Woodworkers get respect in PBS series

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Season 2 of “A Craftman’s Legacy,” scheduled to begin this month on PBS, includes several episodes that focus on wood turners, furniture makers and craftspeople who work in media other than wood.

Gorges tries his hand at bow and chair making during Season 2.

The television show is hosted by Eric Gorges, who left a career in corporate IT to make custom motorcycles in his hometown of Detroit. The premise is to showcase those who’ve succeeded in unlikely careers working with their hands.

“I worked in corporate IT for about 14 years and finally decided it was time for me to work with my hands,” says Gorges, owner of Voodoo Choppers. “I grew up around that environment. My grandfather was a master carpenter and cabinetmaker; my dad was a hobbyist woodworker his whole life.”

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In an interview with Woodshop News, Gorges discussed the risks and rewards of pursuing a career in craftsmanship, lessons he’s learned and inspiration he’s gained from the people he’s met and profiled and the ways that his show is resonating with viewers.

“Some of the biggest rewards these people see are their personal triumphs. Sometimes if you don’t work with your hands it’s difficult to see the fruits of your work. Sometimes a company is so big, with so many hands involved, your work gets buried a little bit. When you’re working with your hands, you’re making something you get to see and appreciate a lot more clearly than maybe you would otherwise,” he says.

Season 2 explores woodworking, shoemaking, bicycle building, clock making and fashioning suits of armor. Gorges plays the role of an apprentice in each episode.

“In one experience I worked with a bowl maker and that was cool because I never spent much time on a wood lathe, but I have spent a lot of time on a metal lathe,” he says.

“I also worked with Curtis Buchanan, who makes Windsor chairs in Jonesborough, Tenn. It was an amazing experience. And I worked with a furniture maker in Detroit who uses a CNC to precut a lot of his pieces.”

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The show is really about encouraging viewers to work with their hands, Gorges adds.

“I think a lot of people put barricades up in learning whatever it is they enjoy before they even try. They might say they don’t have the skills or the tools and give up. But I think it’s a matter of approaching things with an open mind and pursue what you want. You may not become some sort of famous woodworker or craftsman in your own right, publically or nationally, but there’s no reason you can’t pursue that as a hobby and become good at it.”

For show information, visit www.craftsmanslegacy.com.

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue.

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