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Women in Woodworking - Meet Katie Freeman
By Char Miller-King
Atlanta, GA

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 client.

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 dedicated to.

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.

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