Native timbers take shape
When considering a piece of timber for a project, Ashland woodcrafter William Olsen takes into account its grain, figure, defects, cracks, knots, tension, compression, grade, species and origin — to name just a few characteristics.
"Sometimes a piece of wood will dictate what it's going to be," says Olsen. "As a furniture maker, you can look at the wood, and then inspiration will start to flow as you see the different grains and colors."
One piece may make two beautiful, book-matched doors on a China cabinet, while the flow of grain on another may lend itself to perfect crown molding, says Olsen.
Olsen was a cabinetmaker for 12 years before attending the Australian School of Fine Furniture at the University of Tasmania, Australia, where he learned the art of furniture-making.
His high-end furniture reflects the graceful contours and asymmetry of Japanese-style craftsmanship.
"I try to make it as elegant and simple as I can," he says. "I think you can get away with simple curves, subtle shapes and forms."
Masterful woodworking pieces by Olsen and 17 other members of the Siskiyou Woodcraft Guild will be exhibited at the 31st annual Fine Woodworking Show, to be held Friday through Sunday, Nov. 26-28, at Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Great Hall in Ashland.
Wood items ranging from ornate boxes and clocks to heirloom tables, chairs and trunks will be at the sale. Shoppers can either purchase or commission pieces from participating woodworkers.
In addition to Olsen, guild members showing this weekend are Russell Beebe, Roger Butterfield, Jim Chandler, Don DeDobbeleer, Marshal Dixon, Herb and Shannon Harris, Delbert Kauffman, Jan Krupnick, F. Mallory Hicklin, Tom Phillips, Gabriel Romero, Will Sears, Jens Sehm, Mark Spector, Dan Tilden, Alec Williamson, Willie Wolf and Mark Zumwalt.
"Furniture makers, carvers and bowl turners — we have all our bases covered here," says Olsen.
The majority of members work with native timbers — maple, cherry and black walnut — although a few use more exotic woods, says Olsen, who also prefers native woods over exotic, and often endangered, timbers from Africa, South America, Southeast Asia and Indonesia.
In his quest to be a good environmental steward, Olsen frequently reclaims and mills stalk and leaders left behind from clear-cutting or buys these castoffs from private mills.
"It's not that hard," he says. "You go down a dirt road and bring a chainsaw."
Olsen works with solid woods as opposed to veneers and uses natural oils and finishes on his work.
“I pride myself in taking the time to work with native timbers and renewable resources,” he says.
Admission to the show is free. See www.siskiyouguild.org or www.williamolsendesigns.com.