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Retired math teacher carves a new path

Retired teacher John Mast proudly stands with a selection of his wooden bowls. Photo by Veronica Burniston.

By Veronica Burniston
Freelance Writer

After 42 years in the Johnson County School System, beloved math teacher, John Mast, has discovered a new passion: woodturning.Utilizing wood from his Forge Creek farm and wood donated by neighbors and friends, John has crafted over 300 unique bowls, plates, and cups. He has skillfully created pieces from various types of wood in his workshop, such as cherry, apple, peach, walnut, holly, sycamore, locust, poplar, and butternut. An avid woodturner for nearly two years, John noted how viewing other woodturners crafting bowls online interested him in giving woodturners a second try.

“My senior year in college, I had an elective crafts course. One of the things you could do was use a lathe. I turned two lamps in that class and didn’t enjoy it at all,” John said. “Then [after retirement] I got to watching youtube videos, and they were absolutely fascinating. I thought to myself; I think I’ll try that.”

Promoting and selling some of his work through Facebook, John has sent his handcrafted bowls and plates as far as New Hampshire, Illinois, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Kentucky, South Carolina, and other regions of Tennessee. He noted with pride that some of his customers had been former students and old college friends, each of them longing to own something he created with his own hands.

John has expressed interest in setting up a booth at local craft shows and festivals in the future. His current focus is crafting miniature Christmas trees for this year’s holiday season. With great enthusiasm for the craft, he encourages people to pursue woodturning, especially younger generations who have idle time during COVID.

“If you ever start [woodturning],” John said, “you’re going to be hooked. I’m proud of my work, really, I am. I didn’t know they would turn out as well as they do.”

If interested in learning more about John Mast’s work or purchasing a crafted piece, go to to set a shopping appointment at the Arts Center or visit John Mast’s Facebook page.

John Mast demonstrates his woodturning in his workshop. Photo by Veronica Burniston