Hooked on a Feeling

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Did you ever start a hobby and loved it so much that you knew you would never quit doing it no matter what?  Well Michael Smith is such a guy and his hobby is, you guessed it…woodworking! Now Mike is not your average woodworker.  He is hooked on woodturning and turns by feeling.

Mike was born on July 21,1952 in Artesia, New Mexico. He is married and the father of five children ranging in age from sixteen years to thirty-seven years (2 boys and 3 girls).

Mike is a retired U.S. Navy and Air Force Veteran. For twenty-five years he worked as a maintenance electrician. His favorite hobbies are fishing and woodworking, making tables, dressers and other furniture.  He began woodworking when he was about 19 years of age.

On July 5th 2009, Mike woke up with blurred vision in his left eye.  He immediately went to see an ophthalmologist who then referred him to a neurologist.  After several tests at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, including cat scans, spinal taps, and a double biopsy of the eyes, doctors determined he was totally blind in his left eye.  They decided he was fit to return to work in September 2009. They believed he would learn to adjust and deal with vision in one eye and work successfully again.

Three months later on a Sunday morning, Mike woke up and realized he was losing vision in his right eye.  Within five days he lost 95% of the vision in that eye as well.  In February 2010 he was admitted to a VA blind rehab center in Birmingham, Alabama where he spent three months learning to deal with his disability.  While there, he re-learned how to do woodworking once more, this time in the venue of woodturning.  Michael came home with a new outlook on life and began work immediately making wooden bowls, cutting boards, serving trays, chess/checker boards, goblets and some segmented turnings as well.

Mike said, “I never used a lathe before going blind. Turning was kind of a mystery to me and I was actually afraid of it.  But now I awake sometimes at 1, 2 or even 3:00 in the morning with creative ideas.  I walk over to my shop and immediately notate these ideas on my recorder so I do not forget them, and then go back to bed.  Then I put together a method of accomplishing these design ideas and begin work in my shop.  My goal is to expand my woodworking to a new level, creating new and interesting projects.”

We met Mike at the IWF show in Atlanta.  He had heard good things about Easy Wood Tools from other blind turners and called Craig Jackson, president of Easy Wood Toolsprior to the IWF to see if they could hook up at the show for a “hands on” demo. Craig said ”Come on up to the show and we will definitely do some turning!”

Mike indeed drove up from Florida with his son to meet Craig.  After a few handshakes, they decided to make some shavings.  Craig introduced Mike to Easy Wood turning and Mike realized this was what he was after – a tool system that allowed him to simply and safety transfer the shapes and designs from his mind to making those shapes a reality in the wood.  After a few shavings, Mike found that simple, flat, level design of the tools became a natural extension of his hands to the wood. For Mike, the tool’s easy use gave him a confidence and ability he had never felt before.  Within a matter of minutes, Mike was turning easily with his new found Easy Wood Turning Tools.

Listen in to Craig & Mike at the Woodcraft booth during IWF,


Back in his shop, Mike retired his old set of turning tools and uses only Easy Wood Tools now. He told Craig, “I may as well have been using a spoon to turn with.  I was going to give away my old set of tools but thought that might be cruel and unusual punishment for the next turner!  I didn’t know what turning was before using these EWT’s.” Mike was very grateful to Craig for teaching him and helping him attain a full set of EWT’s.  Craig was humbled by Mike’s abilities, service to our country and was honored to help him be more creative.

Mike spends his days in his woodshop, praying and working on projects.  He believes that God has a reason for his blindness and that he can minister to others through his woodworking.  You can find all of Mike’s artisan works and may purchase his beautiful wooden handcrafted items at www.falconcrestwoodworks.com.  You may also visit his Facebook page at, www.facebook.com/falconcrestwoodworks.

Woodcraft offers all the Easy Wood Turning Tool’s and other products, check those out HERE.

More to come from IWF 2012, stay linked…Frank!

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