LumberJocks Interviews #4: bigogre

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Blog entry by Cricket posted 07-14-2014 04:52 PM 3910 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Dave Bardin Part 4 of LumberJocks Interviews series Part 5: Sandra »

With every interview I get more excited. I truly enjoy getting to know the people behind the user names. I think you are going to be fascinated by this one. I know I am!

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

I owe my love of woodworking to my sixth grade shop teacher. I was the new kid at the school, and the first day of shop class he asked me to pick out a project to build from his monster sized file cabinets. I pulled out this plan for a beautiful cherry, oak, and walnut chess table—it was massive with dovetailed drawers underneath, dropped leaves…the works. The bill of lumber came to about $300, and there was no way my dad would give me that much cash so I had to pick something else. By this time I learned my shop teacher made electric guitars on the side, and I asked if I could make one. He said I could but that I would have to make every bit of it from raw materials—no pre-made fretboard, no neck blanks—just rough cut lumber. Not knowing any better, I agreed. This project taught me how to shape wood by feel, not by sight. The importance of sanding, and how to orient a board to bring out all of it potential beauty.

Power or hand tools? Why?

Anything to get what’s in my head into reality. Sometimes its a file, rasp, or hand plane. Sometimes it’s a table saw or chainsaw. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, it’s a torch. Seriously, though—I don’t get much time to do woodworking, and for me, I get more satisfaction from creating and designing than I do from the building process—getting something in my head to the final project is what makes me smile, so whatever I can use to get the outcome is what I use.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in woodworking?

Find a woodworking club or at least someone willing to teach all that they know. there are a million ways to get hurt in the shop, and having someone tell you that something is dangerous is much better than getting the “you were doing what?” look from a nurse at the Emergency Room. Also, read everything that you can. I learned how to make boxes, cut circles on a table saw, and wood burn all from books.

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

That stinking awesome horse that Jeffro Uitto made with driftwood. Also, anything of Sam Maloof’s—mostly his rockers. My shop, for now, isn’t really big enough to tackle a project like that, but I am really impressed how from top to bottom the chair flows like water—the shaping is the draw for me.

What would you like to share with fellow Lumberjocks that you haven’t shared on your project page or introduction blog?

I do not like sitting still. Sanding and shaping wood is one of the few things I can do for long stretches of time that really keeps my attention. I am a bit hyperactive, and at 41 years old it hasn’t gotten any better. The focus that I get mid-project is extremely relaxing, but it drives my wife nuts at times because it’s all I think about.

What inspires you regarding woodworking? What keeps you interested in woodworking as a hobby?

Trees. Trying to guess what stresses cause some of the beautiful grain patterns from one to the next. It’s kind of like a treasure hunt with boards—finding the beauty in a flaw is what I like best, and luckily for me, there are beautiful flaws everywhere, if they are treated right. Also curves. Everyone knows what a good curve looks like. Lathe work at its purest is a non stop studying of curves and trying to achieve perfection.

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

Money has been the greatest challenge for me. This hobby of ours does not come cheap. The lumber, the tools, the time…they all come with a price.

In 2010 I finally got back into wood working after 20 years by buying a boat anchor of a lathe, and made the decision that I wasn’t allowed to buy a new tool until I made enough from the tools I already had to pay for it. This forced me to get better at what I do, and to take the time to do things right. So far, it has worked out for me, and my little bitty shop has just about everything I need.

What is the greatest reward you have received in woodworking?

I belong to a woodworking club, and every now and then someone will bring their child into the shop. I get a kick out of teaching them how to use a lathe to make a pen, and when they get finished with it, I can tell that they are thoroughly impressed with themselves because they made it. That is the best reward I get passing knowledge on to someone new, and lighting a spark that they will hopefully carry with them into adulthood.

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

Right now it’s those melting pots. I am still getting ideas for new ones, and they are just fun going from chunks of lumber to finished product. My favorite project of all time would have to be my acoustic guitar I built in ‘92. I still have it. I can only play 4 cowboy chords on it, but I still like to get it out once and awhile and bang out a tune.

How did you find Lumberjocks and what keeps you coming back?

In 2010 when I started woodworking again, I forgot most all I had learned in school. So, every time I had a question about something I would search the internet for the answer. After doing this several times, I noticed that Lumberjocks, more than any other site, had the most answers than any other woodworking site I came across.
I keep coming back because I enjoy the community of wood workers here, and after four years it is still the place I turn to first for answers to woodworking questions.

Bill Steffen

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

14 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile (online now)

Monte Pittman

25367 posts in 2060 days

#1 posted 07-14-2014 05:32 PM

I really enjoy learning more about the people behind the projects. Now I know why I admire your work, because of the person behind it. Great interview.

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

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

18887 posts in 2827 days

#2 posted 07-14-2014 05:50 PM

I started woodworking as a necessity. We did not have much money and almost no electric tools except a corded drill and a Skil saw. I made a slingshot out of tree crotches and old bike inner tubes. Once I made a bow and arrow and used some Mulberry branch for the bow and I shaped it with a draw knife that my dad had under the workbench. I was so proud of it and it worked well…until the wood dried out and I pulled it back and it cracked in two. I made a gun cabinet in grade school and did not know about a square. I made the sides by measuring from the other end at both edges and the original end was out of square and so was the whole cabinet, but I used it. Then I got into tool making after high school and learned to measure and machine very accurately to the ten thousandths and I really never wanted to work with wood- just steel. After I got into Quality Control and saw all the nice wood furniture that our North Carolina plant built. I learned about joints, fit up, types of wood and finishes and lot of different cabinet and desk designs and thought , I can do that.

I started out with a cheapo $99 table saw to finish my basement at the first house and then I got a Radial Arm saw for my deck project and I needed a router and hand jig saw for the finishing touches. I don’t know if there was any one person that inspired me to start, but I just watched how to cut and join wood and designed as I went and still do it!!

But, I never wanted to turn wood until attended a seminar on bowl making with Lyle Jamieson in 2005. He got me hooked and then I worked on it with Dick Wilson as my mentor. He is the reason I number all my bowls. He told me that I had to turn 50 bowls be fore attempting a hollow vessel. I always like to push the limits so I turned my first hollow vessel after 3 bowls!! BUT, I still number all my bowls. Thanks Dick!!

The rest of my work is out of need or just pushing creativity to see IF I can make something. Now I dream about wood and methods and work out my problems when I’m asleep!!

I found this site by accident when looking for instructions on setting up a lock miter bit. I joined right away and was really impressed by all the beautiful creations of the Lumberjocks who I consider my second family!!

Keep this site going forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 2336 days

#3 posted 07-14-2014 08:39 PM

great interview Bill

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View KurtaKalbach's profile


36 posts in 1540 days

#4 posted 07-14-2014 08:40 PM

Nice interview. I too enjoy getting to know whats behind the beautiful work that the people here show.

-- Kurt K.

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2014 days

#5 posted 07-14-2014 09:37 PM

Thanks Bill and Cricket for another interesting interview. Like everyone else, I enjoy getting to know other members of this great woodworking community.

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

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 2709 days

#6 posted 07-14-2014 10:50 PM

I also enjoyed the interview.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View jinkyjock's profile


488 posts in 1296 days

#7 posted 07-14-2014 11:38 PM

enjoyed your interview.
Refreshing to see you are still open to new ideas regardless of your wonderful back-catalogue.
Also resonates that any tool purchase has to justify itself.

Thank you for this post.
Cheers, Jinky (James).

View Mean_Dean's profile


5545 posts in 2869 days

#8 posted 07-15-2014 12:16 AM

Enjoyed the interview as well!

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

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2412 days

#9 posted 07-15-2014 12:34 AM

Bill, Great interview! I have admired your projects and now I have some insight into you. We have a lot in common: money is an issue, tools have to pay their way, hyperactive,...........but you are waaay more talented.

Wish you were closer so we could tackle a Maloof rocker together. With your talent and my shop we could do it!

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

View JL7's profile


8574 posts in 2687 days

#10 posted 07-15-2014 12:57 AM

Great interview Bill…....thanks Cricket…..

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View firefighterontheside's profile


15888 posts in 1579 days

#11 posted 07-15-2014 02:40 AM

Great interview Bill. I found Lumberjocks the same way so decided to join.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View lightcs1776's profile


4169 posts in 1376 days

#12 posted 07-15-2014 03:22 AM

Great interview. It is a real treat to get to know a bit about another woodworker and see how your talent was inspired.

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View Roger's profile


20871 posts in 2526 days

#13 posted 07-15-2014 11:58 AM

Gr8 interview. I enjoy getting to know ya’ll out there a lil better. Thnx Bill, and Cricket.

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

View walnutnut's profile


24 posts in 1621 days

#14 posted 03-03-2015 09:18 PM

Bill, Congrats on the great interview – see you at the shop

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