Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 187, April 2021 Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
Here's My Woodworking!
By Matthew Miller
Asheville, NC

I started woodworking a little over seven years ago. While trying to perform a tune up on a car I had at the time, I came across a YouTube video about getting started in the hobby. I was instantly hooked. In the beginning I was dismantling pallets and building small pieces from those. I then moved into using plywood and pocket hole joinery. Now, I primarily work with hand tools and solid lumber.

While trying to figure out what to do with several offcut pieces of sycamore left over from a blanket chest build, I came across a how-to video about wood burning and pyrography. I was very excited because this looked to be a good use for scraps. Even though I'm not great at drawing, there are really simple ways to transfer images to wood and then go over them with a wood burning pen. The start-up costs can be pretty low as well and you can make pieces on a kitchen table if you are short of space.

Trying to find unique pieces of wood to match the design is probably the most exciting part for me. Below is the first piece I made and gave to my wife at Christmas. It's a piece of spalted sycamore and I like how it now mimics an almost desert environment for the elephants.

Small pieces can be exciting too. Below is a scrap of yellow pine left over from building a new workbench. Different woods present challenges in how they burn, so that's another thing to learn. Softer woods can burn darker more easily but can leave a rough, uneven surface that can ruin the appearance. It's all about finding a good balance.

After doing a few of these, my kids started making requests for their rooms. My son is really into dinosaurs, so I did this on another piece of sycamore. It was fun to let him pick out his own design.

My daughter prefers animals of present time. During the first lock-down we watched an online presentation from The Duke Lemur Center in North Carolina. They've now become her favorite animal. I like to think that this piece shows the value of keeping scraps and finding use for them.

Then one weekend for family movie night, we watched Son of Godzilla. The kids thought it was good fun. So, their next request naturally was…

After several posts on Facebook sharing these projects with friends and family, a co-worker of my wife's husband asked if I could do a large sign for his business. The sign ended up being 24” tall and 32” wide. The wood is spalted maple and finished with beeswax. It will be used exclusively as a background during Zoom meetings with clients. This experience led me to start advertising this service and I am currently working on several pieces for other people. I think the most important thing for me right now is to make sure I take on what is manageable. The extra income is nice too. I don't know if this will become a full time job, but it certainly has been keeping me busy during this pandemic.

Matthew can be reached directly via email at mmiller3506@gmail.com.

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