This interview with Roger is from the June 2012 issue of our LJ eMag.
1. How did you first get started working with wood?
I will try and paint this picture, but, it is a bit long, and I appologize for that. I do like to talk. :) When I was 10, we moved from Brookpark, Ohio, to Lorain, Ohio in 1965. We moved next door to my Mother’s sister, Aunt Vern, who was married to her new husband, Herman. We called him Uncle Herm of coarse. He actually had 2 shops. One in his garage, which was a very small area, I know he had a workbench there, and on the other side where his cars were parked, he probably had some sort of saw for cutting down large lumber to be able to take the cut lumber to that small side of the garage, or, his basement shop, where he did all his finish cutting, assembling, & possibly finishing, (he might have done that outside in the garage). He was a really great craftsman, and always building something. I remember watching him,but I never really “helped” him build anything, but, I sure soaked in everything he wanted to share with me. Back then, I had a better memory. (haha) After a year, when I went on to middle school, (then, it was 6, 7, and 8th grade), where there was a class called, wood shop, yes, wood shop, I know, I’m old. Very sad they don’t have that class nowadays. After getting into wood shop, and building a few projects which I can’t remember all of them, except for a book shelf, and a plastic letter opener, (I still use the letter opener today). I was really intrigued by this fun thing of making something out of something else, and that went hand-in-hand with my Uncle Herm. So I started spending more time with him, still just watching, and listening to him, and soaking every word he had to say about whatever it was he was talking about. Again, my memory then was like a sponge. I enjoyed all my time when I visited him. I realized later in life just how special those moments were.
This next little bit is a very sad part of my life, but, I feel it is important, and it is part of the story.
Now, it is 1969. I am now 14. My older brother, while serving our country in the U.S. Army, and, who was a very young man, age 21, was killed by a drunk driver.
He leaves me this high tech, many components, stereo equipment system (Onkyo) Back then, many folks know how many components I’m talking about. I’ll just say, big and, lots, (including a reel-to-reel tape player). At this time, I didn’t know really what to do with them, so they pretty much stayed in storage for a few years. Now, it’s 1971, and I’m 16, (boy, to be that again) For my birthday, Uncle Herm makes me a cabinet (which I still have today, it is in my shop holding a few shop tools), to hold the collection of LP albums that I had begun to collect, now that I am listening to the Doobie Brothers, Creadence Clearwater Revival, The Beatles, etc., and a lot of good old stuff from Dean Martin, (my Dads favorite), Frank Sinatra, and many others (I’m very diverse when it come to music, except for most rap, that I’ll call crap). With all that said, now I remember all those components in storage. I dig em out, and it hits me: I need to build a cabinet to house all of these fine stereo components. I could build it to fit on top of the LP cabinet Uncle Herm made me.
And that right there, was my first real wood project. I think it was about 4’long, 2’ deep, and 4’ tall. I really don’t remember the exact sizes. I don’t have any pics of it, and don’t even remember what happened to it, unfortunately, but, it was pretty nice. Now I realize I need something to cut this plywood, so I bought my first power tool, a circular saw, by Craftsman. This cabinet was made from 3/4” plywood, and quite large, and painted black, it was made to fit right on top of Uncle Herms cabinet. He “schooled” me all the way on the build. He also showed me how to install hardwood edging on those ugly plywood edges. Part of his schooling included me purchasing my second hand tool, which was a Stanley block plane. (insert pic 4) I still have that tool today, and am finally figuring out how to use it.. Thanks to many fine folks here on Lumberjocks.. haha
2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
My interest in woodworking really began between age 10 & 14 from my Uncle Herm. Since those early days, my actual woodworking has been a lot of years of on and off actual woodworking, because, going back again, when I turned 16, I got my drivers license, purchased my 1st car from money I earned on my paper route, and found a job working at a gas station, and later, also at a golf coarse. This is where I began to NOT woodwork. Being young, with jobs and being mischievious, I didn’t have any time for woodworking. Note that I always had it “on the back burner” of my little brain for many years. This evolution of my woodworking really didn’t begin full force (if ya wanna call it that), until about 15-20 years or so ago, when I subscribed to Shop Notes, Wood, &Woodsmith magazines. So I’ve done a whole lot of reading, but, not a whole lot of building until these last 10 or so years. I am not afraid to say that I am still learning. And, it is still fun.
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to you are today
I have taken a few classes that were spread out over many years, which involved hand and power carving, building cabinets, and a few about turning. I am pretty much self taught, and learned a lot from a good friend of mine, and, don’t forget this very thing I’m typing into, the computer. I really haven’t made many projects that I personally would call a lot over these years, again, because I’m pretty laid back. I feel like I will be getting into it more and more in my years to come. Like my profile says, I’m a dabler of all, and a master of none.
4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?
I get inspired by just about anything. I love life, and all the beauty that nature has to offer. Along with so many talented people in the world. I think that many of them have an influence on “kick-starting” my brain. I enjoy looking at projects from all sorts, and it gives me ideas from their ideas. I would never use anyones design or concept without altering it in my own personal way. I hope that makes sense. I did used to draw a bit when I was young, and, I really enjoy just about any kind of anything artistic, wood, iron, etc., related. My wife gets into fairies, fantasy world stuff, and things like that, so I did a few things for her fairy room. I’m sure there will be more to come. Does that answer this question? I get lost in my head sometimes.
5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way? (and how did you overcome them)
For me, the biggest challenges have been to learn how to maintain, tune, and just take care of all the tools involved in woodworking, and of everything I own. I have never been blessed with large quantities of money, so, I’ve learned how to get by with what I have, and what I can afford. I could never, still can’t, afford, or even justify the high cost/s of some of our equipment we need for this great hobby. I have always had my share of the mechanics of how things work, how they come apart, and how they go together. I never have been afraid to try to fix anything. I always do some (a lot), of research on whatever it is I am about to mess with. I have been very fortunate with things that I’ve done. The old saying of “knowledge is power” is a sure thing.
6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking? (personal or tangible)
The greatest reward of woodworking for me is being able to imagine something, take a pile of something (wood), and make it look like whatever it was you pictured in your head. I woodwork as a hobby, and get great feelings of raw pleasure when a project comes together for myself, or more importantly, for someone else. You have to love the elated looks of anyone who is on the receiving end of a project. That is a thing of pure beauty, being adult and/or children alike, and will never ever be forgotten.
7. What is your favourite tool that you use for woodworking?
This would be a close race between my jointer and my band saw. When I lay a rough cut piece of anything on that jointer to joint the face, that wood comes alive. The band saw is another, when I resaw a board, it opens for that amazing book match of beauty. That’s what I mean by the the beauty of nature. Sorry how small this piece of Walnut is, but, I had it handy.
8. What is your favourite creation in/for your woodworking?
Being that I haven’t done a whole bunch of things, this would have to be the table & chairs set that I made for my 2 little Grand Daughters for Christmas of 2011. My Daughter tells me they love their table that Pap made them, and that makes me feel so good. In fact, at the advice of a fellow LJ’er here, I added a poem that I attached to the underside of the table for my Grand Daughters to put in their keepsake box. I’d like to share that here…
The Kitchen Table by Roger Kavanah
The kitchen table
Means a lot to me
It’s where our Family
Will meet daily
We will eat many meals
All of us together
They will all be great
What the weather
We all will sit
And play, and talk a lot
It’s times like these
Won’t be forgot
We may write a letter
to whom we love and miss
With many heartfelt words
We will remember this
Make much laughter
And many good things
Around this table
You all will bring
All good things
You are all able
To bring around
The Kitchen Table 2011
I believe the kitchen table should be a gathering place for all families. This is where we would always talk, and chit chat about everything. I also believe this is a place for teaching and a learning practice for young and old. Not only do you eat some good home made meals, but, you really get to know each other as an individual. That’s my 2-cents on this subject.
I am hoping to make many more things as they continue to grow.
9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?
My 1st, and I feel the most important thing that comes to mind is to learn all you can about the tool you are about to use. Follow all the safety procedures. You should know the components of all your tools, and how they function. If you don’t know what the tool is capable of, you are asking for trouble. Be sure to have the utmost respect for those powerful devices of all sorts. Watch and listen to experienced people, young & old alike. We all learn from one another. I am learning things from many of these youngsters coming to life in woodworking, here on LJ’s and across the web.
10. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I found these many great pages of fine artisans and craftspeople over 600 days ago, while doing what I do a lot, surfing the web, looking for information about woodworking. I think the pages of Lumberjocks is the best thing since ice cream. When you think how big the world is, how many talented, creative, and influential people (men, women, and children alike), there are, it is truely amazing to be a part of it all. I don’t feel I have a whole lot to offer, but, I sure like learning and sharing information about this wonderful world of woodworking. I hope to have many more projects in the future to share with everyone, because, as Arnold Schwarzenegger once said: “I’ll be bauk”
(Thanks to Roger for taking the time to do this interview for us!)
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)