This interview with Mot is from the February 2012 issue of our LJ eMag.
1. How did you first get started working with wood?
I started working with wood, playing with scraps and off cuts, around my dad and his projects. He used to build boats. Sailboats and power boats. When I was quite young, he and my brother built a small tunnel hull hydroplane. It was just for a 15HP motor, but my brother and I terrorized our local lake, in that boat, for years! Dad was always fiddling with wood. He was always building a jig for this, and a fixture for that. He undertook most projects around the home. Dad used to do everything, from finishing our basement, to building things to make his life easier. He was mostly a “fixture,” guy. We skied, so he built ski racks in the garage. He built supports for our camper, racks for walls, shelves for the basement storage, counters and cabinets for his dark room. He did it all with a circular saw, a jigsaw, and saw horses. So I got started working with wood, seeing that my dad just made what he wanted, out of wood.
2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
I’d like to say that I was captivated by the process, or even the outcome of woodworking, but really, it’s all about the tools.
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today
My personal woodworking journey started in the R/C airplane world. I was living in Portland, Oregon and passed by a local hobby shop. I went inside and got some really, really, really bad advice. This lead me to purchase a plane kit and radio that essentially equated to taking two $100 bills and throwing them out the window of a moving bus. Well, perhaps hitting my head against the window in the process. I was so troubled and annoyed that I searched for and found a local modeling club. I contacted the club, arranged for lessons and got started on a model building and flying journey by a very generous man. It was through this club, that I met the man that really introduced me to fine woodworking. My friend, Steve, taught me how to build planes from scratch. He was a Scale Masters competitor and built the most marvelous planes from scratch. He helped me take it from a hobby to a finer skillset, to a passion.
When I returned to Canada, the first house that I looked at purchasing, had a basement shop in it. It was a perfect space to “tool up,” and continue learning more woodworking. I started tooling this shop up but soon realized that I was no longer in the same model airplane environment as I was in Portland. There just wasn’t anyone around, playing to the level that I wanted to, and the ones that were here seemed to resent level of obsession to detail. Notice I didn’t say level of attention to detail. It was an obsession. So I moved to thinking about other forms of woodworking. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. My wife and I, started having kids, and that was the point where my experiences opened the doorway to the type of projects that I engage in now. My first project, the worlds most expensive “Time Out,” bench, lead the worlds most expensive cradle, followed by the worlds most expensive turned bowl, the worlds most expensive bookcase, and so on. Lumberjocks know how that happens. It’s the dreaded disease called TAS. Tool Acquisition Syndrome. And that is where we are at today, Bob #2 once stated, “When do you think your shop is going to reach critical mass?” …more tools than space to use them. I’ll let you know when I get there.
4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?
Inspiration comes from the projects, skillset, talents and creativity of the work I’ve seen done. Most of that comes from projects I’ve seen online, and more specifically, on Lumberjocks. These days, though, I look at the multitude of projects with awe and wonder, and not so much with inspiration. My skillset and experience have been left behind by the vast talents and efforts laid forth by the Lumberjocks community.
5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way?
My greatest challenge in woodworking has been my relatively low frustration threshold. A problem that used to lead me to accept mistakes as design elements, rather than just fix them. You see, mistakes that aren’t picked up by the eye, are still picked up my eye, because I made them. They always bug me. I’ve had to challenge myself to stop, rethink, re-examine, and redo. I used to just push forward, losing more time, getting more frustrated, and settling for an outcome that was less than I had set out to achieve. I’ve overcome this by realizing that I’m not a production shop. This isn’t how I make my living. This is my hobby. If it’s not bringing me joy, then why am I doing it at all? So, put it down, shut the lights off in the shop, and do something else for a day. It’s very easy to come back and redo that piece, or figure a way to compensate for the mistake, when I’m not in a mood to dance a fandango on the entire project.
”A “must read blog entry by Mot, re: mistakes!
6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking?
I think the greatest reward was my father showing off a built in bookcase that I made for him, to everyone he could grab off the street. It wasn’t a spectacular effort on my part, but he was just so proud that I had done it for him. I was in my late 30’s and didn’t really realize that accolades from my dad still had significant meaning to me. He always told me, children from 0 to 12 look at their fathers like they are larger than life itself. From the time they are 12 to 20 they look at them like they are, perhaps, the biggest idiots to walk the planet. After 20, they feel like dear old dad has learned something and start looking at him with a magnified level of respect again. However, by the time they are 30, dad is an idiot again. He told me this when I was 30…perhaps after I took all his ladders away. Regardless, his appreciation for the effort made me look at him like he was larger than life…again.
7. What is your favourite tool that you use for woodworking?
My favorite tool is the one that I’m currently using. Except for my drill press. I hate my drill press. I look for ways to NOT use my drill press. If it was lighter, I’d get rid of it, but as the back pain that I achieved by lugging it into my basement shop got better about last Thursday, I don’t feel like reliving that dream! Seriously though, the tool that keeps me coming back is my Nova DVR-XP lathe. It’s hard to get too much excitement out of drilling a hole, or cross cutting a board, or ripping something. But turning? You can take any piece of wood from the scrap pile, chuck it, and make something…or nothing. It’s instant gratification woodworking that produces some of the coolest looking pieces and some of the most ridiculous looking ones. And it makes for a good laugh at the $2,500 pen you just made…and lost.
8. What is your favourite creation in/for your woodworking?
My favorite creation was really nothing special, but it did involve doing some things that I had considered by hadn’t tried. At Lumberjocks, there was a challenge to make something from a 2×4. I made a segmented turning bowl. What made it my favorite is that I used a really old, dry, ratty, econo-stud, and made a cool looking bowl. I was able to use my miter saw, tablesaw, jointed, planer, drum sander, bandsaw, and lathe to make it. It was my favorite. The only unfortunate part of it was, that it was brittle as dry balsa wood and it didn’t survive long and had no purpose other than to try out segmented turning, participate in a challenge, and use a boatload of tools.
9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?
The only advice I can really give, based on my own experiences, is ask questions. Don’t be afraid to receive criticism and make sure you learn from it. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself a bit and don’t be afraid to put your work out there for comment. If you want to get better, you will have to. Woodworkers, more than any other collective I’ve experienced, love to tell you how they did it. They love to share their tips, tricks, jigs, methods, mistakes, creations and stories. Listen. Most of us are absolutey full of it, that’s the fun part. Occasionally, even the most bombastic of us says something worth remembering.
10. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I’ve been around Lumberjocks so long, that I can’t remember how I found it. I probably showed up based on participation in some other woodworking forum. I kept coming back because the community just didn’t tolerate the internet phenomenon of the keyboard tough-guy. Other sites had constant flaming. They had constant negativity that seems to infect discussion forums of any and every topic. They needed to be moderated. Lumberjocks has always been a self-moderating group. Lumberjocks, from the very beginning, seemed to attract people that were supportive, creative, and generous. Lumberjocks seemed to be where the people that just wanted to talk about woodworking, share their creations, ask and answer questions, just collected. We were the bottom of the funnel where the crap got hung up in the filter and what fell out the bottom was a spectacular group of people that just had a like interest and they seemed to check the BS at the door. It’s what keeps me coming back. Of course all of the wonderful projects and information sharing as well, but the lack of having to sift through flame wars and assorted other anti-social behavior that existed everywhere else that I looked is probably the most significant.
Thanks to Mot for taking the time to do this interview._
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)