Meet The Maker: Carl Stoner
Inspired by his Uncle Grover, and perhaps later in life by his 1800s farmhouse, Master Woodworker Carl Stoner realized a passion for turning trunks at a young age. Perfecting his craft over time, he now has the skill and expertise to produce heirloom-quality hand-turned tools for the kitchen, garden, or your next party. (Carl constructed a honeycomb serving stand for our wedding that guests are still buzzing about!) No two days are the same, except for the daily assortment of phone calls he gets from his six grandchildren, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Where are you based?
My shop is about two miles from the Beekman 1802 Farm. I started in the basement of my 1800s farmhouse, and moved more equipment into my 900 square foot garage soon after, which I have recently remodeled into a clean, efficient shop. Two years ago, I built an additional 500 square foot barn to store wood.
What products do you make for Beekman 1802?
Various projects at the Mercantile, like cabinets and shelves in the front rooms, and projects in the recently opened Miele Demonstration Kitchen.
How did you get started or when did you first discover your passion for your craft?
When I was a ten-year-old-boy, my Uncle Grover from Ohio retired and started making beautiful things on a lathe. Over the years, he gave all family members salt and pepper shakers, bowls, and large candle stands; I still have these items 50 years later, and they will eventually be passed on to my children. I would like to make a series of bowls in his honor and call it the “Grover Series.”
Because of this, I planned to someday practice woodworking myself, and seven years ago, I found a very old lathe, so I started learning to turn. Since then, I have added two lathes and many other tools, mostly antiques, which I have repaired and reconditioned. I committed to woodworking, so I decided to retire from corporate life a few years early.
How long have you been practicing your craft?
Since November 12, 2010. (4:10 pm to be exact.)
What is a usual day like for you?
There are very few, “usual” days for me. I like that. I might start by commuting 100 feet to my shop, clean up the piles of wood chips from yesterday, then look at the list of items I need to make for Beekman 1802. Maybe I’ll start on something on that list, or maybe I’ll just create something new for fun, like a baby rattle for our new granddaughter, a small bowl for our 3-year-old-granddaughter, or a jewelry box with a lid. Once, it was a cake stand made of 96 pieces glued together to look like a piano keyboard for our daughter’s wedding (that took over a week). With a few breaks, I tend to work until 8 or 9 pm. Sometimes, the day is interrupted by a fire call, as I’ve been a volunteer firefighter for 32 years.
I’ll mix in some time cutting and storing some wood a friend might have given me from a damaged tree, or preparing wood for a future project. I do get a lot of interruptions from any one of my six grandchildren calling on the phone – that’s the best part of my day.
Is there something special/unique about your process?
Mostly, I learned a lot of my early techniques before attending classes and demonstrations where I was told, “you can’t do that.” Since then, I have attended many great classes taught by local friends and world-famous craftsman/artists. I tend to combine many of their methods, and then find my own way. I feel creative whenever making something, so maybe that’s my definition of “Special / Unique.”
How long is the process of making the piece?
Most of the wood I use can’t be bought, so it takes time and effort to get it, store it properly to dry and prepare it for the shop.
When the wood is ready, total shop time for a rolling pin might be thirty to sixty minutes. Platters involve six steps, so probably about two to three hours each. Honey Stands involve many steps over several days. Bowls need to be rough turned (one to two hours), then left to dry for one to five months. After that, there’s about another one to two hours until finished. When I demonstrate at four local county fairs, we make spinning tops and magic wands to give to kids. It takes two to three minutes to make a top on the lathe, and 1.34 seconds to make a smile on a child.
What did you want to be when you were little?
A psychologist, engineer, musician, music teacher, but mostly bigger than my four older sisters.
What’s your advice for people who want to follow their passion like you do?
- Learn to be SAFE!
- Learn everything you can from other people, learn to do it as well as them, and then figure out your own way.
- Practice, practice, practice. But, practice doesn’t make perfect. If you practice the wrong way, you might end up almost perfect at doing it wrong.
- Be realistic, and don’t expect to earn a living at your hobby until you understand the business, finance, and sales.
- Have FUN and let yourself be CREATIVE.