I began woodworking as a 13 year-old kid in seventh grade. At that time the male students were required to enroll in “shop” classes throughout junior and senior high school. Class options ranged from wood shop, metal shop, auto shop, and electric shop, as well as a few others. I had never taken classes like these and had little experience with them, so I asked a close friend who was a year ahead of me for a recommendation. He had just taken wood shop and enjoyed it, and suggested I give it a try. I did and I found that I really enjoyed it and was fairly skilled in it. During that time in junior high school, students were required to take more than one type of shop class. I completed both electric and metal shop. Neither were as intriguing or enjoyable to me, so I decided to stay with wood shop.
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 students that had shown a particular interest and talent for woodworking. It was expected that many of these students would transition from this shop class into a career involving woodworking, cabinetry or contracting. Vocational wood shop was two hours a day, five days a week. I was enrolled all three years of senior high school.
Close to my graduation from high school, my wood shop instructor approached me and explained that I had excellent skills and that I should consider some form of woodworking as a profession. I thanked him for his advice and told him that I wanted to complete my college 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, CSUN, and 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 early 1998, I came out of my woodworking retirement. My sister had 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: “He went into the garage one weekend. There was a lot of noise and dust, but when he came out, he had created a beautiful cradle.” This experience reinvigorated me and motivated me to get back into a hobby that I had left for so long, but loved so much.
During my professional education and the early years of establishing my practice, my spare time was extremely limited. As a result, I had denied myself something that I truly loved to do. After building the cradle, I made the decision to get back into woodworking and to perfect my skills. I accomplished this 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 woodworking trade shows. One of the weekend courses I attended was taught by Paul Schurch. He is a renowned furniture designer and builder, who received classical training as a woodworker in Europe. The first class I took from him demonstrated working with wood veneer and 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. This one half-day class opened up an entirely new world to me in terms of what was possible with wood and veneer. At the end of this short class, I asked Paul if he taught a more intensive course at his shop, not even knowing where his shop was located or where he lived and worked. He told me yes and to send him some examples of what I had already completed. I then attended a week-long course at his shop in Santa Barbara, CA. After this class he asked me to join him on a large project. I continued to work with him after the project for one to two days a week for nearly five years, learning all he had to teach and absorbing as much as I could. To this day, we remain close friends.
With Paul’s insistance, I entered my first piece in the “Design in Wood” exhibition, which runs in conjunction with the San Diego County Fair. I have been very fortunate to have won a number of awards for my furniture. The true reward for me, though, is creating something unique and special to be enjoyed for years to come.
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. I do not reproduce existing pieces. I take inspiration from all areas and have a large library of reference books. An individual piece that I design and build can require as many as 1,000 hours to complete. I use a variety of materials, many of which were common to the Art Deco movement. My techniques range from those used in the past, to more modern methods and tools which allow me to create my furniture.
A friend paid me an excellent comment one day while visiting my home. He is in the film industry and said, “The inside of your home looks like a 1930’s Hollywood home.” I was very happy to hear that my furniture designs have helped to capture that era.
I have many projects and pieces in mind to build. Unfortunately it would require several lifetimes to complete them all!