John Eugster was introduced to woodworking in junior high. He liked working with his hands so much, he took every industrial arts class offered at his Antioch, Calif., high school –– wood shop, auto shop, metal shop and drafting.
Working with wood dominated his life. One of his pieces, a hallway table, was accepted into the 2013 competition for the Design in Wood Show, sponsored by the San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association. The pieces were on display at the San Diego County Fair this summer.
Design in Wood is a juried show that sees around 1,000 entries each year but only about 300 are accepted. Eugster didn’t win but said he was fine with that.
“It’s like any competition; just to get in is a good thing,” he said. “It validates that what you’re doing is valued by your peers.”
Eugster’s piece was a table with caning. It’s 5 feet long and 17 inches wide and made of Sapele wood, a hardwood known for its grain. The table can be seen at his site, woodworksbyjohn.com, if one scrolls to the bottom. He also sells pieces at etsy.com/shop/woodworksbyjohn.
He has applied to be part of the 2013 Summerlin Art Festival, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 12 and 13 at the Summerlin Centre Community Park, 1800 S. Town Center Drive.
As a child, Eugster liked creating things with his hands.
“When I was 15, I started working at a lumber yard, a little mom-and-pop operation, and I got to see people who worked with wood,” he said. “I was always building and creating and making models and all that kind of stuff. ... It was so cool to bring raw lumber to a shop and then go back a week or two later and see cabinets and chairs and tables. That really piqued my interest.”
Silvera Lumber set him on a path.
In college, where others might set a plank atop cinder blocks and call it a shelf, Eugster was crafting his own furniture. After he graduated from San Francisco State University, he became a teacher. He taught shop, opening Cannon Junior High School, 5850 Euclid St., in 1977. He had his students make a wall shelf and a man’s valet box.
Two years later, he moved to Boulder City and opened Garrett Junior High School, 1200 Ave. G. Soon, he bought land and built his own house, a one-story place with about 1,800 square feet.
“It was the ultimate do-it-yourself project,” he said. “I built the whole thing.”
Fellow teachers had other practical skills –– one owned a back hoe, and another was an electrician. They all built their homes at the same time and borrowed each other’s skills to save on labor costs. He started his house on Labor Day and moved in around Halloween.
Now, he lives near The Lakes. His house has a three-car garage that does double duty as his woodworking shop. His machines –– a band saw, a power planer, a table saw, a miter saw and a mortise –– fill up half the space. Large projects will take up more space and require clearing out the garage.
“When my wife’s car is parked outside, my neighbors come over and say, ‘What are you working on now?’ ” Eugster said.
He uses the power equipment to rough everything to size, but he turns to hand tools –– chisels and planers –– to perfect everything and do the joinery work.
“A lot of people will do computer drafting, and I’ve tried that but my mind just doesn’t think like a computer, so I’m actually drafting it; I’m building it in my head as I work out the details,” Eugster said.
“I’m more of a traditional wood worker. I like to use a lot of hand tools, do a lot of hand joinery. My fascination is the thought that you can take an idea in your head, draw it on paper and then use your hands, your tools, to actually build this thing. To me, that’s the fascination.”
He’s crafted a number of commissioned items, including entertainment units, fireplace mantels, desks and wall units. They would bring in $500 to $2,500.
The most involved piece to come out of his shop was a chest with a TV lift in it. That one went for about $3,000. The piece was commissioned after Eugster’s one-man box show at Urban Ranch General Store, 6985 W. Sahara Ave., Suite 105. Owner Durette Candito also hosted Eugster’s work in one of her featured artist receptions, where he displayed crafted wood boxes to be used as interior accessories.
“He’s an ‘artist’ woodworker,” Candito said. “He loves the detail work of the dovetail joints and the way things go together, and he loves wood. When he designs, I think he designs around the way the piece of wood looks, rather than the other way around.”
Eugster retired from teaching in 2008. The last 11 years he also taught at the Spring Mountain Youth Camp on Mount Charleston. He also has taught at Wood It Is, 2267 W. Gowan Road in North Las Vegas, and given seminars at the Woodworkers Emporium, 5461 Arville St., for its Woodworking First Saturday program.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 702-387-2949.