A Sultana High School graduate’s rocking chair built for two was judged to be the most rocking entry at a national woodworking competition.
Christopher Gagnon won first place in the High School Reproduction category for his “Love Rocker” at the Fresh Woods Competition at the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers’ AWFS Fair in Las Vegas in July.
“I’ve been woodworking all through high school,” he said. He was first exposed to woodworking by his grandfather, a luthier (one who makes or repairs stringed instruments). “That’s where I picked up my initial skills and then through my woodworking class in high school.”
Canton resident Sharon Newton bought her first table saw 25 years ago.
The rest is furniture-making history.
“I had always wanted to do woodworking,” she said. “I love wood. I love the way it looks, and I like making things.”
She has made Queen Anne jelly cabinets, a Shaker 10-drawer chest, Chippendale footstools, Ethan Allen night stands, portable church communion boxes, a bed for her brothers wedding gift, coffee tables and the cherry dining room set that she, husband Steve and sons Aaron, 21, and Charlie, 18, use at home.
Even as a youngster, Newton took toys apart, put them back together, made model cars and took a shop class in junior high school.
Newton, 52, grew up in Ann Arbor, attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids and earned her masters degree in industrial and operations engineering from the University of Michigan. She worked for the U.S. Department of Defense and had private-sector jobs with Vector Research and General Dynamics before she quit to raise her two sons.
Dabbling at first
Along the way, Newton dabbled in woodworking, and she still has toys such as a Volvo bus and a semi-trailer she made for her sons when they were young. She made everything from race cars to a xylophone for them.
She's good, son Charlie said.
Newton and husband Steve, a General Motors Corp. engineer-turned-pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Canton, made their home here three years ago. They have lived in places such as St. Louis, where he attended Concordia Seminary, and Nebraska, where he had his internship.
Newton works out of her basement, and her woodworking talents are apparent throughout her home. Her attention to detail is eye-catching, such as a Chippendale footstool with shaped world of cabriole legs complete with Philadelphia-style foot. She sells her work and said she can design furniture to accommodate most budgets.
Other than her engineering background, Newton said she gained confidence in woodworking by attending classes in the late 1990s taught by noted woodworker Joe Trippi of Livonia, who helped Newton hone her skills using hand tools and building period-piece furniture.
She uses a variety of wood, cherry, quarter-sawn white oak and red oak, poplar Appearance, ambrosia maple and Hawaii koa, among others. Every piece she creates is perfectly finished using just the right shellac, stain, top coat, whatever best suits a given project.
Newton never rushes her woodworking.
I get a lot of personal satisfaction from it, she said. Its good to see a piece come together.
It all happens in her basement, stocked with wood, a table saw, a band saw, a scroll saw, hand saws, chisels, screwdrivers, a router, hand planes and other tools.
I built my own work bench, she said, smiling.
Newton buys her wood mostly from area retailers and she estimated she works some 20 hours a week in her basement, which she fondly calls the shop. She doesnt keep furniture in stock. Rather, she makes it as she receives orders.
To see her work, go to She also may be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (314) 267-1125.
Although she no longer works in the engineering industry, she certainly uses those skills for what she says is her true calling. Her background in engineering has served her well.
"I still like numbers and math," she said, "but woodworking is my passion."
Maryville, Mo. — Frank Trump has always had a passion for making things by hand out of wood.
The 70-year-old retired teacher grew up on a farm near Trenton, where there were ample opportunities to shape and join lumber, and he soon began collecting vintage tools of the woodworker's art.
"Making things out of wood has always been my hobby, and I have never thought about making it a business because then I wouldn't enjoy it anymore," Trump said last week during an Old Arts demonstration at the Nodaway County Historical Society Museum in Maryville.
Behind the facade of the Jacobi Warehouse a nondescript building on Wilmington's Water Street one mans dream comes true as teens build birdhouses, planters, hand-turned bowls, even ballpoint pens along with other projects in the woodworking shop and art room.
Kids Making It, the after-school and weekend program that helps keep at-risk youth off the streets and encourages them to stay in school and graduate by providing vocational training and mentoring in a family-like atmosphere, also helps them transition successfully into college or the workplace.
KMI, which officially began in 1999, morphed from a part-time experiment to an award-winning nonprofit organization serving more than 1,500 kids in twelve years, so far. Founder and executive director Jimmy Pierce describes the experience of working with these kids as more than rewarding.
"Its the answer to a question I asked myself 20-some years ago when I was making more and more money as a lawyer, but becoming less happy doing it," Pierce explains. "The question: What would you be doing if you could do anything? My answer: woodworking."
FOWW announces a new section for wood carvers. Information including tools, techniques, projects, Whittling, Chip Carving and more.
Take a look around.
Three Volunteer Woodworkers at Louisiana's Bossier KIDS Foster Care Agency Earn Grand Prize by Building Beds for Children
Minwax, the leading manufacturer of wood finishing and wood care products, has selected Bossier KIDS, Inc., a foster care agency in Bossier City, LA, as the grand prize winner in the 2010 Community Craftsman Award Program. The award was made possible through the contributions of three generous woodworkers – Leon Freeman, Joe McDaniel and Jim Stoval, affectionately known around the agency as the "Crafty Old Men." The volunteers have built sturdy beds for the foster children – who in some cases have had to leave their homes with few personal belongings – to have a safe, snug place to sleep.
The Minwax® Community Craftsman Award is a national program that recognizes individuals and groups which promote community improvement through working with wood, and awards them financial grants and products to encourage continued community service. As the 2010 Community Craftsman Award grand prize winner, Bossier KIDS, Inc. receives a $5,000 cash grant, a supply of Minwax products and a private wood finishing workshop with renowned do-it-yourself expert and author Bruce Johnson.
The volunteers of Bossier KIDS, by designing and building these beds, saved the nonprofit agency precious funds, freeing up resources to support the foster children in other ways.
"We are very happy to recognize these selfless volunteers and the good works of Bossier KIDS, for their outstanding community service," notes Janet Krakow, vice president, marketing, Sherwin-Williams Wood Care Products. "These volunteer woodworkers' tremendous contributions to Bossier KIDS – and thus, their community – truly embody the spirit and intent of the Minwax® Community Craftsman Award. It also demonstrates how the gratifying activity of working with wood can be even more satisfying when done for the good of others."
Individual Recognition Award
The 2010 Individual Recognition Award – including a $2,000 cash grant and a supply of Minwax products – was awarded to Cliff Hay of the Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, VT. Hay, a wood shop teacher at the independent school, has dedicated his shop to service-learning, which integrates meaningful community service with instruction. As a result, he and his students have worked on projects benefitting Habitat for Humanity, a local day-care organization, a veteran's center, and the school itself. Hay also took a group of students to New Orleans to help clean up and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area.
Runner-Up Award Recipients
Two organizations were named Community Craftsman Award runners-up for outstanding community service – the woodworking class at Lincoln Park High School in Brownsville, TX, and Rick Jason of Germantown, NY. Each will receive a generous assortment of Minwax products for use in future projects. The students at Lincoln Park High School constructed a variety of therapeutic wood furniture pieces for the Moody Clinic, which serves disabled children and their families. The students built adjustable chairs and tables and balance boards and built a therapeutic wood gym in the clinic, using a ShopBot CNC machine to cut precision wood parts. Mr. Jason designed and constructed furniture and library shelves, otherwise known as "stacks," for the town's new library, spending more than 600 hours designing, building and installing the woodwork.
Minwax® Issues Call for Entries for 2011 Community Craftsman Award Program
Entries are being accepted for the 2011 Community Craftsman Award. Individuals, community groups, schools, and associations that promote and participate in the betterment of their communities through woodworking are eligible participants. The grand prize winner will receive a $5,000 cash grant, a supply of Minwax products, and a consultation with author and wood finishing expert Bruce Johnson. An individual recognition award and cash grant of $2,000 will be presented to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to their community through woodworking. Additionally, two runner-up winners will receive a supply of Minwax products. The deadline for all submissions is December 31, 2011. The winners will be announced in spring 2012 and the names posted on the Minwax website at minwax.com. All eligible applicants are encouraged to enter by writing a summary of recent woodworking projects that have been completed for the purpose of enhancing their community and helping others. Entries can be submitted by either (1) uploading to the Minwax website at minwax.com, (2) via email by writing to email@example.com, or (3) via mail by writing to MINWAX Community Craftsman Award, c/o Brushfire Inc., 2 Wing Drive, Cedar Knolls, NJ 07927. For more information visit minwax.com.
The story of two talented woodworkers of vastly different backgrounds launching a high-end specialty business is as interesting as their joint success, recently reinforced by an invite to display an $11,000 piece at a prestigious New York City furniture show.
Their 3,500-square-foot shop is all business, equipped with band saws and carver's benches, an articulating vise and a router dependent upon the operator to fashion the grooves, not some computer-driven pattern.
"Alison and I still enjoy the process of making the pieces by hand," Johnson says matter of factly. While assorted woods and projects in various stages fill some of the floor space, prospective clients cannot expect to see completed pieces.
"We don't have an inventory because we do commission work," Johnson explains. "Right now we're probably running four to five months out," he said of the time between the commissioning of a piece and work commencing.
Working primarily with cherry, maple and walnut, Keates has fashioned stylish sets of bowls, shaker boxes and pepper mills. And on those occasions when his creative urge has been accompanied by a little whimsy, he’s even carved out the odd yo-yo.
“I’ve just always liked the feel of wood and working with it,” said Keates, who’s shown his work on the Milton Studio Tour and at the Dufferin County Museum, and is also part of the 200-member Golden Horseshoe Wood Turners Guild. “I get a lot of satisfaction from it.”
Added Vee, “Ken’s always seemed to like working with his hands. He’s also baked a lot over the years, but once he got back into woodworking there were no more cakes.”
He’s been “fooling around” with woodworking since he was a little kid, 74-year-old Del Short remembers, when his father “first gave me a handful of nails, a block of wood and a hammer to play with.” That early pounding led through the decades to a vast array of projects, from practical to whimsical to nearly confounding.
“My dad was a master woodworker, and he taught me it was OK to be inventive and try new things, because you can always burn your mistakes,” Short says with what appears to be characteristically droll humor.
Your decorative miniature boxes look like they're right out of a homes magazine. Very understated and classy-looking. What's the story behind them?
I saw one (the taller of the two) when I was in San Antonio. I took a
picture of it because I liked it so much. Now the boxes are mostly what
I do. No two are ever the same because I mix different kinds of wood. I
think that makes them more interesting. It really catches your eye when
you see different shades and textures of wood together. And there are
no nails. They're mitered and dovetailed. I've also built some beautiful
blocks sets for my grandchildren.