1.How did you first get started working with wood?
When I was young we didn’t have much money, heck we were poor. I used to carve a big Bowie Knife out of wood, or make a sword, one time I made a bow and arrow and actually hit a squirrel with it. Didn’t kill it but it probably had a sore side for a while. I remember my buddy and I making a skate board out of 1 old skate for the wheels, about a 3’ 2X4 an orange crate and a skinny board for a handle bars and some nails. You could carry anything in that crate, groceries, ball, glove and bat or frogs, anything. We utilized whatever we had. We loved trash day. Dad would take the trash to the dump every week and my brother and I would go along to find things we could still use to make things with, a rubber tube for our rubberband guns, a piece of an old bike that we needed parts for, just anything. I still remember my Mom hollering at my Dad, “seems like you bring back more than you take out”.
2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
I was Catholic and I used to marvel at the gorgeous woodwork in the church because I knew the Priest there had made all of it and I think that is one thing that got me interested in woodworking. Finally in shop class in high school I was able to use the machinery, but not before I learned how to sharpen a chisel, saw a board straight and learn how to sand it smooth. We had a good shop teacher with lots of patience and I’m glad he made me go back and do things until I got it right. It taught me the value of being precise and to do good work before moving on. There were Seniors in there making blanket chest with real nice wood. We had to buy, or furnish our own wood. Lucky for me the shop teacher had a few boards laying around that he let me have and the one thing I gravitated to, was the Lathe. I just couldn’t believe the bowls and things being made on the lathe. I ended up making a mallet, about a 5 pounder out of some nice Maple and man was I proud.
I kind of left woodworking after school. I went to work in the shops in Lansing making money, buying a car, chasing girls and drinking. After being drafted in 1970 and going to Germany, again I was amazed at the architecture in the old buildings, inside and out. The statues in stone, the old churches, every street you walked down was history, not like it is here in the US. This is a young country, not to diminish the history of the Native Americans upon this country, but they didn’t have the History of Europe, nor the architecture. It had a different feel to it there. It’s very hard to explain. I went to the Black Forest on Alerts, we called them, when the whole post would go to the woods to practice war games. I spent time there, somewhere my father had been in WW11. Talk about awe inspiring. The little towns we past through still had blacksmith shops because they still farmed mostly with horses. The little towns were right out of a postcard. The Chapel Houses, the underground beer gardens, the old castles. We actually could find old castles to spend the night in that were uninhabited. The dungeons were filled with dirt through time, but we could climb to the parapets and you could tell why they built them where they did, because you could see for miles and miles around them with only another castle off in the distance.
Sorry for getting off track, you wanted to know where I get my inspiration, love for architecture, sculpture and Art, that’s it. Seeing it and living there, being in History for over a year, I wasn’t drunk all the time, I did absorb some things.
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today
I did take some college courses in Sculpture and although because of work, my addictions, and family, I couldn’t continue my education until 1986, when the shop closed, they paid me comp for an old back injury, and sent me back to school. While I worked at the shop for over 20 years I was laid off a lot, so I knew I had to find other work and jobs were hard to find.
A friend took me on his framing crew and I found a job I loved. Building houses, framing was like a dream job, outside in the open air, it seemed good but a lot of drinking in the trade. It was rewarding to see something go up and know you help build it. I got with a friend and we would frame small 3 bedroom homes on weekends at a small lake north of Lansing. We would get the deck down and laid out on Friday after work, on Saturday we would build the outside walls with, back then we could use ply on the corners and cellotex on the sidewalls, so we would put that on put in doors and windows and had friends help us hoist them up. End walls were easy and we did those ourselves. Then we would frame rooms inside. We would start early on Sunday putting up trusses, again we did have help with those, even though they were usually about only 24 footers. We would walk them down the top plate and set them up, then lay down the sheathing. Also, put in drywall backing. Like I said when we were done it was ready for roofing, siding and drywall, we would make about 1000 bucks each. Great money but Monday was a killer.
After graduating college, with a Social Work Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling I worked about 12 years in a 14 bed male unit for men. It was rewarding I miss it and loved the work I did. Then I fell and broke my back losing a lot of things in my life. Fishing, Hunting, Camping, that’s when I took up the lathe I could work for a 1/2 hour and quit and rest or if I had to sometime lay down to ease the pain. Sometimes I sat and cried, the pain was so bad, anyone with nerve pain will understand, morphine, percocete, nothing will relieve nerve pain. I was a grotesque human soul for a while. This site helped me through that and with the help of my Dr. I was able to cope well enough to work in the shop, and with the help of the friends and family I made when I joined this site.
4. What is your favourite tool?
My favorite tool is the wood lathe. Although I’ve made a couple chairs and really enjoyed that also, I like making mortise and tenons. I like carving, but am not good at it, yet. I love sculpture of any kind whether it’s a table piece or an abstract. They are all good and I see it in Andy’s boxes, Trifern’s bowls, in Dick Cains carvings and work with twisted vines, in Karson’s work making cradles. The real sculptures I don’t even have to name, each one of them could write a book.
5. What brings you the greatest reward from woodworking?
The greatest reward I get is giving away the things I make and give to family and friends. Those things will live beyond me and let those people know that I loved them.
6. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way? (and how did you overcome them)
My greatest challenges now are overcoming pain when I really want to work and get something done, due to my back injuries.
7. Which project that you have made is your favourite?
The most favorite thing I made was the hope chest for my daughter, and it took me over a year to make. That’s what is really frustrating.
8. How did you find LumberJocks.com and what keeps you coming back?
I found this site by accident and it was after I had gotten into woodworking seriously and I enjoyed the marvelous things I was seeing and the insight I garnered from the people that were talking to each others like a close family. These guys not only cared a lot for each others work and helped each other out, they genuinely liked each other and I was amazed at the honest caring they had for one another as people.
I made a very good friend name Oscorner, not his real name, but he was a man of God and always ended every note he wrote, that Jesus is Lord. He had a heart attack, was asking my advice about Dr’s and pain meds. I don’t feel responsible for his death because I told him to seek advice other than his shop Doctor and he was scheduled for bypass the day before he died. I miss him, after these 2 or 3 years.
Thanks for reading this, I Bless each and every one of you because I consider everyone on this site a friend. Thank you, Mike Wurm
And thank YOU MIke for sharing your story with us!
[Note: April, 2012. Our dear friend past away this week. He shall be deeply missed!]
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)