This interview, with Lew, is from the July 2011 issue of the LumberJocks’ eMag.
1. How did you first get started working with wood?
My first recollection of woodworking was playing with Lincoln Logs. The smell of those pieces and creating a structure seemed to satisfy something in me.
2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
Making things has always been part of my mindset. At the end of the day, when there are visible, tangible results there is a feeling of great satisfaction. All three of my paying, lifetime jobs were working in areas where, at the end of the day, it was difficult to see any progress.
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today
At a very young age, my grandmother bought me plastic models. Taking all those pieces and ending up with a finished item was one of my happiest memories. As I got older, making things from wood seemed a natural progression. My grandfather had a workshop full of homemade power tools. He was always making or fixing things. He inspired me to take the Building Construction Vocational Course in high school. My destiny was to become a carpenter and build homes. The US Navy changed all that. When the Vietnam War started, I enlisted to be a Seabee. Turned out they need Electronics Technicians more than they needed carpenters. Using the Navy electronics training, I spent the next 36 years working in electronics and computers- 33 of those years were as a teacher in a Vocational School. Although it was not woodworking, it provided the income to buy tools and machines to pursue my hobby.
4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?
More and more it is the natural beauty of wood. The feel of the grain, the aroma when cut, the visible lines of its growth and the inclusion of the natural characteristics that nature created. For me, all these things add to the beauty of a project.
5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way?
Impatience!! Working in electronics and computers really destroyed with my perspective of time. My training taught me to think in nano seconds and everything happens instantly. This is a real paradox because teaching kids a new skill requires an infinite amount of patience. It was easy for me, in the classroom, to train those kids- repeating the steps as often as necessary to achieve success. However, when alone in the shop, there is a quick reverting to an “instant result” mentality. I must keep reminding myself that it is the journey and not the destination that provides the greatest pleasure- although I do not always listen.
6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking?
The greatest reward for me is seeing a completed project come together and used for its intended purpose. A recent project was for my brother-in-law’s church. It was nice to know someone thought enough of my abilities to trust me with that responsibility. Even nicer to know how pleased they were with the results.
7. What is your favourite tool that you use for woodworking?
Maybe the lathe, but it is difficult to pick a single favorite. Right now, I am making more rolling pins. At first glance, these look like a lathe project, yet they require the use of just about every power tool in the shop. The real magic- when the Celtic Knot appears- happens on the lathe. The lathe does provide almost instant gratification and an outlet for more creativity than many of the other tools.
8. What is your favourite creation in/for your woodworking?
We really like to cook and making items for the kitchen are my favorite projects. Pepper grinders, saltcellars, sugar bowls, cutting boards and rolling pins all add to the enjoyment of cooking. However, if you ask Mimi she would say it is her china closet. The first “real” piece made in my basement shop and the one cut in half to get it up the stairs. Another valuable lesson learned!
9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?
Read, ask questions, and use the Internet for research. Each of us learns differently- some by reading, others by watching, and still others by simply trying it on their own. Lumberjocks has provided a source for just about every learning style. If you are having difficulty or just want to learn something new- it is here!
10. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
It was by accident while searching for information on how to use a skew chisel. The site was is addictive. At first, it was easy to keep up with the projects and posts- commenting on most of them but now there are so many great projects, ideas and information just scanning new entries really keeps me busy.
Thanks, Lew, for taking the time to do this interview!
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)