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One day while stumbling through the woods, Sharon and I came across a freshly logged area. We found these odd-looking "blobs" of wood, which we later discovered were vine maple burls. They had been uprooted when the roads were made. These were small burls, perhaps six to 10 inches in diameter.
We took some home, where we had a rusty all-in-one machine that had been left at the place when we bought it. The table saw walked all over the floor when we turned it on. Its dull blade was enough to cut the burls, and we couldn't believe the beautiful wood. We had never seen wood such as this. The machine also had a lathe, so I clamped on a burl, took my 3/4" carpenter's chisel out, and started to work the wood.
My friend, Russell Swider, schooled as a chemist, but at this time a blacksmith, liked what I was doing during 1979. He persuaded me to buy a bandsaw. We followed ads in the newspapers until we found a 36" saw. When I first stood next to this machine, with its steel blade spinning faster than the speed of light, I was terrified!
Russ had been demonstrating his work at the Oregon State Fair's Craft Courtyard. Started by Judy and Clyde Mullins, this was one of the earliest venues for craftwork in Oregon. Russ decided I should be showing and demonstrating my work. I thought he was kidding because I didn't have any idea what I was doing, and I certainly didn't have the skills to demonstrate woodworking.
My brother Chuck, Sharon, and I joined together and worked all summer to make some boxes, coffee tables, turned pieces, and a chair. We knew little about woodworking or machinery, so we literally hand-sanded each piece and glued the boxes together with a couple of inexpensive C-clamps.
For more information
or for more information
about Michael Elkan's extraordinary pieces of furniture, contact
The Real Mother Goose
in Portland, Oregon.
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