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Here's My Workshop!

Gary Porter
Fairbanks, AK

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

Here are some photos of my shop, where I build boats and custom furniture. A messy shop sometimes but one that is well used. The shop is a two story building 28 x 28 with my wife's painting studio upstairs and an attached wood storage stair room. I built the shop myself over a few years and finished about 1996.

For the most part I am a self trained woodworker/boat builder. I work full time at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks so don't get to devote quite as much time as I would like to the business of making dust. At some point in the future I'll retire and then pursue the woodworking full time. At this point I turn down more work than I do.

I work pretty much alone but my wife, who is a painter, has her studio above my shop so she is there to lend a hand when needed. Sometimes she likes to do her own projects in the shop as well. We have a Nutshell Pram hanging in our living room that she built in the shop.

I've taken several classes from folks like Kelly Mehler and Frank Klausz and have an extensive library which holds most of my knowledge. Working with wood puts me mentally into a place where I very much like to be. The boats are a bit unique in that there isn't much that is straight or flat but more like a sculpture. Something very satisfying working a fair curve.

Here are a couple of shots of hand planes that I've made and/or restored. I enjoy making tools as well as using older hand tools. I still use tools that were my father's and grand father's.

I do a lot of book matching in my work which can be seen in my projects. Another thing I do a lot of is to match walnut and local birch. The sap wood in walnut matches nicely with the birch which gives you a nice transition from one wood to the other.

Book matching is one of the best reasons for having a sawmill. One can buy nice wood but to buy two pieces from the same tree is sometimes hard. I store all the wood from each log that I mill together and usually in the same order that they came off. We've had a number of logs shipped up from my sister's back yard in Indiana which are now air drying in various stacks around our three acre lot. We have stacks of walnut, cherry , maple , tulip poplar, birch, yellow cedar, red and white oak, and assorted other species all waiting to become something.

This small chest is one that I built while taking a class from Kelly Mehler, that was at Mark Adams school in Indiana. The wood is from an old birch tree (paper birch). The knobs are heads from bronze spikes taken from an old sailing ship, the Meteor, which was built in Seattle about 1891. I actually have a piece of doug fir taken from that ship that is as good today as any you could buy.

With the majority of my furniture I do not put much effort in to being clever in the design. I put most of my effort into the selection of the wood, considering the character and grain and trying to achieve an interesting match. "Let the Wood Speak." There isn't much you can do to improve the natural look of the wood. I do use an oil finish such as the Maloof mixture or such on most pieces.

My logo is what I call "The Lazy Otter", one of my favorite critters from the ocean around Homer Alaska.

Want to see more shops? Check out our Shops Gallery , featuring many of the shops that we have featured in previous editions of Wood News.

Would you like for your shop to appear in this column? We invite you to SEND US PHOTOS of your woodworking shop along with captions and a brief history and description of your woodworking. (Email photos at 800x600 resolution.) Receive a $50 store credit redeemable towards merchandise if we show your shop in a future issue.

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