LumberJocks Interviews #2: The Box Whisperer

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Blog entry by Cricket posted 06-25-2014 06:51 PM 3008 reads 1 time favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: HillbillyShooter Part 2 of LumberJocks Interviews series Part 3: Dave Bardin »

I am so pleased that y’all talked to me about the importance of the interviews to the community because I am loving getting to know our members. I think you will enjoy getting to know The Box Whisperer.

Here is his story….

What is your inspiration story? Who did you watch, what was their hobby, and how did you get involved?

My story started off very simply, although it was not pretty. Back in the day, I had a “contractor”. He was good, and most importantly he was honest. He had done a couple of bathrooms for me, and some tiling. I asked him for a price on a back deck. Later on that day, I happened to mention this to someone I knew. He gave me a stern look and used some very creative language to say, that if I were to hire someone to build me a deck I was an idiot. “Go buy a drill and a saw and built it yourself” he says. Ok, so I do. I did some research, designed it above code, bought the lumber and tools and built the deck. When I was done, I invited my contractor (not my friend LOL) over to have a beer on my new deck. He took a good look at my deck and offered me a job. I worked with him full time for 4 years (while also working full time in a nursing job). He built houses, and I learned a lot. While it takes a lot more then wood to put most houses up, it was the wood I fell in love with. Even 2×4s and ¾ ply were the “fun stuff” for me. I learned a lot from him, and he certainly taught me the basic fundamentals that lead me to where I am today.

Power or hand tools? Why?

I’m going to borrow The Wood Whisperers line and say I’m a hybrid. For me it’s more about safety and efficiency then about being hardcore one way or the other. Don’t get me wrong, the things some folks can make out of 100% hand tools are too beautiful for words. On the other end of the spectrum, when you see what can be done on a router table with a little creativity, that can be mind-blowing too. For me I have to look at things practically. At one point this was a hobby for me, but that is no longer the case. This is a full time gig and living for me. If at the end of the day I can produce the same results in less time with a power tool, I will generally go that route. Notice I said “I”. I will never claim to use my power tools to replicate the results of the old time masters. I simply do the best I can and try to learn each day and improve with each project. Sometimes however, when I need to make say one quick cut, the hand tool IS faster. By the time I set up the saw, the fence and or jig, the dust collector, grab my eye/ear/lung protectors, I could have just grabbed the glasses and cut it by hand faster. So I use both, although I’d say I lean towards tower tools.

What advice would you give to someone just getting started in woodworking?

Go buy 3 or 4 sets of safety glasses. Never do anything without them. If your gut is telling you something is not safe, don’t do it. The only woodworking website you need is lumberjocks.

If you could build one thing, what would it be? What is your dream woodworking project?

I am a bit of a dreamer. When it comes to woodworking, I am a lot of a dreamer. I can sit and daydream projects all day. While I may look like I’m staring off into space, I’m mentally building something. Where everyone else can only see my living room, I can see pieces of wood going together to make something. I guess I’m trying to say that I’m lucky in that many of my projects are dream projects. I’ve dreamed of beautiful boxes, and brought those dreams to reality. I dreamed of one day making a live edge slab coffee table for my home, and now it is sitting in front of me. I posted it on LJs if anyone would like to see.

I have a few dream projects on the go right now. It really does make me feel lucky. My current ultimate dream project right now is called an Earth Ship. It is basically an off the grid home. Check it out here, I hope one day to be able to build one although it may have to remain a dream. My more “grounded in reality” dream projects on the go include a walnut slab countertop with a mixed hardwood leg, and a built in entryway bench with a really nice spalted beech slab I have.

How did you come up with your nickname?

Well, when I say I’m the box whisperer, I mean it literally (or so I think). Call me crazy, but I swear wood talks to me. I can often (but not always) look at a piece of wood, and it will tell me what it wants to be. I am learning to see other things in wood but what it mainly shows me is boxes. I can see some rough oak here, maybe a piece of walnut on the floor, and some scrap pine and it will start. The oak will say, “Wow, you know man, the way I’m all quarter sawn, and have that nice grain, I’d sure make a nice box top” and it goes from there. I certainly have tried other and new things, and been inspired by the work of others, but at the end of the day the boxes are what talk to me. I reclaim most of my wood so sometimes it’s hard to see through the grime and dirt, but the wood still talks to me. I hope I’m not crazy.

What inspires you regarding woodworking?

What inspires me, is being able to take something discarded, unwanted and undesirable and turn it into something beautiful. Wood is one of the prettiest things in the world, with seemingly as much variety as wildflowers. Some wood is pretty as soon as you see it, and sometimes we have to find the beauty inside. I enjoy working with any wood, but the ones that make me smile like I’m a kid again are the hidden gems. What may not even look like wood can be something amazing when you give it some love.

What are the greatest challenges that you have met in your woodworking journey? And, how did you deal with such challenges?

My greatest woodworking challenge is also my greatest life challenge. Through a 15 year nursing career, I have suffered several bad back injuries. I have had 6 herniated disks. The last surgeon I saw, after telling me he couldn’t help me, also told me he was surprised I wasn’t in a wheelchair, and if I were to herniate another disk I likely would be. The last time it happened, I could not move at all for days, I could not walk for weeks and it took 6 months before I could stand up straight. Long story short I don’t do nursing anymore. Legally I am considered disabled. I’ve always been a fighter, and I’ve come a long way. I am still in pain every day, but I am able to do some things. I am very lucky I can still do some woodworking, but my days of building houses are probably over. Lucky for me boxes are very small, and even in terms of furniture I try not to get into anything too big. Basically if I can’t easily handle it alone then I tend to avoid it. I also have my shop set up ergonomically, so as to avoid injury and be able to work for longer without raising my pain levels. Also, tools have come a long way in terms of ergonomics and weight. When I started I used a big heavy dewalt 18v impact driver, but I now turn to my lighter 12v tools. Often a hand tool will be even lighter, but the action of using it may not be a smart one for me. I will never be a hand plane master.

What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking?

Two things come to mind. First of all, the great friendships I’ve formed on Lumberjocks. You guys are like a second family to me, and those who I’m talking about know who they are. I would never have learned the things I have, or even pushed myself to try some of the things I’ve done if not for my brothers and sisters on Lumberjocks. Also, some of what I like to call the “heavyweight champions” on LJs are just amazing. The amount of free, incredible advice, dished out on the daily, is just awesome. We all know who’s the guy to personally greet every new member and who the go-to table saw advice guy is. Need the craziest jig/saw upgrades ever? Yeah we’ve got a guy for that too. There are over 50k ACTIVE members. How’s that for a family? That leads me to my second thing/point, which has on many occasions come after following the advice of a Lumberjock, is the “light bulb going on in my head” moments that every woodworker has experienced. Maybe it’s the first time you put finish on a new type of wood, or when you realize a new way you could join that box. The “Aha!” moments make me giddy like I’m a kid again.

What is your favorite creation you’ve made in your woodworking?

I haven’t posted this as a project on Lumberjocks, so Ill share it with you now. This is Piglets stool. Piglet is my rescued kitty. I love her like nothing else, she really is like a child to me. She’s not as young as she used to be, and our bed is awfully high up. While she’s ok now, I worried that as she got older, the jump up, and particularly the jump down and landing, might be a little rough for her. I made her this stool out of a 143 year old Fir slab, and reclaimed Douglas Fir taken from 60 year old interior doors. Now little Pig doesn’t have to jump all the way up.

How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?

I found Lumberjocks, because one day long ago, it dawned on me that I could fit a router table in the extension wing of my table saw. I ran the idea by a few folks I considered handy, and they basically said it was over their heads. I did a google search and found several folks had done it on here, and some even with the same saw! From there I lurked for maybe a month and joined up. What keeps me coming back are the amazing friendships I’ve formed with the great people on here. I can’t even imagine not being a member at this point.

Thanks for taking the time to read my story!

The Box Whisperer

-- "Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it, not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours."

17 comments so far

View CFrye's profile


9564 posts in 1559 days

#1 posted 06-25-2014 07:59 PM

Hi! Great to get to know you!

-- God bless, Candy

View The Box Whisperer's profile

The Box Whisperer

678 posts in 1789 days

#2 posted 06-25-2014 08:07 PM

Thanks same to you!

-- "despite you best efforts and your confidence that your smarter and faster than a saw blade at 10k rpm…. your not …." - Charles Neil

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

25323 posts in 2057 days

#3 posted 06-25-2014 08:15 PM

Very cool story. Everyone here should be family. It certainly is my favorite place.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Gene Howe's profile (online now)

Gene Howe

9268 posts in 3148 days

#4 posted 06-25-2014 08:16 PM

Great story. Many thanks to cricket, and to you.
Hope to see you in Martyville next June.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3227 posts in 1971 days

#5 posted 06-25-2014 08:21 PM

Nice story, Box! I admire your courage to work through the pain and be the warrior you are!

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View The Box Whisperer's profile

The Box Whisperer

678 posts in 1789 days

#6 posted 06-25-2014 08:30 PM

Thanks guys! Don funny you mentioned warrior, martial arts was another love I had to let go of.

-- "despite you best efforts and your confidence that your smarter and faster than a saw blade at 10k rpm…. your not …." - Charles Neil

View HerbC's profile


1660 posts in 2578 days

#7 posted 06-25-2014 08:38 PM

Great story.

Sorry about your health issues, hope things stay bearable… In our family we know and understand what a burden pain can be and how much it can change your life.

Keep up the good work and don’t forget…

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View The Box Whisperer's profile

The Box Whisperer

678 posts in 1789 days

#8 posted 06-25-2014 08:40 PM

Herb, between reading in here and YouTube I’ve really become pretty particular about safety.

-- "despite you best efforts and your confidence that your smarter and faster than a saw blade at 10k rpm…. your not …." - Charles Neil

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2011 days

#9 posted 06-25-2014 11:18 PM

Outstanding interview! Thanks Cricket for getting this interview and a special thanks to you, Box Whisperer, for sharing your wood working journey. As everyone has noted, it’s great getting to know members of this LJ community.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2409 days

#10 posted 06-26-2014 12:18 AM

Great interview. Living/working with pain is no fun but staying busy does seem to help (at least takes your mind off the hurt).
Always enjoy your input on the Stumpy thread.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Mean_Dean's profile


5541 posts in 2866 days

#11 posted 06-26-2014 12:25 AM

Great interview and interviewee!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View DIYaholic's profile


19315 posts in 2394 days

#12 posted 06-26-2014 12:47 AM

I can only echo what all the others have already said….

An inspiring story….
I admire those that choose to serve their fellow man, in their professional life….
Medical field….
First responders….
You are in good company….& GREAT company, here on LJs!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 3053 days

#13 posted 06-26-2014 12:03 PM

Great interview which mirrors my own thoughts about LJ and the friends I’ve made here. I also have a lot of pain and working in the shop is the only place where I seem to forget it for awhile. I’m sure there are large numbers of members out there who have it the same way and can easily relate to your story. Keep up the good work BW.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View JL7's profile


8574 posts in 2684 days

#14 posted 06-26-2014 11:44 PM

Great to hear your story Joe, except of course the painful parts, but glad to hear you’re standing up to the adversity…

Interesting how you got your start and nice there are folks out there to point you in that direction….

Cricket, thanks for keeping the interviews going, there’s lots to learn….

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View Roger's profile


20871 posts in 2523 days

#15 posted 06-28-2014 12:09 PM

Gr8 interview! Always a pleasure to learn more about the fine, and very talented folks on here.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

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