Texas woodworking adventures: mesquite, barbecue and exceptional furniture

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When Mike Sauder invited me to be a judge at the annual Texas Furniture Makers Show, he promised to load this Connecticut Yankee up with local flavor. I wasn’t disappointed. Not more than 20 minutes after Mike picked me up at the San Antonio airport, I was enjoying a pulled pork sandwich at a well-known barbecue joint, and getting schooled on sauces and rubs.

Mike owns 6 Woodcraft stores in Texas, and it’s hard to imagine anyone with a better handle on what’s going on with Texas woodworkers. When we first met a couple of years ago, I had mentioned wanting to get some Texas talent into the magazine. Now it’s gonna happen, for sure. I’m really grateful for all the hospitality, craftsmanship and good food I enjoyed during this 4-day visit. George Taylor did a super job of organizing the show and presenting the awards. My fellow judges, Ron Goldman (publisher of Woodworker West magazine) and Louis Fry (accomplished local woodworker) were ideal partners in evaluating 58 entries, and selecting “best-in-show” winners plus winning entries in 5 different categories (contemporary, Texas style, traditional, art, apprentice). It wasn’t an easy job.

The photos of category winners will give you a good idea of the diversity of style and talent on display at this show. One common ingredient I noticed was mesquite, a hardwood found throughout the Southwest. Once thought of as a “pest” tree to be cut down and burned, mesquite is now prized for its rich, dark grain, dimensional stability, and regional symbolism. After seeing so many examples of it in use, I’d sure like to incorporate this wood in a future project.

All 58 pieces will remain on display until Dec. 1, at the Kerr Art & Cultural Center (kacckerrville.com). Make time to pay a visit if you’re in the area. You’re certain to be impressed by the variety, workmanship and (in many cases) imagination on display–just like I was.

Best-in-Show Winners

Best-in-Show - 1st
Philip Morley
Cherry Buffet

Best-in-Show - 2nd
Mike Roberts
Best-in-Show - 3rd
Aaron Fox
Cocobolo Table

Category Winners

Best Contemporary Style
John O’Brien
Chess Table

Best Traditional Style
Leo Litto
Southern Huntboard
Best Texas Style
Lou Quallenberg
Sculpted Mesquite Tree Table
Best Art Style
Bert Ray
Linda’s Table
Best Apprentice
Martin Thomen
Mesquite Rocking Chair


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