This accomplished woodworker finds his joy in wooden toys.
SHOP OWNER: Ron Messersmith
LOCATION: Poulsbo, WA
I've been a woodworker for the past 40 years. I spent 22 years in the Navy's submarine service. It was then that my woodworking began in Hawaii in 1968 making large monkey pod tables and Lazy Susans. Three other men and myself turned out an average of 130 bowls a day. None were made on a lathe. We used 1920's vintage overhead pin routers and pneumatic drum sanders. Because I had made so many tables, the wood hobby shop at the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base hired me to teach the craft. On and off during my shore duty periods, I spent a total of seven years working at the wood shop and learning from many woodworkers who knew much more than I did at that time.
Over the next four decades I attended many weeklong and weekend workshops. I wish I was able to attend one of the great schools such as Boston's North Bennet Street School but, like so many others, I couldn't fit in the time and whenever the time presented itself, the space in the class didn't. So I was destined to learn the trade the hard way as well as what must be the typical way, trial and error, persistence, and many mistakes.
After I retired from the Submarine Service in 1987, I worked as a chemistry department foreman at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio. During my 13 years in Ohio I attended most of Mike Dunbarís Windsor Institute classes and also attended many Minuteman Institute workshops on furniture restoration. I learned from those workshops that it was very difficult to make a good living at woodworking unless you combined your custom work with furniture repair, and refinishing.
My wife and I left the nuclear industry in 1999 and returned to Poulsbo, Washington where we now operate a fulltime furniture restoration and custom woodworking business. We make pretty much anything requested of us. Our furniture includes pieces in Queen Anne, Chippendale, Shaker, Mission, as well as our own designs. We offer a complete line of Windsor style chairs. While I'm careful to stress to customers that I am not a cabinetmaker, we have built many complete sets of kitchen cabinets and others in the form of bookcases, entertainment centers, etc.
My real enjoyment comes in the form of wooden toys. I believe the toys I make are as good as any I have come across on the Internet. Some are my own but I do borrow from pictures I find in magazines and a few sources of blueprint suppliers such as "Toys and Joys" out of Lynden, Washington.
When I first established my business, my shop was fully equipped with Powermatic machinery. I decided after a couple years to build a new shop and, to save some floor space, I converted over to a MiniMax CU300 Smart Combination Machine. This one machine replaced five of my Powermatic machines - a 12" table saw, a 12" thickness planer and jointer, a shaper, and a horizontal mortiser. I found it to have some good points but after using it for a while, I wished I had not changed over. The machine arrived damaged so a service man had to fly up to Washington from Houston to fix the problems. A short time later, a drive chain that powers the drive rollers for the thickness planer broke and I could not find any local suppliers to replace the chain. I had to wait almost ten days for a chain (metric) to be sent from MiniMax USA.
Some issues I have with the machine are: the right-tilting arbor makes it more difficult to produce the quadra-linear legs I use for my mission style furniture. The machine requires dust collection to work properly and the dust chute has popped off several times. Itís a half days work getting it back together. Until recently, it was difficult crafting zero-clearance plates for the tablesaw. They're available now at almost $35 a pop. The tablesaw fence is not nearly as good or accurate as most of the after-market fences Iíve seen.
Some of the good features Iíve found are: changing from one machine to another only takes a few seconds, the sliding table is obviously a great feature, there are about five safety interlocks that prevents you from doing something dangerous, its footprint is relatively small compared to the five individual machines it replaced, and the Tersa jointer/planer blades are a great feature.
I love chatting with other woodworkers so feel free to visit my web site, www.messersmithwoodworks.com I just published it recently so it needs work but, just like my woodworking, mistakes will be made and it can only get better!
. . . Ron Messersmith