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Don Johnson: Local Woodworker and a bit more Sculpture, Furniture Maker and General Contractor, too

December 02, 2010
"One thing about woodworking, in general, there is always something new for me. I always have something going on," says Johnson.

He does have a lot going on. You see Johnson is the partial owner and developer of the former Carriage Inn Restaurant, now known as the Red Carriage Commons in North Conway. He, his wife Kimberly and another partner purchased the building in 2004 and says it was a process that took two years to completely renovate the space, which is now home to the Maestro's, the Local Grocer and the former White Mountain Artisans Gallery. Johnson and his wife closed the gallery this past October. "It is a shame we had to fold. We were basing the business on second homeowners and the tourist season. The season was just too short," he says.

Some of Johnson's furniture pieces were displayed at the gallery, some of which were made from recycled materials from the original building. Johnson says the pieces, which are still available, can be found on his Website: www.dajfinewoodworking.com. You can also see his water feature sculpture located in front of the building.

His artistic side continues to flourish. He works out of his home and workspace in Intervale. "I came to the Valley in 1979. "I built the original shop in 1984, built the house after. I tend to lean on the contemporary side and I also like to mix mediums, stone, glass metal," he says. Johnson calls his workspace his shop. The shop is an evolution and transformation. "It began as a 24 x 24 footprint, then I added another 24 x 34 and more. It is a work in progress," he adds.

It is in this space that Johnson creates. Just recently, he completed a steel sculpture with a copper patina. He utilized recycled materials. He says he worked on the piece over a couple of months and probably has 60 hours into this work. "When I first looked at the finished piece, "Dysfunctional Family," was what popped into my head," he says.

Another of Johnson's projects is the construction and design of a pedestal base for a powder room sink. Now, this sink is not just an ordinary sink. It is made out of petrified wood. "The piece of petrified wood was donated to the Gibson Center and made its way into the gallery. The center needed the funds more than they needed the sink," he says. His client purchased the sink. "I am making a steel base that will look like the trunk of a tree and making a faucet that will sprout branches," he says. This will be a surprise to the customer, he adds. Johnson has a complete welding shop, too.

Where does he get his ideas for designs? "A lot of times I don't know what I'll come up with. I'll let the materials or characteristics direct the design," he explains.

While he is not engaging in sculpting or furniture making, Johnson spends his time working with general contractors and has worked as a general contractor himself, building custom designed houses in the Valley. His work includes architectural millwork, which he describes to include detailed stairways, railings, paneled wall sections, wainscot, indoor trim and outdoor trim. "If I try to sum up my work, it is hard, it is versatile. I am focusing now on general contractor services, millwork, trims, and mantle pieces. It is mostly local work," he adds.

Johnson says he is fortunate, has a pretty good clientele and doesn't really advertise- he hasn't had to.

In addition to his arsenal of standard woodworking equipment, two years ago, Johnson invested in a CNC router machine. CNC means computer numerical control. This massive machine can cut out any shape. Johnson explains, the router is driven by CAD (computer-aided design). Johnson says when he designs, he begins by drawing a straight line on the computer, then tells the machine how much to deviate up and down and sideways. He uses this for textured panels, for wainscoting and sign making. "There are hundreds of different textures. This is highly technical software. Most people are looking for something different," he says. This machine can produce. "For any curved work, you can't beat this, the accuracy is phenomenal," he adds.

True to form from his high school days, Johnson is still learning and working. "The learning curve [on router] is huge. I am training myself. I have only just tapped the surface with what I can do with this machine," he says.

He adds: "I am getting more and more involved with other materials and exploring. It is always a learning curve."

For more information and to view Johnson's portfolio, visit: www.dajfinewoodworking.com.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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