Category Archives: monthly meeting

glen guarino carving mirror

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall:
Glen Guarino talks design and process

Most of us devote considerable time and energy making sure our work is square and level. We like our work to execute perfect geometric turns as evidence of mastery. We impose rigid order on a material that begs to twist and warp. Thankfully, there are those out there who see things a little differently. Glen Guarino is one such person.

Though he is certainly more than capable of creating traditional pieces — thirty-two years of teaching woodworking will do that for you —  Glen’s designs seem to eschew the right angle in favor of organic curves, where each contour flows seamlessly into the next. This month, we were lucky to have Glen stop by to walk us through the process of creating some of his beautiful custom mirrors, from rough sketches to finishing.

Despite the freeform appearance of his work, Glen’s approach to the design of his work is meticulous. He begins with small scale freehand sketches, sometimes eight or nine for a given piece. From those, he will select two or three favorites and present them to the client. He then scales those sketches up to full-scale drawings from which he will layout his templates and that’s when the work really gets going.

The key to constructing one of Glen’s pieces is a method called “stacking”. Rather than starting with a large block of wood and carving it to shape, Glen breaks down each curve into sections, joining pieces at an angle such that it maximizes the long grain of the wood along that curve. These pieces reinforce each other, adding strength and stability to the entire work. Stacking allows Glen to utilize smaller individual pieces and create any shape he desires without having to worry about a section of short-grain threatening to, as he says “snap, snap, snap.”

Since each curve involves multiple pieces, Glen will often make templates for each layer and carve the pieces individually before assembling. That can mean three or four templates per corner. He points out that keeping track of left and right becomes very important at this stage. Once the templates are all laid out and happy, Glen moves on to the carving. Lots of carving. He sometimes uses a power grinder or rough carves on the bandsaw, but the bulk of the work is done by hand with various spokeshaves.

One amazing aspect of Glen’s process was his constant willingness to reevaluate his work as he goes along. He showed us one mirror where, just before he was set to begin the finishing (an ebonizing process which involved soaking steel wool in vinegar for up to ten days), he thought one area looked too bulky. So he did what any of us would do: he took this piece he had spent weeks creating and put a two-inch spade bit right through the corner! Of course, to look at it, you would think this was part of the plan all along. We should all hope to be able to keep such a keen critical eye on our own work from start to finish.

Glen’s talk was both inspiring and educational. He is clearly a natural teacher; but even he picked up a new trick from one of our members, Michael Stone (pro-tip: sprinkle some salt into your yellow glue to prevent movement during clamping!). In addition to talking about  “the work,” he and his wife, Marie (who manages much of the business side of things), spoke candidly about the challenges of putting a price on your work and leveraging digital media to increase your visibility. There really was something for everyone at this meeting.

We thank Glen and Marie for being so generous with their time and look forward to seeing you all next month! Stay tuned for more info!

For more of Glen’s work, please visit:

Candice Groenke, fine furniture, clock, handmade

Two Local Artisans: Stefan Rurak & Candice Groenke

Last night, we were thrilled to have two very talented woodworkers, Stefan Rurak and Candice Groenke, share with us some examples of their work and discuss their inspiration, their techniques, and what it’s like to be a skilled craftsperson working in New York. Though their paths to their professions couldn’t be more different – Candice worked as a carpenter for years before attending the College of the Redwoods for Fine Furniture, while Stefan trained as a studio artist before a sudden conversion to woodworking led him to apprentice with Brooklyn-based craftsman, Palo Samko – both speakers highlighted some important challenges we all face as woodworkers and how they manage them in their own work.

Candice showed us two of her pieces: a gorgeous wall clock she made as a thank you gift and a commissioned keepsake complete with a hand-carved top and a pressure fit tray that floats gracefully into place. She explained how she chose woods based on their particular properties whether visual, tactile, or if they “make you want to sink your teeth into them.” Over the course of a couple of months, she meticulously tested adhesives, experimented with clamping methods for unusual elements, and even made four different doors for the clock before she had the perfect one.

Stefan gave us a virtual tour of some of his seasonal collections, which tend to be thematically- rather than categorically-related. These included ultra-modern chairs inspired by the works of Nietzsche, a knockdown table that incorporates tusk tenons (a nod to Norse boat-building techniques), and a decorative chest made from a reclaimed oak beam with cylindrical drawers, which he drilled out using a vintage hand drill gifted to him by his father, just to name a few.

Listening to these two speakers one after the other, it’s hard not to draw comparisons. Both are clearly talented, highly-skilled artisans who are totally absorbed by the process of creation. Perhaps the difference lies more in what their work represents, rather than the work itself. In Candice’s work, one finds the pursuit of perfection, each element carefully considered and beautifully executed. Stefan’s work on the other hand is more like an evolution. Each piece is an experiment, building off of the previous incarnation toward something new. Together, these two exemplify the delicate balancing act all woodworkers must learn to manage between the desire for perfection in every piece and the necessity of completion in order to move on and continue to grow.

However, more interesting than the differences between the speakers are the commonalities. Both Stefan and Candice ended their talks on a similar note: the importance of friends. Friends offer a willing base of customers as well as a valuable marketing strategy for individual makers (nothing beats word-of-mouth). We all rely on our friends for support of all kinds and that’s really what NYCWG is all about, supporting each other and building a strong community. Many thanks to our speakers and to everyone who came out to support them. See you in all again in June!

Candice Groenke, keepsake, box, handmade, Brooklyn

Candice Groenke’s Pearwood Keepsake

Stefan Rurak, chair, handmade, Brooklyn

Stefan Rurak’s W 25th St. Lounger.