Woodworking in paradise - Solo for life

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Solo for life
Calhoun has never had an employee or an apprentice, and it’s unlikely that will ever change. He’s had business offers from different people to get involved with flooring, ceramic tile, and running a cabinet shop. But, in the end, he simply wants to work for himself.


Chinese improv
Calhoun built this Chinese dining set with solid kamani wood. All of the joinery is done in the Chinese style; no glue, just wooden pins that lock the joints tight. The table measures 95" x 40" x 29" and when a table is more than 6' long, the usual Chinese style is to add a center pair of legs, which the client did not want. The solution was to build box beams with internal blocking as the “aprons” (all dovetailed together), and an additional center box beam down the length of the table. The joints where the legs meet the aprons are each comprised of 11 pieces of wood with a single bronze pin that locks it all together. It took Calhoun 10 months to build and finish the table and chairs.


He continues to be involved and very concerned about the preservation of Hawaiian plants and trees that contribute to the islands’ unique culture.

“Very few so-called ‘native cultures’ exist separate from the flora and fauna where the culture exists. If you don’t have a certain number of plants and things that are very much a part of the culture, how do you continue to express the culture? Part of my interest grew out of working on the canoe, having old friends that are Hawaiians and who are aware of a lot of those things. Unfortunately, a lot of modern Hawaiians aren’t.”

As he sits at a table in his living room, looking down upon a gorgeous valley that spills into the Pacific Ocean, it’s not difficult to see where Calhoun gets his inspiration. He has a stack about 2” thick of projects and sketches of things he admits he’ll probably never make, but he’ll continue to look out the window and sketch.

“When I look at quite a bit of the more recent work coming out of the East Coast, it’s obviously urban. Growing up and living in Hawaii, you can be outdoors pretty much 365 days a year. Except for way up the mountain do you rarely have to defend yourself against the weather. It’s only natural that where I live is inspirational.”

And if the Maui furniture maker has his way, he’ll continue to exhibit that inspiration and his love of the Hawaiian culture by telling its story in his furniture.

“Ability-wise, I’m still learning the business side of it. The business side is the hardest part for most woodworkers. How do you market yourself, how do you tell your story and feel comfortable doing it? That’s the hardest thing to learn. But what I’ve found over the last year is that’s the key to it, learning how to tell your story.”

One gets the feeling Calhoun has many more stories to tell.

Contact: Tom Calhoun, World Wood Works, Makawao, Hawaii. Tel: 808-573-2297. www.worldwoodworks.com