I began woodworking as a 13 year-old kid in seventh grade. At that time, students were required to enroll in a shop class throughout junior and senior high school. Shop classes ranged from wood, metal, electric, and a few others. Having never taken a shop class, nor having much experience with them, I asked a close friend who was a year ahead of me for a recommendation. He had just taken wood shop and enjoyed it. He suggested I give it a try. I did, and never looked back!
During that time in junior high school, students were allowed to take more than one type of shop class. As a result, I enrolled in both electric and metal shop. Neither struck a chord with me, but, to this day, I still call upon what I learned in those classes when needed.
During junior high school, I ended up taking wood shop for a total of two years. When I transitioned to high school, I enrolled in what at the time was termed “Vocational Wood Shop.” This was intended for those students whom had shown a particular interest in and talent for woodworking. The school system expected that these students would transition from this into a career. Vocational wood shop was two hours a day, five days a week. I was enrolled all three years of senior high school.
As I was completing high school, my wood shop instructor approached me and explained that I had excellent skills and should consider some form of woodworking as a profession. I thanked him for his advice and told him that I needed to finish my education. He smiled, patted me on the back, and wished me the best of luck.
I ultimately did finish my education, approximately thirteen years later, as a Periodontist. During that time, I attended Pierce College, the USC School of Dentistry followed by three years of residency training at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Centers. It was not until the late ’90s that I picked up a woodworking tool again. After my professional training, my tools of choice had become my ability to analyze a problem and to think on my feet in addition to a scalpel, needle holder and forceps!
In 1998, I came out of my woodworking retirement. Around that time, my sister informed me that she was pregnant with triplets. I gave considerable thought to what I could do for her to mark this monumental occasion. I decided to build a triplet cradle. With only the most rudimentary of tools, I went to work. My wife describes it this way: “You went into the garage one weekend. There was a lot of noise and dust, but when you finished, you had created a beautiful triplet cradle.” This experience reinvigorated me and motivated me to get back into a hobby I had left long ago but loved so much.
During my formal professional education and the early years of establishing my practice, my spare time had been extremely limited. As a result, I had denied myself something that I truly loved to do. At that point, I made the decision to get back into woodworking and to perfect my skills through trial and error as I read, took courses and worked with experts. I began by acquiring some basic tools that would allow me to build simple pieces. After a short period of time, I upgraded to more professional quality tools, many of which I still use today.
I enrolled in a number of classes that are offered in conjunction with the woodworking trade shows. One of the weekend courses was taught by Paul Schurch, who is an extremely well-renowned and skilled furniture designer and builder. This particular class demonstrated working with wood veneer and teaching the basic principals of Marquetry: designing life-like pictures with various types and colors of wood. Prior to this course, I felt that working with wood veneer was really quite simplistic. “Real men don’t use veneer,” I recall thinking. This one short class showed me just how wrong I was. The ability to work well with veneer truly separates the boys from the men in the realm of woodworking. At the end of this short class, I asked Paul if he taught a more intensive course at his shop. He told me yes and to send him some examples of what I had already completed. I ended up taking a week-long course out of his shop in Santa Barbara. After this class he asked me to join him on a large project. I ended up working with him for nearly six years (on weekends) learning all he had to teach and absorbing as much as I could. To this day, we remain close friends.
On Paul’s urging, I have entered a number of pieces in the “Designs in Wood” competition which run in conjunction with the San Diego County Fair. I have received a number of awards for my furniture, but the true reward for me is to have the pieces on display in our home.
Every woodworker is drawn to a particular style or type of furniture. Mine happens to be the Art Deco period. My furniture is all custom-designed and built by myself and is never a reproduction of existing pieces. I take inspiration from all areas and have a large library of reference books about the Art Deco era. An individual piece that I design and build can require as much as 1,000 hours to complete. I use a variety of materials which were common to the 1930s and the Art Deco movement. I use both techniques from the past and more modern methods to create my furniture.
A friend paid me an excellent comment one day while visiting my home. He is in the movie industry and said, “the inside of your home looks like a ’30s Hollywood home.” I was very happy that our home was decorated reflected that era.
I do have many projects in mind and would need several lifetimes to complete them all.