"Working with wood has taught me that I do not have to stay within the lines. Sometimes I start out with a line drawing or blue print and make a copy of what is on the paper. Sometimes I start out with a piece of wood and an idea and create something beautiful. I often start out with one idea and end up with something significantly different. The key to success in any endeavor is to find something you love, go after it and just do it.
I am often asked how I come up with my ideas of what to make. I see pictures in books, catalogs, and on TV. Customers, friends, and other woodworkers bring me ideas. Sometimes my ideas work out and sometimes they turn out to be not such a good idea. I often hear people say "I could not do that." My response is "just try it." If it is fun, do it again until you reach a level of satisfaction that feels good.
My Dad worked with wood, so I grew up around a wood shop. Dad taught me an appreciation of the art of working with wood and the creative process. Our entire family built houses – my sisters could swing a hammer as well as I could – and, as our family grew, the size of houses we built grew. I also helped build furniture, and things like cabinets and shelves, items we used around the house. You can imagine with 12 children in the family, the need was there for bigger houses and more furniture.
Dad worked in civil service and mom was a nurse. We moved around quite a bit as I was growing up. The one place that I really liked was in southern West Virginia. We lived in a house built prior to the Civil War, on a 500-acre farm that was a land grant from the King of England. Old-growth black walnut trees were scattered over the farm. After the loggers finished getting the long, straight, commercially important logs, they left the rest just to rot. We were allowed to go in and cut the smaller logs, the curved logs and those with knots. I learned the process of taking trees to finished product first hand while I was still in high school. In my senior year of high school, I took a vocational shop class and made a lamp from that walnut lumber which I still use on my bedside nightstand. I used the last two of those boards 35 years later to make the case to hold the American flag that was draped over my Dad’s casket. The few remaining pieces are on a shelf in the shop waiting for something really special.
I worked my way through college doing construction, staying on the fringes of the woodworking industry. I graduated from Purdue University in Indiana in 1977 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science and a Master’s Degree in Environmental Health, and started my own career in civil service. That service ended with my retirement 32 1/2 years later in January, 2010.
I’ve always enjoyed creating with wood, and over the years, my projects have evolved. After building my own house, I filled it with furniture I made – beds, chairs, tables, shelves. Woodworking turned into a hobby, and I began selling at local craft fairs. I started out with simple things and as my skills improved and the equipment in the shop improved I made more interesting things and things that were more difficult.
My shop has grown from being a small corner in the garage, to the 1400 square foot shop I work in today. I have a room equipped with two band saws, two lathes, two planers, two miter saws, table saw, jointer, scroll saw, compressor and two drill presses. I also have an assortment of hand and power tools that make any project I take on as easy as possible. Tim 'The Toolman' Taylor has nothing on me. I have a separate ‘final assembly and storage’ room and a separate bay for ‘finishing’ my products.
I let the wood talk to me. I don’t know what I’m going to create when I pick up a wood blank. The size of the blank will give me a starting point, and then, as I’m turning the blank, the product begins to emerge. I enjoy working with what I call ‘exotic woods’ – Purple Heart, Bubinga, Cocobollo, Zebrawood, Jatoba, Padauk, Jarrah and many others. I also really like working with more commonly available woods, like Cherry, Oak, Sycamore, Cedar, Cyprus, Pecan, Walnut, Maple and ocasionally even Pine. I’ve used Texas "honey" Mesquite, as well as Brown Mesquite from my brother’s back yard in Palm Desert, California. My customers are always fascinated with pieces I’ve created from Ambrosia Maple, when I explain to them the beautiful colors are a result of the decaying Ambrosia beetle after it has died within the wood.
I often get ideas for new projects from my customers. The treble clef clocks, as well as domino boxes and candle trays, were requests from customers who asked for gift items for favorite family members. My parents taught us to ‘waste not’ and so some of my scraps find their way into pen and pencil blanks, fan pulls, keychains, perfume atomizers, book marks, tie tacks, kaleidoscopes, and one of my most popular sellers - toy cars. All of my 19 nieces and nephews and 11 great- nieces and nephews, grew up rolling around these little cars! Every year, I empty my toy box of cars and donate them to the local Toys for Tots campaign. I also give pieces to be auctioned off for charity – local causes that are meaningful to me.
When I’m not working in my shop, I’m playing on the water. I have two boats and a jet ski, and enjoy fishing, waterskiing and exploring area lakes. Weekends, I round up friends and we take to the water to ski, wakeboard, and enjoy the Texas sunsets.
I hope you enjoy looking through my web site. If you have any questions, send me an e-mail. I will be glad to answer any of your questions".