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Professional woodworker offers an inside look at his craft

Steve Carey explains the difference between single generation lamination (left) and multi-generational lamination (right). (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
March 07, 2012
Gilford Public Library Staff invited Steve Carey, a craftsman from Hooksett, for a presentation on segmented woodworking Tuesday, Feb. 28 in the Library Meeting Room.

Carey had some of his work on display in the Library exhibition area through February, and agreed to explain the techniques he uses to make his unique pieces.

"Most of this stuff is not tremendously difficult, but it's not simple," said Carey to the skepticism of audience members as they looked over the ornate and intricate pieces on display. "You just have to be willing to try something new, and be ready to make mistakes."

These mistakes, Carey said, could lead to throwing a very expensive piece of wood into one's wood stove; the key, he added, is not to get discouraged.

"The difference between a carpenter and a craftsman is the price of his kindling," he remarked.

For Carey, the craft began as a hobby while he was in high school. Over the past 15 years, he said, the hobby became a serious interest. He glues his pieces during week-nights, and spends his Saturdays doing the rest, all the time using an old lathe passed down by his grandfather.

For the past five years, Carey said his one-time hobby and weekend pastime turned professional.

Even for those who have little experience with woodworking, Carey explained that for any interested individuals, the hobby was not out of reach by any means.

"For anyone that wants to explore this wonderful, artistic hobby, it's not as far away as you think," said Carey. "The entry level cost to doing this is a lot lower than you think."

He listed some basic tools found in most workshops, such as a table saw, clamps and a shop-vac.

"You don't need a lathe, but if you have one, it makes things a lot more manageable," he said.

According to Carey, the most utilized tool in his workshop is his trusty glue bottle.

After a safety lesson on dust and how to use jigs, so as to avoid cutting one's fingers off on the table saw, the audience was ready to find some materials to get started.

Carey said he starts all his designs on paper, and once he comes up with a design he likes, he uses cheap material like plywood and then pine to get a model. Only then did he suggest that one move on to more expensive and exotic material, like cherry or mahogany.

For cheap material, he suggested the cull bin at the local hardware store, which usually contains off-cuts for a few cents.

Once the materials are squared away and one has experimented with designs, Carey explained two concepts which he said would allow for an endless amount of designs. These were multi-generational lamination and making straight surfaces round.

According to Carey, multi-generational lamination is when one glues different cuts of wood together for one shape, introducing new grains and colors to the design, and when rounded on a lathe, can bring out different patterns such as ovals and "fish eye" shapes.

Along with Carey, the library also welcomed Adam, a student who Carey's wife tutors. Since last October, Adam said he has begun to pick up the craft during his study breaks.

Along with Carey's display were an assortment of pens crafted out of fine wood, which Adam crafted. Adam said a few of his creations went to his family as Christmas gifts.

According to Carey, similar pens retail for as much as $150 in some locations.

Carey advised apsireing woodworkers never make one of anything. He said that a typical design using four types of wood would yield four pieces.

Most importanly, Carey said to have fun. He pointed out a few pieces where he made faces in the designes.

"That was fun. I really enjoyed working on faces," said Carey.

For more information on Carey's work and tips on woodworking, visit his blog, titled "My Grandfather's Lathe," at mygrandfatherslathe.blogspot.com.

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