David Sterling Becomes World’s First One-Armed Professional Bowl Turner

Person holding woodworking tools

If you’ve ever thought of trying your hand at wood turning but were afraid it might be too difficult, here’s a story that may give you the inspiration you need.

After losing his arm in 2004 during his military service in Iraq, combat Veteran David Sterling decided to explore woodturning as a form of therapy for the physical and emotional trauma that resulted from his experience.

In 2021, he applied for and was awarded a complete woodturning setup (tools, supplies, education, and support) by VetsTurn, a program founded by WWGOA editor Paul Mayer and supported by many vendors and members of the woodturning community.

Person doing wood turning

Before long, David had turned over 300 wooden bowls on the lathe that he received from VetsTurn and decided to scale up his operation and launch his own business, Iron Hand Woodworks. To increase his production and allow him to turn larger bowls, he upgraded from his Laguna 1216 to a Laguna Revo 1836 professional class lathe.

“I turn 8-10 hours every day, so having a more powerful, smooth-running machine will allow me to increase my productivity with less fatigue,” David says. “Bowl turning has already provided me with countless hours of great therapy for my PTSD, and I believe that this endeavor will bring continued relief for years to come. I also enjoy creating useful pieces that bring joy to people as they incorporate them into their daily lives.”

Man holding a wood turned bowl

David’s pieces are currently sold at Clock Tower Mercantile in Iola, Kansas, and will soon be featured at Go Poppy Designs, a Chicago-based retailer specializing in handmade goods. His work can also be purchased online via the Iron Hand Woodworks Facebook page as David continues to explore additional sales outlets for his evolving business.

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13 Responses to “David Sterling Becomes World’s First One-Armed Professional Bowl Turner”

  1. Dave sterling

    Thank you to everyone who helped make all of this possible, and to each of you who commented such nice words. If you can support what Vetsturn is doing, please do so…… it’s making such a huge impact.


    Awesome Keep up the very good work.

  3. Ronald Gardner

    First, thank you for your service & sacrifice! So glad you found lathe turning. You are amazing & turn beautiful bowls! I hope to see the day I’m able to turn my 300th bowl. God bless you , be safe & continue to turn! 👍😊

  4. Wilfred

    Thank you for Servive!! WoW - Great work! You inspire me to even do better in my woodworking.

  5. Charles Browning

    What an inspiration! Great work. Thank you David Sterling, for your Service and sacrifice!

  6. dbreg

    Thank you for your service and your woodturning inspiration

  7. G Hunt

    WOW, just WOW!


    Awesome work, brother! I am a woodworker as well, but have never "turned out" bowls like yours! Keep pushing forward; day-to-day success is measured in keeping busy and finding something that you do well; one day at a time! Semper Fidelis, Allan Whitlock, CWO-4, USMC(ret.)

  9. Dave

    Go David how cool is that, beautiful bowls, congratulations. You are an inspiration for us all. I'm classified VA at 100% only hope I can be as great as you are!! Dave

  10. Susan Knox

    Well done David! As a Vet myself I understand some of the affects of your PTSD, as it relates to your Service and injury. The VETSTURN program sounds like an ideal way to get back doing something that removes some of the PTSD stress and gets you back into the workforce successfully. Congratulations on the success of your turning, and thank you for your Service.