Mal Partridge

Mal Partridge
MSSW Club undated photo

Written by Jeffrey Keller

Mal Partridge, former MSSW secretary and newsletter author passed away peacefully recently in Braintree. He was 96 years old. A member of the Massachusetts South Shore Woodturners almost since it’s beginning in 1997, Mal was a major contributor to the club. He instituted the club newsletter publishing text and photos of monthly meetings at the shops of different members (before Hank’s Dust Bowl became the official location) with “Hands On” demos, “How To Projects” and Show & Tell.

The club was an early member of the American Association of Woodturners and early on through Mal’s efforts decided to enter the AAW Challenge competition for the 1999 meeting (which did not come to pass until the following year for the June 2000 event.

Through observing an original SOPWITH CAMEL aircraft on his computer, Mal was impressed with it’s GNOME rotary engine movement and it’s similarity to turning wood on a lathe. The aircraft engine’s cylinders rotated while it’s pistons and crankshaft were stationary.

Wooden replica of the GNOME rotary engine.

Mal convinced club members that the group had the wherewithal to make the 400 parts for a half scale replica of the motor. He learned that a retired rear admiral, Lauren McCready had done a thesis on plans for the Gnome engine and lived in Rhode Island. Mal drove down to see him and found him out back outside. He introduced himself and informed McCready of the club’s intent to recreate the engine as a club project. McCready’s reaction was to send Mal a detailed drawing of the Gnome engine’s cross section from his article along with various photos of the engine. The result was the club entered a complete 50 % scale model into the AAW competition winning third place.

Of course the Gnome rotary engine wasn’t the club’s only AAW challenge. Despite a third place award, it was thought that we could do better.

Replica of the RHODE ISLAND state capitol dome.

So for the June 2002 AAW symposium, the club decided to construct a scale model of the Rhode Island state capitol dome. Fourteen club members -again with Mal’s considerable help put together a Chapter Collaborative Challenge which won first prize in the Technical category. It is on display today in the Rhode Island State House in Providence outside the senate chamber.
Mal instituted monthly challenge projects with the newsletter as well. One such project was a scratch awl. The metal shaft was a drill twist turned around and inserted into a turned wooden handle leaving the smooth end exposed. It was supported by a brass feral from the local plumbing supply which was shaped to fit onto the end of the wooden handle.. Usually plans or their source were included with the challenge. If members elected to take on the challenge, they usually learned new ways to solve problems that invariably arose in completing the task. They were good learning tools.

Mal had a sense of humor also and he liked puns. You never knew what the headline on the next newsletter would be Some samples;
“We got a belt out of seeing the antique lathes at Holly Hill Farm” (belt driven) – November 2006
“We wish yew a Merry Christmas” -December 2006
Well I’ll be Bedan” -August 2007
“Take your Pick” (with four photos of toothpick holders, the month’s challenge) February 2008
“We’re having a party – wood you please come?” -December 2001
All vintage Mal.

Mal was an active member of the club until failing eye sight and other health issues forced him to step down as club secretary in 2010. He continued to produce the newsletter until the end of that year. He nevertheless followed along on club meetings and activities from home with his wife Gloria.

follow this link to view Mal’s obituary