It took a while, but the folks at Rough Cut finally welcomed Ohio’s own woodworking celebrity Glen Huey onto the show. In Episode 5, Tommy and Glen set about building a Spice Box using a design made popular in the late 18th Century out of Chester County, Pennsylvania. The box is a beautiful piece made breathtaking by a door which features a remarkably detailed inlaid design. Watching Glen work the berries into the door is watching a master at his craft.
We reached out to Glen to find out more about his own woodworking journey, his work with 360Woodworking, and his thoughts on the Spice Box project.
You talk a bit on the show about your path to becoming a woodworker: You were introduced to it at a very young age. What was it about woodworking that hooked you in?
While I was introduced to woodworking at 13 years of age, my path was heavily interrupted. After finishing college, I decided to put my degrees to work in my own business. I coaxed my Dad out of retirement and began a home-building business. At the same time we were building stairs for other areas home builders. I also worked on built-ins and other woodworking projects.
I grew tired of being in the snow all winter and the mud during the spring. I wanted something different. As I evaluated my home building business, I looked for what I liked best. It was the framing portion of the houses – during that phase, you work hard and at the end of the day you can stand back and see your accomplishments. Soon there after, you would complete the framing and start a new, completely different task. I enjoyed hitting the re-start button every few weeks.
I came to realize that is what furniture making was all about. Begin a new project, work out the details, build the piece then start another. I was constantly re-energized while building furniture.
At what point did you decide to pursue woodworking full-time? What made you take that leap? Were there fears and doubts you had to overcome?
We had finished what would become the last house I built for a customer, and were wrapping up building my house when I decided to move full-time into woodworking – building for customers and traveling the show circuit around the country, including New England. My first project was a full bar build for a customer, which provided the start-up capital I needed. No fears, I knew I wanted to build furniture. I mocked-up a 10 x 10 booth in my living room and built the pieces I felt would look best at a show. I then juried into a Folk Art & Craft show and I was off.What advice would you give a person who wants to do woodworking as a full time pursuit?
One of the areas that caused me the most stress, and influenced my business was that I had to travel to sell the style of furniture that I wanted to build and enjoyed building. One piece of advice would be to build items that can sell in your area. Even with the Internet, which was not around as I began my business, I still feel that customers need to see and touch the pieces. Not many buyers have the ability to make a purchase based on photos.
You have a very cool online presence through 360WoodWorking. Explain what that is to our readers who may not be familiar with it.
360 Woodworking is an online woodworking content provider. It grew out of conversations with a couple of print magazine editors. We agreed that print magazines were limited in what could be presented to readers. Text was limited due to overall page counts which made it difficult to tell the entire story, because text had to grow longer, photos began to grow smaller – no longer was a photo worth 1000 words because they were so small you could not see what was being shown – and there was no possible way to incorporate video in a print magazine. Being online, we can write what needs to be written, our photos grow large enough to see the smallest details and we can include video right in the middle of the article. It’s the best of all media worlds rolled into a single source.
You wear a couple hats for the site. How much of your day is spent at the bench, and how much of it at the writing desk? Which do you prefer? Any overlaps in the two crafts (writing & woodworking)?
Each week, of course, is different due to what articles are going out and what projects we’re building. Any of our articles from outside authors have me at a desk editing and formatting the online content. If the project or article is something that I produce, there is as much time in the shop as at the desk. In a given issue (two months and nine articles – we deliver an article each week to our members, with an extra project at the end of the issue) I would guesstimate that I spend about 65 – 70% of my time at the desk, with 30% or so in the shop.
What I’ve discovered is that writing and editing closely aligns with the original idea I had as I began building furniture; after a few days the project comes to and end and a new one begins. With every day different, I am re-energized constantly.Which of your own projects are you most proud of and why?
After building on average about 30 pieces per year for 20 years, I can honestly say that there are only a couple of pieces that stand out for me. I have a mahogany bonnet-top highboy (pictured above) in my house that I feel is about as good work as I can do. I sip coffee each morning with the chest in sight out the corner of my eye. I also have the Seymour mixing table (left) from my first book in that same room of my house.
Everyone at Rough Cut was thrilled to finally get you on the show. What was your favorite part about the Spice Box project?
I had a blast filming the project with Tommy – I’d expect nothing else. But if you’re asking about the actual building of the spice box, the door is, by all means, where the fun is. Sticking small discs and long strings of scrap into the door to come away with something that’s as eye-catching as it is, is amazing.
Can we get our hopes up for a second Glen Huey appearance?
I’ve known Tommy for a while now, and always enjoy talking and spending time with him – I’ve learned a thing or two from him, too. Plus, I have to say that the “Rough Cut” team who are behind the scenes are some of the nicest and most professional folks with which I’ve worked. I look forward to a return engagement.
Be sure to look for the Spice Box episode of this season’s Rough Cut on your local station: