Friday, June 25, 2010

Meet "Speed" a man with a passion for wood and creating beautiful hand crafted furniture

June 4, 2:41 PMArtisans ExaminerBettie St.Ours

James "Speed" Carter, his talents are many but his wood working is superb!

Meet James "Speed" Carter from Pontiac, Michigan. One of Speed's many talents is making beautiful furniture pieces from exotic and reclaimed wood.

Speed tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Pontiac, Michigan, but grew up in Eugene Oregon. I met my wife Cindy in Tucson Arizona where I had traveled with a friend. We have been married for 39 years now. We traveled for a few years, then we moved to Oregon so our son Jeff could go to school there. I opened an alignment and frame shop in Portland, Oregon and was there for 12 years. I got tired of grease so I graduated to sawdust!! I have been doing woodworking as a hobby for most of my life and began in earnest when my father-in-law gave me his woodworking tools just before he passed away. He was a wonderful woodworker!

I started a Marine repair shop Carter Boat Works 20 years ago (can you tell I'm an old geezer?) and wood working just seemed to naturally fall into place. Interestingly enough boat cabinetry is a step above all other woodworking except Aviation. A boat is a man’s pride and joy, so the cabinetry better be and look superior to anything in his house. Plus there are no 90 degree corners, everything is rounded and fits against curved bulkheads. If that isn't enough it also has to be earthquake proof. When a big wave hits a boat it could easily exceed 10 on the Richter scale. Normal household cabinets won't take that kind of abuse.

What do you find to be the most difficult part of running your business?

I find marketing to be more difficult than making the product. I enjoy the work and making things, but the computer work I leave my wife Cindy who markets my creations beautifully.

What is one of your biggest undertakings?

Recently I made 30 plus tables (the last three photo's in the slide show are of these tables) for my favorite Chef Todd Stansbury owner of SunShine Pizza (you can find his store on Face Book) here in St. Helens Oregon (he also makes my favorite food, lasagna!!). Ummm, one of my favs too Speed. It took my helper and me 60 days to complete the task. Shortly after we saw a show about mass produced tables; granted they had a million or so dollars in equipment which allowed 2 and 1/2 men to made over 200 tables before lunch. My customer certainly paid more for my tables than a mass produced product, but he is extremely pleased with the hand crafted tables I made for his store and he knows that the materials and the craftsmanship that went into those tables are of the highest quality. He gets compliments on those tables almost daily and is very proud to have a high quality product that he knows will last for many, many years to come.

Working with Marine products I found that the type of coatings available works great on the table tops, better than some other products. Marine products can cost much more than anything at the hardware store, but they add many years to the life of a piece and only adds a small percentage to the final cost. It seems odd to me that most people believe using cheaper materials will make a big dent in the final cost, not true at all. That only works for mass producers. With handmade pieces labor is the big ticket. Material costs are small when compared. So use very nice wood even if it seems expensive. As a rule handmade is 2 to 10 times more expensive than the mass produced items. But that is because each hand crafted item is special and a one of a kind piece, unique. A good hand crafted piece will more than likely be made with better materials and with more attention to detail, and will last much longer.

Speaking of nice woods, what kind of material do you like working with the most?

I always use Mahogany, Black Walnut, Cherry, or the beautiful woods from Africa, Australia, and South America. There are 4,000 species to choose from. Woodworking is my passion and making something different or unusual is what I do for fun (although I do love going to the Oregon Coast, when we can).

How did you choose your Etsy shop name?

The name of Speeds Wood Working for my on-line shop came about from my nick name Speed, and my wife was growing tired of waiting for me to come up with a name so together we decided that it just made since to incorporate the two. But speed is not a factor when making my wood pieces.

Tell us about some of your other talents.

I seem to be drawn to older technology. Wood working is a least 4,000 years old. I have also worked with photography, welding, wheel alignment, frame straightening and currently marine repair also very old. I learned by trial and error, hands on and from reading and making mistakes. I learned welding by reading at night and practicing. I even taught it at a community college. I've been asked what my most used tool is, I enjoy very much using tools that don't plug in, hand planes and draw knives, but the most used tool of all is my trusty broom; my creative juices just won't flow in a dirty shop!

Well Speed, it has been a pleasure finding out all about you and your wood crafting talents. Your furniture is beautiful and I wish you all the best with your Etsy shop all future endeavors.

Folks go check out Speeds Etsy shop to see more of his wonderful creations. Maybe one of his master crafted pieces will find a place in your home.

Be sure to check out the slide show below as well to see some of Speed's lovely creations.

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