Chuck Larson Interview

Chuck Larson

Creative Woodcraft in Retirement

By Jean Cunningham

As a tree grows, its trunk gets wider and longer. Chuck Larson’s interest and energy in wood craft has grown over time as well but is now narrower and focused. Now that he is retired, he is spending time spinning his wood lathe making beautiful bowls, vases, and candleholders day and night!


While growing up, Chuck worked with his father using wood working tools to make a wide variety of functional items, large and small. Over the past 15 years through YouTube videos and other media along with his own experimentation, he has focused on the challenging craft of creating wood products using a lathe. He notes, “It is fun to be creative. It’s why I do this, and I take pride in what I do.”


Chuck’s wood passion took over his garage. He bolted his lathe—a motorized piece of heavy mechanical equipment for turning wood—to the floor and now heads to the garage to work on his creations whenever he feels like it throughout any given day. He can start and stop at will, leave the work as is, and pick up exactly where he left off without a lot of extra putting away and cleaning up.


What is wood turning? It is the process where raw, dried wood is placed and secured on a lathe. Then the lathe spins the wood at high speed, and an operator presses the edge of a metal gouge—a chisel with a shaped cutting edge— into the spinning wood which carves out portions of the wood to create symmetrical shapes. A common example of an item created on a lathe is a decorative table leg. But turning the wood is just one of the middle stages in Chuck’s overall process to complete a new wood craft.


His first step is to procure wood. He might find fallen log near his home. These he paints a waxy substance on the ends to protect the open surface and sets them in his yard to dry for a few years. Chuck buys other wood pieces from a lumber company that specializes in global hardwoods. His favorite wood to use is walnut, but he has developed “a real fondness” for cherry. Oak is another wood he often uses for its rough and sturdy nature.



When he chooses a fallen log for a project, it is usually in “terrible shape.” He usually must round it off a bit with a saw before it is put on the lathe. The danger of splintering wood is ever present when shaping wood, so a face shield is a must. Once on the lathe, it will stay there until the entire lathe operation is complete. As a result, Chuck only completes one piece at a time!


If he starts with purchased wood, he will cut flat layers and shapes of different woods and glue them together into patterns, like checkerboard, before he puts it on the lathe.


Whether a single, dried piece or a piece made up of glued layers, once it is on the lathe, Chuck turns the piece to get it smooth. His pieces are up to 12 inches wide which is the size limit of his lathe. It is only at this point, after smoothing the item down, that he decides what he will make based on the unique features of the wood that are revealed. If the wood is long, it may be a vase. If squat; a bowl. Using a variety of gouges, he shapes the wood inside and out as it turns on the lathe.


The next stage is to sand the item with an increasingly fine grit sandpaper while still on the lathe. Then, it is polished with a paste that has grit in it to make it ready for a finish. Chuck does not stain the wood so the natural colors will glow through the finished piece. He creates a hard finish with 2-3 coats of a wax emulsion while adding drying time between each coat. Finally, Chuck removes the piece from the lathe. It is complete and ready to add a little beauty and utility to someone’s home.


When you purchase any of Chuck’s wood craft products, you know it has received his undivided attention as he makes just one at a time with each unique in style and wood features.


If you were to look around his studio/garage right now, you would see items in several different stages of the process. He has some new wood that he is prepping to use to make vases and bowls for upcoming art fairs and Etsy. While some items take longer, he can usually complete one item a day in a good week. And if you were to look in Chuck’s kitchen, you would see his wood bowls being using functionally; not simply sitting on a shelf!


If you are interested in wood craft by Chuck Larson, look for him at the Evanston Made art events and at



Jean Cunningham is retired after a career in business management and finance. She has written three books and authored many articles in her field, was a speaker at conferences, and taught at the university level. While traveling for business she began painting and drawing for relaxation and collecting art. She and her husband have lived in Evanston for 11 years and are avid walkers of the town and lakeside. She has a BS from Indiana University and an MBA from Northeastern University. 

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