There’s a lot of great woodworking information out there on the Internet. It seems as if every woodworking magazine, television show and product manufacturer has a web site jammed to the gills with great tips, how-to’s and background. (Click on the images for larger versions)
But, what if you also want some entertainment while you learn?
Enter The Wood Whisperer. Young, up and coming Arizona based woodworker Marc Spagnuolo runs a web site featuring a dynamic blend of solid advice, sound techniques and a unique, quirky style of humor.
While Marc’s Internet outreach represents the cutting edge of interactive woodworking education, his journey into woodworking began while watching his stepfather tackle a kitchen remodel and a living room addition in their New Jersey home. After a while, Marc soon found himself making his first cuts and swinging a hammer at his side. And, as a self-confessed tool drooler, he was into each of his dad’s tools. “It’s funny. He used to yell at me for not putting his tools away. These days, I’m the one who cringes watching him use my tools!”
After moving into his own home outside of San Diego, Marc started doing the handyman thing himself, turning his house into his own California Dream. Watching the transformation of raw materials into finished projects proved too fascinating for Marc, and the carpenter inside him quickly turned into a woodworker.
While developing his skills, Marc got hooked on David Marks’ show Woodworks on the DIY Network. Soon, his amateur woodworking methods began to become more refined, and Marc took the first step toward becoming a master of the craft.
At a woodworking show, Marc met David Marks and scheduled a class with him in his Santa Rosa, California shop. “What struck me about David was his unwavering love of woodworking. It was inspirational to see a man who, after woodworking for decades, still spoke about woodworking with a passion that I had never seen before.” After spending a few days with David, Marc realized he could learn a great deal more. Shortly after his class, Marc approached David about a short-term apprenticeship. David accepted, and a few months later, Marc was at David’s shop,
Marc learned the intricacies of freehand inlay, marquetry, power-carving and veneering. The pair completed several projects, most notably a hollowed 400 pound redwood burl that is still on display at a California winery.
It was shortly after his internship that Marc knew what he wanted to do for a living, and left the biotech industry that he had worked hard to enter. In 2003, Marc and his wife Nicole left California and moved to their new home in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. That’s when he established Marc’s Wood Creations, where he builds custom projects and runs the Wood Whisperer website out of his shop
Marc’s philosophy is simple when it comes to commissioned pieces. “I want to build the best possible piece I can within the budget. I want every piece I sign my name to to be an heirloom quality piece that will certainly outlast my lifetime.” One of the most challenging projects Marc undertook was building an entire book store’s worth of book cases for a small Christian bookstore in Phoenix. While this might be a production style job for most woodworkers, Marc takes the time to carefully craft each piece to ensure that each case is as perfect as it can be.
By far, the most rewarding aspect of Marc’s business is teaching, and it shows in his enthusiasm. I was fortunate to meet Marc Spagnuolo at the American Sycamore Woodworker’s Retreat in Cloverdale, Indiana. Marc was going to attempt to teach me – a cabinetmaker who sees the world as a very square place – how to work in curves while creating an Asian-style contemplation bench.
There were several times during the class where I had to stop and look at Marc as if to ask, “Do I really want to carve into this beautiful piece of wood?” With a knowing nod, he told me to give it a shot. As the Arbortech blade bit into the slab of tiger maple in front of me, Marc stood off to the side, carefully observing my technique. With the skill of someone who knew what the wood could tolerate, he knew as I approached the layout line in the seat carving and told me that I needed to slow down and get ready to refine the curve.
That’s how the entire week went, with Marc patiently guiding a class-full of students as they crafted their own benches out of purpleheart, mahogany, zebrawood and other exotic timbers. And each day, after a pile of wildly colored sawdust covered the floor, Marc went from student to student to encourage each of them, telling them that each was crafting a unique bench that would eventually be a piece of art. For a young teacher, just a few years away from his initial learning of the craft, he is well on his way to developing the skill and patience of a master.
While serving as a guest teacher is a rewarding experience, Marc’s true passion reaching out to the woodworking world at his Wood Whisperer website. This one-time side project has taken off during the past year, and is now becoming his calling card.
Understanding that it is better to show than tell, the site features a series of downloadable podcasts that walk beginning woodworkers – and those more experienced who need a refresher – the finer points of the craft. How to equip a shop. How to select lumber. He even did a holiday shopping guide aimed at the friends and relatives of woodworkers to guide them through purchasing gifts for that special sawdust covered someone in their lives.
The site also goes beyond the video lessons,hosting a blog, offering tutorials – there’s even Wood Talk Online, and audio podcast he co-hosts with Matt Vanderlist, administrator of Matt’s Basement Workshop Podcasts. Not only can you listen to the podcasts at the site, you can also download them at iTunes, so you can listen on your iPod at your leisure.
Marc has further enlisted the help of other woodworking bloggers and established the Wood Whisperer Network. From here, there are links to dozens of other blogs hosted by talented woodworkers. From the amateur to the professional, there’s a vast array of woodworking disciplines bound to suit just about anyone’s taste. “The member sites represent some of the best of the best in the field. I’m really excited about the quality of the woodworking blogs out there. There’s definitely something for everyone.”
And, it’s all coming to your computer, courtesy of the Wood Whisperer.