The birth of a woodworker?

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Blog entry by stefang posted 03-28-2012 08:48 PM 4801 reads 1 time favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My wife and I were helping my brother-in-law to clean out my 91 year old mother-in-law’s house after she moved to the old folks home. Over the years I had made her some things. I liked to give her stuff because she actually seemed to like it (poor deluded women), and she had almost all of it on display here and there.

My brother-in-law had given a lot of her old furniture (from the 30’s) to a young fellow who appreciates old furniture and wants to use it in his cabin. While there to pick the stuff up, he spotted some closed forms I had turned during my ‘bottle period’. He asked me what they were, so I handed one to him and he seemed absolutely fascinated when I explained what they were and how they were made.

I could see the gleam in this young man’s eyes as he looked them over closely and marveled at their light weight and the tiny hole that they were turned through. I asked him if he would like to have them and he immediately took me up on the offer. Then I asked him if it interested him in learning to turn, which he responded positively to.

Well, he lives a long way off (a 5 hour drive) from where I live, otherwise I would have been glad to introduce him to some turning, but anyway, I hope he will be inspired to eventually give it a try.

I myself was fascinated at a very young age with a bowl my brother turned at school, and that was my inspiration for starting woodworking with a lathe. I often wonder what inspired others to start woodworking. Was it a wooden object, tools, a person, or what?

There is a famous painting by a Norwegian artist, Theodore Kittelsen showing a boy about 13 years old hiking in the mountains and seeing a scene like my photo below and dreaming that it is a golden palace where he can find wealth and happiness. Maybe he is a metaphor for how our woodworking dreams got us started.

Please forgive the sentimentality, but I couldn’t help myself.

Best wishes,


-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

22 comments so far

View patron's profile


13623 posts in 3423 days

#1 posted 03-28-2012 08:55 PM

and here i thought
you have been re-born
as a woodworker
this time lol

funny how a kind word or deed
can inspire someone
to go onto new places
and learn new things

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3385 days

#2 posted 03-28-2012 08:59 PM

oh no mike nothing to forgive, i really love the story’s and the men from your time, it was a time where men and women knew how to work and the many art forms were celebrated and flowered into what is now going on , men like you have helped men like me enjoy the art of wood working, and its so kind of you to offer to help the young man with his start …who knows where your encouragement will take him, as for me, my wood working journey started as a young boy, i bought a few tools at around 15 years old and the first piece i made was a coffee table, it has a tile top, and my sister in Wyoming has it to this day…and when i was around 39, the desire came back and i started to get into it again..i had a small room that was my so called shop, and when i moved here to Alabama, i built my 24×32 stand alone shop and filled it with tools, and the tool acquiring has continued…or should i say the sickness…lol….......and surrounded by wood and love the craft…grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View NH_Hermit's profile


394 posts in 3178 days

#3 posted 03-28-2012 09:09 PM

A good story, Mike, and I agree with Grizz – no forgiveness required.

I can trace back my love for turning to when I was 10 years old and a neighbor demonstrated turning a redwood bowl that I gave to my mother. I believe my sister still has that bowl. Too bad it took 58 years for me to get my own lathe.

-- John from Hampstead

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3416 days

#4 posted 03-28-2012 09:16 PM

David No such luck I’m afraid. I am doomed to be the handyman at the Faulty Towers Hotel.

Grizz I wasn’t really thinking I did anything wonderful for the boy, It was just a “Yes Houston, we have ignition” moment for me when I saw his enthusiasm. I guess it doesn’t take much to get me excited these days. Maybe your start was when you realized how much your sister liked that table.

John I was 7 when I saw my brothers bowl and I didn’t start turning until I was 56 years old. I guess many of us have dormant dreams that are reawakened when we finally get the time to do something about it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View degoose's profile


7237 posts in 3436 days

#5 posted 03-28-2012 09:36 PM

Mike it seems I still have a few years before I need to buy a lathe…
I was 40 before I started in woodworking… most of my life was academic…. now there is nothing I will not attempt… if it is safe to do so…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3416 days

#6 posted 03-28-2012 09:49 PM

Larry You will be disappointed when you finally start turning because you didn’t start earlier! Think about it, the lathe does all the work. You just stick the tool of choice in and wooden ribbons start flowing off like peeling from and apple, at least if you are turning green wood. One guy here in Norway turns bowls out of rutabagas (or maybe called Swedes in Australia?) to serve some salad in when they have company. Ok, he is an idiot, but think how versatile that machine can be. I can see Lazy Larry BBQ sauce bowls to go with the cutting boards in your future Larry.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 2621 days

#7 posted 03-28-2012 10:20 PM


I was in church listening to a gentleman speak and he was mentioning that he worked as a carpenter, I thought that would be a great part-time job while I finished my degree.

Coincidence- I ended up working for him (he worked at the university) and always saw the back cover of FWW every month and was absolutely amazed and the amazing/beautiful things that were made from wood. I got the FWW archive as a christmas gift and just can’t get enough.

Where I work there is a tablesaw, bandsaw and drill press right outside my office- good and bad thing.

-- I never finish anyth

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3416 days

#8 posted 03-28-2012 10:33 PM

Phillip That’s the exciting thing about life, it takes us places we never thought we would go. I know how you feel about the machines outside your office door. I once worked at an oil supply base here in Norway in an office attached to the workshop which had a huge overhead crane that shook the whole building every time it rolled back and forth on its rails. Not a great experience just after living through a huge earthquake in southern California.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18335 posts in 3758 days

#9 posted 03-28-2012 11:26 PM

Not sure why I started other than my grandparents gave me a pocket knife for Christmas when I was about 10. I started whittling plus helping building and repairing on the farm. Turning just seems to be the next thing to try ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3416 days

#10 posted 03-28-2012 11:53 PM

Bob As you know, I’m looking forward to that. My grandparents had a farm in Minnesota and my uncle who lived there was a very clever carpenter. A lot of homemade wooden planes can still be found on many of the older farms around here. Most are wormy and totally rusted, and not the best to start with, but it does show that woodworking was just something every farmer had to do as a part of running a farm.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18335 posts in 3758 days

#11 posted 03-29-2012 12:00 AM

Mike too bad your young victim doesn’t live a bit closer ;-)) I’m sure you could mentor him into a life long obsession!!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2922 days

#12 posted 03-29-2012 01:51 AM

Mike not long ago I was asked to attend a carving expo at our local AG museum by a fellow LJ. The LJ brought his son with him as well. The child fell in love with all the carvings. He won a door prize of a little carved car, and his dad bought him a couple of pieces. I saw the interest in his eyes. Every visit to his house I would take a carving book or a small carving I had done and give it to him. The last time he came to my house I gave him a small set of cheep chisels. His father won’t let him pick up a knife yet. But when he is allowed, he knows all it will take is a scrap piece of wood and some imagination.
If I had started some of what I am doing now at the age of eight. I could only imagine what my capabilities would be.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View justoneofme's profile


639 posts in 2562 days

#13 posted 03-29-2012 04:30 AM

It’s wonderful to hear these ‘starting’ stories into woodworking … look what you’ve started Mike!!

For myself as a girl going through high school, I really wanted to take electives like drafting, metal work, and wood work … but ended up with cooking, sewing and typing! Back then those other classes were strictly for boys! I’m glad to say that’s all changed now. And so I was content to play around with ‘chalk art’, designing huge posters for our church bazaars … things like that.

I dabbled for years into ‘girlie’ crafts while starting married life and raising our children, never having much time for even that spare-time sideline. Later, I got into a stain-glass course and made a few things … but was really glad when the instructor had to cancel out due to illness. Not glad for him, of course! But sure glad for my fingers that seemed to be attracted to every glass sliver going!!

And then that moment in my life arrived. It was Christmas Chaos … a very popular and large craft fair in our community. I had gone with a number of friends. While entering through the door my eyes caught something in the distance that I couldn’t stop looking at. Telling the gals I would meet up with them at the door in 1 hour, I left the group and headed toward the most interesting thing I’d ever seen … still unsure what it was.

This elderly gentleman was sitting at a booth cutting thin pieces of wood, making pictures. On display, high above his booth was the most beautiful picture that he had finished. I stood, rooted! I watched him work, while people brushed past me. The fellow glanced up a few times before I finally found the courage to approach him and ask what he was doing … and if I could take the course his little sign offered: ”10 lessons for $50”.

At last I had found a medium I could use to express myself … wood! I took his course, full of excitement that still clings to this very day! I learned all about Marquetry, and was (it turned out) taught by a Latvian Master! Herbert Lapins started his training at a very young age by sweeping the workshop floors of the master craftsmen. In his later life he traveled the world with his art, eventually (my good fortune!) landing in Duncan.

Herbert was impressed that my hands were strong enough to work an Exacto knife to cut the veneers, and that I showed an eagerness he’d not witnessed in many years. From then until his death five years later, I spent as much spare time as a mother and housewife could spend … working beside him. He had found someone to teach as much as I could absorb … passing the torch, knowing I would continue his love of this unique art. His son, who lived far away and had never shown interest in his father’s artwork, arrived to deal with the aftermath. I made his life easier by purchasing all of Herbert’s workshop tools and veneers, and with the love and support of my husband, set up shop in our basement (my first of 5!!!!! workshops … we moved around lots!) From there, the door opened into my ”palace of golden happiness”! I added furniture repairs and refinishing to my business cards, and life took on a whole new dimension!!

If not for that one moment in time … a special spark at the right moment, and that special person to guide me into the marvellously creative world of wood … I wonder where would I be right now?!

It’s the Herberts and Mikes and many more Lumberjock buddies who will inspire others to continue this boundless world of woodworking. I would love to try my hand at turning … or build a piece of furniture … or carving … or creating whimsical boxes, figurines, etc. As content as I am with my Marquetry and Intarsia … the creativity of woodworking is endless!!

Thank you Mike, for igniting a spark of memory in us all! By the way … sensitivity is an integral part of creativity. And you are very creative!!

-- Elaine in Duncan

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3416 days

#14 posted 03-29-2012 11:06 AM

What a wonderful story Elaine. Any art medium is an emotional thing and stories like yours arouse strong feelings about what we do and why we do it. Thanks for telling us your very interesting history.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View helluvawreck's profile


31985 posts in 2948 days

#15 posted 03-29-2012 11:58 AM

I think that I started because my family and all my relatives loved antiques and always had them in their houses so I was always around them growing up. Many of them had been handed down through the families for generations. My mother was an antique dealer for a while so I tagged along with her to the antique shops and even bought some for myself with my own money while I was in high school. I liked the primitive plantation furniture and also clocks and antique guns. So seeing what craftsmen had made in years past developed the bug in me. Unfortunately, because of the career I chose and being a workaholic I was never able to pursue it like I wanted to.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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