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Woodworking for Warren Snow is a Labor of Love

Woodworker finds a Tree of Life in his Life's Work

Article by Melinda Gipson

Photography by Melinda Gipson, Warren Snow

Originally published in Leesburg Lifestyle

Warren Snow’s woodworking career followed retirement from the Air Force as a communications officer. Having dabbled in woodworking as a hobby, he decided that it offered everything he wanted in a second career: the ability to work by himself from home doing something creative. Looking at the hundreds of tools in his converted barn studio, it’s clear that part of the draw must have included always having the right tool for the job. He admits, “To do this kind of work, you’ve got to be a bit of a nerd. There's a lot to learn.”

He began his journey at Rockingham Community College in North Carolina near where he grew up, employing the G.I. Bill to take the school's now defunct woodworking track. But, as it turns out, every piece Warren undertakes is an education. He specializes in marquetry: meticulously inlaid work of variously colored wood. The detail takes patience, and iteration, but he’s been lucky to have been offered custom work that allowed him to expand his talents, and perfect many of his own original pieces like the sleekly modern Mappa Burl Coffee Table that adorns his workspace. 

Because marquetry is, in effect, veneer, it sometimes gets a bad rap. Warren explains, “Solid wood over the long term doesn't hold up as well as nicely-done veneer pieces.” Over time, solid wood expands and contracts, even when it’s finished and sealed, and can warp and crack. On the other hand, underlying veneer is a quality piece of plywood, engineered for stability. 

“The best furniture made by people is invariably veneered... allowing you to have a beautiful wood finish and amazing grains impossible with solid wood. For beauty, you can’t beat it.” It is time consuming and painstaking; Warren has about 60 hours in the Burl table, and many more in the three-paneled Tree of Life installation for Hospice Support of Fauquier County. “I found myself wishing I’d drawn fewer branches!” he quipped.

Still, nothing is as rewarding as completing an intricate project or delighting a customer with something they’ll treasure. Nothing but love can describe it, and it waters Warren’s soul like the trees from which his art springs.

Warren's Woodworking Tips:

1.      Focus first on one area of woodworking: carpentry, carving, turning, cabinetry, or furniture, to name a few.

2.     Don’t be too ambitious with your first project. Illustrated project plans are a big help to get to the finish line.

3.     Learn, learn, learn. Research your project. Good resources for project plans are Fine Woodworking Magazine and FineWoodworking.com.

4.     If you don’t know other woodworkers, on-line woodworking forums are a great place to ask questions and get advice.

5.     Buy or find access to the tools you need for the project. On-line resources can help.

6.     Find a good source for hardwood lumber. This is different from a business for building materials. My favorite is C.P. Johnson Lumber near Culpepper.

7.     Be Safe! Be kind to your ears, lungs, and eyes with ear plugs, dust masks, and safety goggles. Never have your hands in the line of a sharp, spinning blade.

8.     Think through the best sequence of actions to complete the project. Good planning saves time and avoids mistakes.

9.     Accept that you will make mistakes. Creative solutions to mistakes can be one of the joys of woodworking.

10.  Have fun! Going from an idea to making something you’ll use every day is satisfying. 

See http://snowwoodworks.com or call 540-428-1763.

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