This interview is from the February issue of the CreativeHands Newsletter. Thanks to GaryK for taking the time to do this interview.
1. How did you first get started working with wood?
In Junior high school I took my first class on woodworking. In high school I took it also, but only for a short time. There were no girls there and believe it or not I took a power sewing class. Lots of girls there! :-)
I didn’t pick it up again for years after that. I had “more important” things on my mind.
2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
One day, I don’t remember exactly when, I saw a model wooden ship. It was amazing with all of it’s detail and precision. I asked how much it was selling for and was told $15,000. I knew that the only way I would ever be able to have one was to build one myself. I was used to the precision, working in my fathers machine shop while going to school. I got a cheap little table top table saw, an Ohio Forge at Home Depot and a little 4” jointer from Sears (I still have it) and a cheap Royobi 9” band saw. From that meager beginning and about a year of steady work I made the model ship you can see in my projects.
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today
Well, after making that boat and upgrading my bandsaw to a 14” Delta. I think I made a chessboard or two and decided that the cheap tablesaw had to go, so next came a Delta Contractor saw, and 6” jointer to boot. From there on there was no stopping me.
Not being one to shy away from a challenge I made the Mahogany Highboy as my first furniture project. It may look very difficult but it really wasn’t at all. After that, I figured that I could build anything I wanted. I just thought of something and built it. I’ve always been able to visualize things in my head, so that helps and being an engineer doesn’t hurt.
Look through my projects and you will see what kinds of things pop into my head.
4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?
Buildings and architecture are inspiring to me. Some of my projects are just scaled down features from buildings. Check out my Headboard and Pie Crust table to see what I mean. Both of those I got from buildings I saw while traveling in Europe.
I also like books on ornaments. I have about 10 different ones that I always thumb through for ideas. It’s usually just one small detail that sparks an idea.
5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way? (and how did you overcome them)
There really was no greatest challenge with the woodworking part, but finding wood has always been. I am always looking for wood. When I lived in the Los Angeles area it was pretty easy. There are a lot of places there. Since moving to Texas it’s a lot harder. I tend to buy in bulk now and have it shipped. That takes all the fun out of the hunt, and you can’t be 100% sure of exactly what you are getting. You have to remember that when you find a really great looking piece of wood you have to buy it then, because you will never find one exactly like it ever again.
6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking? (personal or tangible)
My greatest personal reward has been looking at a newly created project. Especially that big harpsichord. That alone took me probably about 1 1/2 years of work over a 10+ year period.
Another is the recognition of my peers for my work by their votes in the Lumberjock contests. I won three contests on a row that really was a great reward. I also like when a project I made inspires someone else.
7. What is your favorite tool that you use for woodworking?
That’s like a person to pick his favorite child. I guess it’s a toss up between my band saw and drum sander. A great table saw is nice, but you can still get by with a contractors saw. Just like a jointer, nice to have one but not necessary. I like the band saw because it is so versatile. That was my first real full size tool that I bought .You can do things with it you can’t do with any other tool. The drum sander was the last significant tool I bought. I use it more like a giant planer than a sander. I use a lot of highly figured wood and the drum sander is the least likely to damage it.
8. What is your favorite creation in/for your woodworking?
That would be my big harpsichord without a doubt. More time, thought, effort, money and patience went into it by far than anything else I have made. It was also the hardest thing to make, because so many different things went into it. Since at the time I couldn’t find any plans, I had to design it on the fly. Lots of books and pictures were all I had to go on. It probably took about 6 months of thinking and planning before I even got started cutting wood.
9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?
Don’t worry about making mistakes. Everyone makes them. I do all the time. Usually when I do, if possible I just change my design to accommodate it. Anyone that has never messed anything up has never done any woodworking. You live and learn and usually don’t make the same mistake again. The problem is that there are a infinite mistakes to make! :-)
Remember you don’t have to tell anyone. If you don’t then it never happened. Looking at some of my projects you might think, “how did he come up with that?”. Well, it may be that it was a result of a mistake, but I’ll never tell.
10. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
Actually I don’t remember how I found Lumberjocks, but once I did I was hooked. There is no other place on the net that has so many helpful, informative, and friendly woodworkers. Martin did a fantastic of setting everything up and keeping on top of issues as they arise.
Thanks again, Gary, for taking the time out of your busy schedule and away from your wee one to do this interview.
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)