Updated: May 15
Woodworking is a skill that requires patience and dedication to master. It can be both an enjoyable hobby and a rewarding career. With the right tools and knowledge, anyone can create something useful, meaningful, creative, or all three!
How I Got Started
I've been a woodworker for over 40 years. From large, built-in bookcase cabinetry to freestanding furniture, I've been honing my skills in many different forms for the better half of my life. Through this, I've built a natural confidence and finesse with how I craft - but after purchasing Gettysburg Sentinels from my good friend and fellow woodworker, Colonel William Hewitt, a whole new woodworking world opened to me.
Learning New Skills
This wood is unlike anything I have worked before. It's not consistent or simple like lumber yard wood. Most of my experience is with branches that still have bark and mill cut boards with deep saw blade patterns. These branches aren't straight; the boards are often twisted and have splits or even rot - and that's just what I can see before I get started. I had to begin anew and learn a fresh set of skills, particularly surrounding how to woodturn and engrave.
T h a t w a s t h e e a s y p a r t .
The hard part was learning to work with the wood. Before Gettysburg Sentinels, I never worked wood that I wasn't sure how it would look before I started, but that's how it is with this wood. It's a lot like peeling back an onion - it reveals itself as I plane it smooth and square it so I can inch my way toward a finished product. It not only begins to reveal its grain, but also all sorts of distressed areas like worm holes, spalting, cracks, knots, and rot.
Apart from the rot, the distressed parts of the wood often become very interesting. Spalting, which comes from insects, adds the most beautiful lines. Knots can be very intriguing and I often try to incorporate the cracks into the finished piece if it doesn't compromise function. I begin to see how, when combined with the distress marks, the grain can be worked to make each finished product truly one of a kind.
I'm often asked what my favorite Gettysburg Sentinels wood is. My answer - the piece I'm working right now.
The Woods and Their Personalities
Every type of wood has it's own character, each of which I enjoy exploring. The Letterman wood is an oak that dates back sometime in the late 1700's. It's as hard as a rock with lots of distressed areas. The Longstreet oak is not quite as old, but has lots of spalting which gives a nice character to the finished piece. With its classic color and tight grain, The Buford oak is a bit more of what you might expect oak to be. All three are the same species of wood, yet all three have distinct traits, not only in appearance, but how I work the wood to reveal its beauty.
I often state that 'I take what the wood gives me'. Each tree tends to give me the best results in its own special way.