Artistry with oak and maple


By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
Dave Watkins in his woodworking workshop.

By day, Madison Township Road Superintendent Dave Watkins works with asphalt and concrete, but when he heads home his work turns to oak and maple.

Watkins’ artistry is in drawing function and form from a tree trunk or a board of wood and seeing the possibility of turning a plank of walnut into a tabletop or a cabinet.

“I probably became interested in woodworking 20 years ago,” said the 1974 Groveport Madison High School graduate. “I’ve always had a passion to build, whether it was woodworking, welding, landscaping or even cooking.”

And build, he does.

While it took Watkins two years to complete, his made-from-scratch kitchen cabinets, center island, and reclaimed wood dining table are masterpieces rivaling those staged in high-end magazine layouts.

Hanging above the island is a chandelier he created out of piping, Ball jars and a piece of walnut. Despite its humble framework, the lighting, if purchased in a store, would cost hundreds of dollars.

“I looked for them on the internet,” said Watkins regarding his search for kitchen lighting, “but decided it was a lot cheaper to make it myself.”

Framing a white-washed fireplace are matching hutches worthy of a master craftsman and in his garage is the final stage of an oversized window seat he is crafting for a sister-in-law.

“I make a cradle for the first baby for family members and I made a crib for my granddaughter,” said Watkins, who once built a two-level deck and a stone-faced wood fired oven as a “summer project.”

Raised garden beds he framed in wood and metal are both functional and visually pleasing with an industrial vibe.

While he does not directly sell his creations to the public, a dozen fortunate Blystone Farm patrons purchased Watkins’ handmade cutting boards during the 2017 holiday season.

“My shop is somewhat project driven,” admitted Watkins. “I mostly make things for family and friends.”

Watkins started woodworking with just a radial arm saw and a few hand tools. His wife wanted a new kitchen table and he had a new saw, so he took the first steps in creating furniture by hand.

However, he admitted the first chair he attempted ended up as kindling.

“I just didn’t have the patience at the time. It was two years later before I tried again,” said Watkins. “Fifteen years ago, as I acquired more tools, the projects got easier and at times more complicated. Very seldom did I ever use plans. It was by picture and my own design.”

Over the years, Watkins built an office wall unit with a large desk, craft tables, bedroom furniture, flight boards, bowls and chairs. He used timber frame joinery in the construction of the dining table frame.

The time frame varies for each project. It takes Watkins a few minutes to turn a bowl, a couple of days to construct a simple bookcase or up to a month to craft a table.

When asked if he has any advice for novice woodworkers, Watkins said there is a lot of information on the internet about woodworking and classes are held at local woodworking stores.

“Start simple, have patience and be safe,” he said.

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