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rp
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Medfield, MA

508-359-1513

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rp wookbench

 

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 objects.

 

 

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 all students.

 

 

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 generations.
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.
We 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.  

 

Northwest Timber/ 3229 Jefferson Scio Dr SE / Jefferson, Oregon 97352 / 800-238-8036