machine lathe” with a power feed tool rest and cutter, but I was told that the craftsman did not have a power feed for his tool rest and cutter and it was done entirely by HAND.
    Do you have any idea how a MASTER could have achieved such a beautiful carving without a “power feed tool rest”?
    I will gladly provide a photo if you would like ,SIR.
    Kind Regards,
    Richard Harding

  93. Gee De permalink
    January 27, 2011

    A wonderful story, of a wonderful man…x

  94. Stephen Vishnick permalink
    January 28, 2011

    I always knew Maurice was a special person and this article confirms it.
    To spend even a few moments in his company with his equally special wife Pearl is a most uplifting privilege.

  95. David Jackson permalink
    January 29, 2011

    The Italians value their artisans and craftsmen; we in the UK do not, generally speaking and so we have the lamentable situation of the death of apprenticeships. At 50 if I could have my time over, I would learn bread baking or knife honing and would have resisted the channelling down the academic route which I eventually went down. We need to rethink Education in the UK especially after Thomas Armstrong’s Multiple Intelligence work at Harvard ( Manual intelligences are no less valuable than others. Instead of flooding the market with, as in my case, Modern Languages graduates, for whom there are no jobs (I know of only a handful of my class of 79 who actually use their foreign languages acquired through massive effort and no little expense); government should plan a little based on need. But, oh no, perish the thought, that would be too socialist – insufferable halfwits all. If I was in London I’d be begging this man to teach me all he knows.

  96. John permalink
    January 30, 2011

    Nice that the Queen invited Maurice to tea but an opportunity missed to give him a much deserved honour.
    Pop stars and show business ‘luvvies’ cannot hod a light to this man’s skill and dedication.
    I served a five year apprenticeship in engineering, so appreciate the artisan’s approach to life. Hand skills will soon become a thing of the past without people like Maurice to pass them on.

  97. Robert Briggs permalink
    January 30, 2011

    He is a MAN!

  98. January 30, 2011

    I imagine that I’m not the only musician who identified with this craftsman well before the article disclosed his passion for music.

  99. Dana Christensen permalink
    January 30, 2011

    For a long time I thought that life was focused around how much you made and was happy. When a friend introduced me to wood turning I took to it like a drowning man to air. I now realize that the arts and crafts era of life are fading like the last glimmers of light of winter. As these great masters move to the stage of their final performances and leave this dress rehearsal we that are left lose a great amount of knowledge. More than we will ever know.
    By this story I am renewed to peruse this knowledge to every length. To become a renascence man of sorts. To maybe some day become well enough versed in the arts that I might be able to pass on this wisdom and keep our past alive.
    Maurice, I hope and pray that before you finish this dress rehearsal that you pass on as much knowledge as possible, and may your tools stay ever sharp and your hand as steady.
    With great respect and admiration.

  100. B Choate permalink
    January 30, 2011

    Fascinating read. What I find most interesting is how a very intelligent individual like him can do something so repetitive, yet he not only maintains his focus, but loves it. A skill like that can be attained by most of us, but to keep it fresh, not let one’s mind wander and as a result make errors takes a very specific sort of mind. Kudos to the man for a life well-lived. We should all be so wise.

  101. January 31, 2011

    Loved this post. Brought to mind something about the sanctity of work, and how keeping focused on the now (which you must do when operating machiney) can be very freeing. Maurice is a great role model, and this was a beautifully put-together piece.

  102. Syd Lorandeau permalink
    January 31, 2011

    I only wish that I found turning a long time ago, it is now way to late to reach the level of Maurice but after this article I will try.
    It is extremelly hard to understand what his race went through and still have his great positive attiude.

  103. Jed Dyke permalink
    February 1, 2011

    An outstanding story about an outstanding man! Thank you!
    Rosamond, CA, USA

  104. Marta Sandberg permalink
    February 2, 2011

    Thank you for a very interesting article and the quote at the end was fantastic “I was going to write a book once, but there’s no time in this life. By the time you know how to live, it’s over. This life is like a dress rehearsal, you just make it up as you go along. One life is not enough, everyone should live twice.” by Maurice Franklin, wood tuner to the Queen, age 91.

    It’s a pity that people like that never consider living a second life through cryonics.

    Long life,


  105. February 5, 2011

    A very good story about a man that served his life to his talent. An achievement almost nobody can do today. I am Romanian and I read it after I became attracted by Maurice’s ancestors’ origins.

    The man is a good example of joy. Being joyful means being thankful to every positive thing life had for you. Maurice’s story is the story of an attitude.


  106. Beverly permalink
    February 8, 2011

    Delighted that my step-father has been acknowledged in this article. He is a lovely man and deserves all the nice things said about him.

  107. Bari watts permalink
    February 9, 2011

    Fascinating Stuff!……..This is a wonderful website!

  108. Malcolm permalink
    February 9, 2011

    I really enjoyed seeing that, especially as I have done a little wood turning myself. I’m a little younger than Maurice, so perhaps I can do some more!

  109. Ofer Moses permalink
    February 18, 2011

    I have had the pleasure of knowing maurice for over fifteen years, my only regret is that i wish i had met him earlier. He is the most fantastically wonderful person i have ever met, and continue to have the pleasure to work with. I wish him many happy years ahead

  110. Helen Goldfarb permalink
    February 22, 2011

    What a lovely story and what a fantastic man. I enjoyed this article very much.

  111. Pamela permalink
    February 24, 2011

    This was a wonderful article, and Maurice is a beautiful man! Thoroughly loved the storey.

  112. Jackie Siess permalink
    July 3, 2011

    Thank you so much for this wonderful article. Your web-site is always such a delight to read.

  113. Sally Smith permalink
    July 10, 2011

    A lovely article. Journalism at its best. Wonderful to see a true craftsman still at work.

  114. Gillian permalink
    August 27, 2011

    This is my uncle and my grandfather – I never knew he was in the Romanian Army as a young man!

  115. Calvin permalink
    September 14, 2011

    Truly Nice article.. Felt a warm and pleasant comfort. It made you almost fell as if you were in the wood shop with him. Truly Nice ..

  116. Michael permalink
    February 4, 2012

    Very good reading I like your photos and your knock on wood theory.
    Be gezunt see you in school as usual.

  117. Carry Franklin permalink
    February 24, 2012

    What a beautiful article about my Great Uncle Maurice. I remember visiting Hackney Road as a child, coming to work with my father, Irving, who managed the company. I loved watching Uncle Maurice at the lathe – the smell of the wood shavings and the sense of a small hive of industry tucked away from the rest of the world.

  118. Clare permalink
    March 28, 2012

    I am so proud of my dear dad who so deserves all the recognition. Happy 92nd Birthday for Friday! All my love, Clare XXXXXXXXXXXX

  119. Belinda permalink
    March 28, 2012

    Thanks for all your lovely comments about my grandpa! I have collected them into a scrapbook for him, since he does not have access to a computer, and I will give him the scrapbook for his 92nd birthday present in 2 days time. I have no doubt he will very much enjoy reading them all and would want to express his gratitude to each and every one of you. May we all have such happy and fulfilling lives 🙂

  120. gerald gosbee permalink
    July 31, 2012

    I to am a wood turner an turned all my life . started at 14.. now at 75 yrs and the wood is very poor to when i started…..

    now turning is done by CNC us old fellows are not required or the
    skills we took years acheave……

  121. Laurel Nygate permalink
    October 16, 2012

    I loved reading this article, which I came across as a result of ‘Googling’ Arnold Circus in Shoreditch. My grandparents lived at 279 Hackney Road, where my grandfather had an engineering workshop which was continued by my father until his retirement. Originally, three families shared the property at 279, each occupying a floor. There was no inside bathroom, just 2 toilets in the outside yard. But my memory only recalls the workshop on the ground and basement floors, with my grandparents and aunt Fay living upstairs. For about 10 years I did my father’s invoicing for him, and Franklin & Sons was certainly one of his customers. When I was a teenager I knew twin sisters, Bonita and Caroline Franklin, and I’m sure they were closely related. Looking at comments from other people, I can see that my dad’s cousin, Ron Goldstein has made mention of my grandfather/father’s engineering workshop. The workshop had a very distinctive smell and when my father finally left the premises (about 1985), he gave me a bag containing screwdrivers of different sizes and a few handy items, and I kept the items in this bag for many years because the smell reminded me of Hackney Road and I just found it comforting!

  122. Greg permalink
    November 12, 2012

    Wish you had interviewed this man on camera and put him on utube.
    This was awesome

  123. Sonia permalink
    November 13, 2012

    What a sweet old gentleman! It’s wonderful that all the old skills have not been lost to a world of mass production factories. Maurice, long may you make beautiful things out of blocks of raw wood. Shalom!

  124. August 9, 2013

    My Uncle Maurice is the last surviving member of a family of strong-willed individualists, girls as well as boys, who always made the very most out of life! That’s why he’s still going strong and keeping us all young!


  125. Fauvel permalink
    February 20, 2017

    Wonderful to read and see that articles with photos….more interesting than any Vogue magazins …that article roots us in to real life, the photos are great ( sorry i am not english ,si i write with mistakes)

  126. Martin permalink
    September 16, 2023

    Well done Maurice
    Lee on turning, your a inspiration to all.

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