One of the things my wife, Cathy, and I enjoy doing when on a vacation is checking out local woodworkers, woodworking supply stores, and galleries. Once we’re comfortable in our hotel room I’ll open the Yellow Pages to “Woodworking” or “Woodworking Equip & Supplies,” or simply “Lumber.” We recently took a trip to the Gulf Coast of Florida and had the opportunity to visit a couple of interesting woodworkers. (I’ll cover the first one here, and the second one in Part II.)
The first was “The Dunedin Woodwright” (shown at left) in Dunedin, Florida. Dunedin is a small town just north of Clearwater. It’s one of those places filled with galleries, artists, and quirky little stores and restaurants.
Patrick (at right) and Grant Painter eagerly invited us into their shop and spent a good deal of time telling us all about their business. They grew up around woodworking and building construction since their father, Roger, was an architect who designed and built high-end custom homes.
In 1994 the family bought an old boat-building facility with high-ceilings and a wide-open area. It was perfect for their shop and they’ve filled it mostly with Powermatic equipment. They have a couple employees, Jim and Ian, who do a lot of the actual production work. Most of their business is custom cabinetry and they have delivered complete kitchens to as far away as Asheville, North Carolina. They draw everything the old-fashioned way — with pencil and paper instead of a CAD program.
The day we were at “The Dunedin Woodwright” they had two projects going on. One was a “typical” kitchen filled with cabinets made largely of birch. These were to be painted. A more impressive project was set up temporarily in their showroom. Made out of tiger-grained mahogany and ebony, this kitchen will be as unique as it is beautiful. All of the horizontal drawer fronts (seen along top of the cabinet shown at right) came out of the same boards so the grain ran continuously from one to the next. That takes some planning.
But the most impressive part was probably the kitchen’s center island (shown at left). It was built to look like a ship’s hull with mahogany and ebony strips bent around a curved base. You almost felt like you could climb up on the glass countertop (not shown in photos) and sail off into the sunset. I asked Patrick about the problems of expansion and contraction of the wood. He said that’s one reason why they used the narrow strips. The mahogany was about 4” wide and the ebony about 3/16” wide. If they should slightly shrink and a gap open, it wouldn’t be very obvious alongside the dark ebony. Interestingly, a lot of the assembly of the base was done with pocket hole joinery. Patrick said they love using Kreg jigs on most of their projects.
There was one other thing in their shop that I noticed. That was the long stairway up to their loft office. It was built from ash and the “spindles” used through mortise and tenon joints that were then pegged and wedged to hold the whole thing together. There wasn’t any hardware used. I’d never seen a through mortise and tenon used like it.
Next time you are on vacation, see what unique woodworkers you can locate. And if you ever get to the Clearwater area, stop by “The Dunedin Woodwright” and see what they’re working on.