January 20, 2005
Many people like to build a wood fire during the cold winter season, but one man sees firewood as more than a way to warm a room. Chuck Smart gets more out of firewood than most people would ever dream of.
Some people like the description of being a chip off the ole block, but not Chuck Smart. "When they made me, they only made one," says Chuck as the walks through his wood working barn with piles and piles of firewood and a mound of wood shavings near his lathe.
He created a name for himself. "Just about everybody knows me as the bowl man," says Chuck after he turns the lathe's work light on with two clicks. See, Chuck Smart enjoys his uniqueness better than most people. "I like being different," says Chuck with a smile that's hard to see behind his 14 inch long beard.
His reputation turned out of taking one shape and making it into another, who makes his craft look and sound simple. "I cut away anything that doesn't look like a bowl," says Chuck has he reaches for the red knob on a power switch that turns the machine on and off, while it controls which way the lathe turns, forward or reverse.
He favors a particular type of wood. "I prefer free wood," says Chuck.
For a free spirit who started making wooden bowls as a teenager. "Fifty-two to 55 years ago," says Chuck as he feels the wood's surface with his right hand, finds it a little rough for his liking, then grabs a piece of sandpaper to smooth it.
Chuck Smart has never stopped learning in all these years. "I enjoy taking nothing and making something out of it," says Chuck as he makes, or turns, the piece of persimmon firewood into what looks like an odd shaped bowl.
His particular skill adds value to what appears virtually worthless. Chuck doesn't worry about running out of material to make his bowls since even the smallest piece of wood can become a masterpiece.
He learned his craft on his own. "Self-taught; Self-educated," he says proudly and he gouges out more of the wood, and the bowl starts looking like bowl. He made thousands of bowls and he doesn't think about it anymore. "These hands know what technique is best. I don't," says Chuck.
A simplistic way of looking at a craft gained from years of thought and practice. "A day is completely wasted if I don't learn something," says Chuck who looks at forests and doesn't see trees, but hundreds of bowls.
While people see a piece of wood transformed into a bowl, Chuck sees immortality. "Your procedures and methods live forever, and you live forever," says Chuck.
All from a piece of firewood thought almost valueless, but in his hands can take on a new purpose, more useful than before. Chuck Smart says he has taught about a hundred people the art of bowl turning, and he doesn't charge for the instruction.
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