A Passion for the Craft

By Bruce Wentworth, AIA

Craftsmanship, and a passion for woodworking, is a wonderful combination to have in a carpenter. This is the fortunate talent for Steven Barnard, Wentworth, Inc’s production manager. Not only does Steven enjoy constructing and supervising our client’s remodeling projects…he loves to spend free time at his home shop creating custom items fabricated from exotic woods. Bowls, trays, ball point pens, and custom home accessories are examples of his craft work. The man knows what he likes.

Three of his recent projects illustrate his attention to detail and creative use of modern tools to fabricate items with old world charm.

Cake Platter
A circular platter, fabricated from a South American wood called Jatoba, has pie-crust scalloping (often called flutes), and is elevated on a turned-base. The wood is sometimes referred to as Brazilian Cherrywood although it is not from a cherry tree. What looks like a hand chiseled flute pattern on the surface of the platter was actually created with a guided router and box core bit. To index the flutes he used an old 40 tooth saw blade with a small strip of ¼” plywood to create the ratcheting system. The flutes were router cut with a box core bit and took forty repetitive passes. The base, turned on a lathe, was made of 70 pieces of wood and glued to form the segmented round base with a flared plinth.

Custom Crown Moldings
Custom moldings are something we frequently need when remodeling older homes. Many of Wentworth’s remodeling projects are for older, often historic, homes with crown molding, base, chair rails, and plate rails being altered that are no longer available as stock catalog items. Steven’s wood working skills make it possible to quickly replicate old moldings without resorting to an expensive private millwork shop with long lead times. A recent project involved alterations to a 1880s Queen Anne residence on Capitol Hill. Because the oversized crown molding was to be painted a Poplar wood was utilized. Poplar strips were glued up as thick lengths of lumber and ripped to size. Using the old molding sample, the profile was traced onto the new wood to determine which of the router bits should be used, and in which order, to replicate the molding profile. All of this was run on a router table at his home shop.

Custom Stair and Newel Posts

A recent project in a small older urban townhouse required that our carpenters build a custom stair and railings. This new stair replaced an existing winder staircase that had been poorly built. Every tread was a different size to fit the tight space. Treads, risers, railing and newels were all custom oak work. These newels were also built by Steven using a lathe along with good eye and hand work.

Remodeling older homes is more complicated than building new. It requires integrating the new and old, and understanding how older buildings were assembled. A carpenter who understands these issues, is able to replicate the old, and has a passion for custom work is an essential ingredient to a successful remodeling project. Wentworth’s remodeling clients benefit from Steven’s technical skill and experience because it reduces cost on custom details, speeds the process, and makes the project fun.