This interview with StumpyNubs is from the March 2013 issue of our GT News.
1. How did you first get started working with wood?
I suppose I started like everyone else, with a hand saw and some old scrap 2X4’s as a kid. I’ve told the story in my blog about my grandfather’s big green monster. It was his 1950’s Dewalt radial arm saw that he kept tucked in the corner of the basement with a blanket over it, waiting for the time he could retire and use it. We weren’t allowed to go near the thing, which of course drew me to it. I grew up thinking that the ultimate hobby was making stuff out of wood with a radial arm saw.
2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
I like the idea of making something out of raw materials. I mean, in this day and age of factory made plastic everything, people seem to forget that we used to make things ourselves. Some still look surprised when I tell them I could make that piece of furniture, or even that tool they want. It feels good. I also like the opportunity for artistic expression. I was considered a gifted artist as a child and young adult. I was skilled in several mediums, from oil portraits to Asian batik. But over time I lost my desire to pursue art- until I started woodworking full time. It became a natural outlet to express my creativity.
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today
My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid, so if I wanted a bookshelf for my room or a box for my rock collection, I had to make it. Grandpa didn’t let me use the radial arm saw, but I could use his hand tools and all the bent nails I cared to straighten. I would have to search through his scrap wood pile and ask to have any old piece I wanted. That taught me a lot about choosing wood and seeing diamonds in the rough, so to speak. As I got older and needed new furniture, I made it with my hand saw. Let me tell you, nothing forces you to be creative when you have only a couple of tools and big ideas!
4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?
I love antiques. I am a junky for anything old, and that includes furniture. I wander through antique shops way more than my wife would like, and I always want to see what type of joinery was used or how the piece stood up to heavy use over time. For that reason I am also drawn to the traditional woodworkers of today, like Roy Underhill’s use of classic tools or Charles Neil’s use of classic designs.
5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way? (and how did you overcome them)
I never had a place for a shop. My wife and I always lived in small apartments and any woodworking had to be done in the living room amid the irritated sighs of my wife as she picked splinters from the carpet and her feet. But I made a lot of stuff that way. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I got the space for a real workshop.
6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking?
By far it’s the relationships I’ve developed with other craftsman. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Through the production of the online “show” and the Stumpynubs.com website, I’ve met people of all skill levels who have been helped by what I do. I get fan mail, for goodness sake! Imagine that, a clown like me inspiring others! It’s very humbling, but also very satisfying. I love to build stuff, but I enjoy sharing with others even more.
7. What is your favourite tool that you use for woodworking?
Hand planes, hands down. I can’t get enough of them. I pick them up at yard sales and flea markets, sharpen them up and let out a soft sigh as I listen to them cut a fine shaving from a piece of straight grained wood. I think it’s sad that so many people work wood their whole lives and almost never use hand planes. They are by far the most satisfying tools in any workshop.
8. What is your favourite creation in/for your woodworking?
I have a step-brother with special needs. When he graduated from the 8th grade (there is no public schooling for kids like him past that grade in Michigan) we had a party just as if he had finished high school. I made him a box. It was simple, but still beautiful with spalted maple and walnut. He LOVED that box, and he still keeps it next to his bed… It doesn’t get any netter than that.
9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?
Read, watch and practice. We live in an internet age where you can learn fine woodworking while you sit on your couch eating Cheetos. Don’t do that. Instead take the books or computer to the workshop and actually try those hand cut dovetails yourself. Don’t be afraid to mess up a hundred times, because no skill worth learning comes easily. Through sites like Youtube, A new woodworker can apprentice with the finest craftsman of our generation right in his own shop. Take advantage of it!
10. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I searched “woodworking” on Google. No joke, that’s how I found it. And I was immediately hooked. Lumberjocks is the best forum out there because of the way the site is designed. It’s very visual, lots of pictures, places to show off your work, express your opinions, share your knowledge and learn something new. No other forum is as feature packed and user friendly. And that draws woodworkers of all skill sets. That’s why I’m here.
Thanks StumpyNubs for taking the time to do this interview.
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)