My interest in woodworking started as a child- working side by side with my grandfather, Richard, in his basement shop. He made a little bit of everything- small arts and crafts projects as well as furniture. I still have a walnut bookcase he made for us decades ago. My children play on a checkerboard we made together before he died.
Fast forward several years- my father in law had a barn/woodshop and I began to tinker around again. I made a very primitive (read:terrible) coffee table out of oak from the hardware store- but we’ve all got to start somewhere, right?
Several years later I was able to start building up a shop of my own. I started with a router and a table saw- it’s amazing what you can do with a little creativity, some jigs, and patience. My main source of learning was watching The New Yankee Workshop- an incredible show where Norm would walk you through building some amazing furniture step by detailed step.
I started out making furniture mostly- the wife finds a piece of furniture she likes in a store or catalogue and I build it. Slowly expanding my tools and improving techniques; making beds for the children, or a table for the kitchen…
I discovered the lathe about 5 years ago- I bought a small tabletop lathe to make some legs for an end table I was working on. I was instantly hooked on turning. The lathe also opened up a new side of creativity for me. Instead of starting with specific schematics, cut lists and plans- often a bowl is started with a general goal in mind but the process is more fluid. As the wood is shaped and turned ‘design opportunities’ will come up- either with unexpected features in the wood, or after a mistake/catch occurs.
As the everyday demands of work and family increased- my shop time, and time for big furniture projects, diminished. The lathe was my escape- I could turn an item in one or two shop sessions and have something to show for my work.
Turning has been therapeutic for me. I still enjoy making furniture- but turning is different. There’s something mesmerizing about watching shapes emerge from square blanks as I turn a peppermill or bowl. A rough, often square, piece of wood mounted on the lathe is referred to as a blank- like a blank canvas waiting to be brought to life. Except instead of adding to it, we peel wood away to reveal the beauty already there. A lot of the design process is done in real time. This piece might get a rim detail at the top. Maybe a steeper curve here? Will it be thin and delicate or will it be a robust utility bowl?
Finding enjoyment in the process our house was soon overrun with wooden bowls. My wife never complained, but one person can only have so many stacks of bowls in the living room, and sitting on the buffet, and on the dining room table, and on the fireplace mantle… I needed to find another outlet for my therapy. As I began making bowls as gifts for friends and family I was encouraged to start selling them. A hand made bowl is something unique- no two bowls are the same. The beauty lies within the wood, it’s already there under the bark and sometimes it is the bark! I enjoy the privilege of uncovering it and presenting it for others to enjoy.