Woodworking in paradise - In and out of the shop

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In and out of the shop
Calhoun’s stand-alone shop is a mere 300 sq. ft., and one side is a tarp that he throws up on the roof in the morning to let the air in. He closes his open-air shop in the afternoon, pulling the tarp down to keep the sun out and the temperature down.

Like many, Calhoun would love to do most of his work with hand tools, but he is astute enough to realize time is money. His main machines include a Laguna 18" band saw with a Leeson variable-speed drive, General 350 table saw with an Excalibur fence system, Grizzly 20" planer, Powermatic 719 mortiser, Record/Crown 8' lathe, and Sharp conversion spray gun.

On occasion, Calhoun receives a call from a contractor offering him a finish carpentry job at a mansion under construction. The money is too good to pass up, and Calhoun stops his furniture making for a few weeks. The work is long and monotonous but, in the end, it pays the bills and provides him more freedom once he returns to his shop. But how does he balance the trim work with his furniture making and deadlines?

“Usually your pocketbook does it for you,” he quips. “It’s finish work, doing all the trim work, the finish jambs, the finish cases, moldings, all that stuff in big houses. Everybody gets paid as subcontractors. It’s not always there. If things get slow, you usually call a contractor to see what else is up. If the galleries aren’t moving any pieces, I start calling around to see who has what going on.”

Here and there
In 2000, Calhoun got together with fellow Maui furniture maker Matts Fogelvik and formed the Maui Woodworkers Guild. As described on its Web site, “The Guild’s purpose is to promote appreciation for all woodworking in Maui County, particularly work in native Hawaiian woods; promote environmental responsibility to wood and its source; promote Maui craftsmanship and encourage new woodworking enthusiasts; educate its members and the public in the craft and design skills of woodworking.”

Although the group of about 50 woodworkers would like to put on an annual show, securing a venue on Maui is nearly impossible. The hotels are involved with convention work and have little time to deal with a small custom-furniture show.

“I had been involved with Hawaii Forestry Industry Association shows for years, and Art Maui shows and all kinds of art shows here on the island. I’ve been on the Art Maui board previously and just got back on it.”

Calhoun’s involvement in Hawaiian culture also led to a major role in the restoration of “Mo’olele,” Maui’s 43' double-hull Hawaiian sailing canoe, during the mid 1990s. He found someone to fund the project and worked one or two days a week on the canoe, finding it to be interesting and a great learning process. Unfortunately, much of his hard work has gone for naught.

“The hulls were just fiberglass, the sides and the gunnels and the bow and aft covers are all solid koa. It’s more about the history and tradition of sailing. It’s now in Lahaina, it has some structural problems and some termites have gotten into the cross pieces. Due to personal politics … at one point I finally walked away from it, and it’s just kind of floundering now.”