Happy New Year everyone! Let us start this New Year off right by introducing you to an extremely
talented woodworker, Katie Freeman of Freeman Furnishings. Like many of the woodworkers that have
been featured on this column, they have also become friends of mine. Katie is a go getter, who like me
wants to celebrate other women in this space.
Katie's wonder and amusement for beautifully made, handcrafted fine furniture is in her genes. Her
great-grandfather was a craftsman. While Katie's grandmother was pregnant with Katie's mom, he
made a walnut crib and dresser that has been passed down through the generations. As a young child,
she learned about her great-grandfather's skills and the thought of being able to create something with
your hands that can be valued and shared for many years sparked her love of making.
In junior high school, where woodshop was still a required course, she learned
how to make basswood racing cars. By the time she really jumped into making she was a freshman in
college and had grandiose dreams of creating something functional and useful for her twin sisters, who
were toddlers at the time. Katie set out to make a flip top art table that would convert to a dry erase
board. I do believe Katie was on to something, it seems as though most woodworkers enjoy the
simplicity and space saving feature of flip top power tool carts and storage systems.
One side of her sisters' table was constructed of wood and the other side was a standing dry erase
board; initially gears and cogs were to be the mechanics behind this piece that would allow her sisters to
move it themselves. Ultimately, an adult had to help convert the table for them. This project was the first time
Katie used a table saw, lathe, miter saw, and router. With the guidance of her college shop manager, she
was able to successfully complete her project.
Katie has many claims to fame, however her power carving skills are unmatched. Whether it is utilizing a
stack of spalted maple boards or designing a diffuser globe, she lights up her workspace by creating life
size floor lamps complete with nooks and crannies made with one of her angle grinders or giving her
pieces a whole new depth by incorporating the shou sugi ban technique. This technique originated in
Japan in the 18th century as a way to make wood waterproof. Recently, protective wood burning has taken
on a life on its own for many DIYer's. Wood burning gives lumber such as cedar, pine, and hemlock, a
great deep charcoal finish. Using a high-intensity flame from an ice-melting torch or blowtorch you can
easily achieve this at home. Once the wood is burned, a wire brush and blower are used to remove the
charred dust followed by an oil finish such as linseed oil; the result is a beautiful piece that will literally
stand the test of times both inside and outside the home.
Recently, Katie had several firsts where she was able to learn a lot, especially by incorporating the aforementioned shou sugi ban
technique. One of her most recent commissions was a floor lamp which was all but finished when the base caught fire in her shop. In the midst of removing it from the shop the base of the lamp broke at
the glue line and all the carving detail shattered. Carving, whether it's by hand or not takes an incredible
amount of time and any time you see your hard work go up in flames, you need to decompress and
regroup. After a week away from the shop, she was able to rebuild her lamp and deliver it to a satisfied
Katie is fortunate to have two workspaces to create her works of art. In her home two-car garage she
has 400 square feet of space where her arsenal of tools live along with two workbenches. While the list
of tools is pretty extensive some of the highlights include a Dewalt miter saw, a Laguna band saw, a
Centro drill press, Milwaukee angle grinder and circular saw, as well as a Craftsman jigsaw and scroll saw. Of course, there are several orbital sanders that help get the job done. In her home shop, she also
stores her lumber which is sourced from local tree removal companies and small local saw mills. Some
of her favorite species are maple, spalted maple, box elder, and walnut. These cut nicely with her
Kutzvall and Saburrtooth blades. Her second space is at her local maker space, Iowa City Fab Lab, where
they have a fully functioning woodshop and even more tools.
Not only is Katie great at carving but she also doles out detailed tips on incorporating resin into her wood
projects and coloring them with various pigments from powders, alcohol inks, and dyes. When she uses
water-based dyes, she creates a 50/50 mixture of water and vinegar instead of simply water. This hack
allows the dye to alter the wood color and give it a better depth of contrast; for an enhanced color
tone you can boil the whole dye mixture.
In addition to being a maker, you can also find Katie Freeman blogging, podcasting, and working on her
weekly vlog. As part of her celebration of other female makers, Katie hosts the Maker Mom Podcast
where over the past year she has interviewed more than 60 fabulous moms who are also makers. These
mothers give great advice on balancing the two worlds in which they are so heavily involved and
The term Makers Gonna Make rings so true, with everything Katie has going on. She is setting high goals
for herself in 2020, which include learning five new skills, as well as designing and making an entire living room set and
bedroom set. Soon she will be able to add two more skills to her resume... Next month, Katie will be
moderating a panel at Workbenchcon, that I also have the privilege of being part of, where we will discuss being a
parent and a maker. Katie will also do a carving demo for the conference.
As a leader, designer, and innovator, Katie Freeman has so much to offer and share including some of
the best advice I have heard. She says, "know that even the 'best' woodworkers make mistakes with
every project, they just have more practice in hiding those mistakes." For those getting started in
woodworking, her advice is to start creating projects with one or two tools and grow your skill set one
tool at a time.
For more great tips and cool projects you can check out Katie's work on her website. You can learn also follow her on the following social media platforms: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
You can check out Char's website at https://www.thewoodenmaven.com/ and follow her on Instagram at @woodenmaven.
Return to the Wood News Online front page