How did you get started in woodworking?
I have enjoyed making
things since I was a little kid and wood always seemed to hold a special
fascination for me. I would spend time in the basement using the tools
my family had to make boxes, tie racks, bookcases, bird feeders, and so
forth. It was hard to get me out of there once I had an idea in my head
that I wanted to build. There is a workbench in that basement that is
still sitting where I made it more than forty years ago as a teenager. I
had then, and still have, a strong desire to make ideas become real
Do you have any formal training in woodworking?
I am self-taught. Since
youth, I've read, observed, and tested woodworking techniques. In some
areas of the craft, I acquired the skills piecemeal, but other areas I
approached systematically. I am still learning and always will be. The
renaissance in high-end woodworking that has developed over the past few
decades has produced tremendous learning sources. This is great for
novice woodworkers, but also for experienced craftsmen, because we are
Who/what inspires your work?
The wood is a huge
motivation! Wood is a wonderful combination of a versatile, solid
construction material and an endlessly diverse product of the magic of
biology. It is full of life - life that a woodworker preserves by making
objects of utility and beauty.
As for so many of us, the woodworker
whose teachings have had the greatest influence on me has been James
Krenov. For me, this is primarily because of his belief that making fine
things in wood can be important, and that it is worthwhile to do it
well. All that hacking around in the basement as a kid, all the years of
learning, and all the painstaking effort have meaning.
Do you design all of your pieces?
I design all of my
pieces, calling myself a "designer-craftsman." Yet I do not attempt to
produce work that is novel for the sake of being different, and
certainly not to be outlandish or showy. I do, however, work hard to
make refined pieces and sweat every element of the designs. The work is
very personal but not at all ostentatious. I hope to produce the "quiet
joy" of which Krenov spoke, so that the client will own an object which
will be a continuing source of beauty and strength and be valued for
The design is really a collaboration between clients and
me so they are personally involved in producing a truly unique piece.
They will see and understand how it is made. In this way, they acquire a
piece that is fundamentally unlike anything else they are likely to
own. This cannot be bought in a store.
What are your favorite woods?
Claro walnut, big-leaf
maple, pear, and cherry top the list, but there are so many that I love.
I guess if I had to name one favorite, it's Claro. Almost all of my
work involves figured woods. The material that NW Timber makes available
is truly inspiring.
What are your favorite pieces to build?
I particularly like to
make tables because I enjoy designing the legs. Once I have a good idea
for interestingly curved legs, the rest of the design falls in place
quickly. I also enjoy small casework where I have the opportunity to use
spectacularly figured wood.
How do you feel about the public's appreciation for studio furniture?
There are plenty of
people who appreciate and value studio furniture but I wish there were
more. (Haha, especially among wealthy people!) The perceived value of
high-end, craftsman-made furniture tends to get dragged down by several
factors. It has utility and, for many people, it is hard to accept that
useful things can hold great aesthetic value. Sometimes I think that if I
just hacked off one of the legs of a table, rendering it
non-functional, then some people will see it as profound art and
therefore worth much more.
I also think there is a widespread
impression that modern craftsmen can never make furniture as good as the
antiques or museum pieces. Nonsense, I say! Leaving myself out of the
discussion, I say there are many woodworkers producing work at least as
good as any that was ever made, and in a greater variety of styles.
have to show the public what makes modern studio furniture special. In
theory the work would speak for itself but that is not the reality. When
I show people how very special some of the wood really is, how durable
the construction is, and how all the aspects of a piece coordinate, they
really get it and they see the value.