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Meet featured woodturner Peter Polesnak from Eugene, Oregon!

Tell us about yourself

I bought my first lathe in February 2020. This marks the true beginning of being a wood worker for me.

When I am not wood working I love to white water kayak, hike in nature, and spend time with my wife on fun adventures.

I am originally from Pittsburgh where I grew up and attended college. I followed a football career to Puebla, Mexico where I learned to speak Spanish, won a national championship, and earned my Masters in Nanomedicine. I moved to Oregon for work and have been living here since 2014. I am recently married in the summer of 2020.

What is your background and how/why did you get into woodturning?

I am a scientist and have always had a very curious mind. I often choose to do my own work on cars, renovations, electrical, you name it!

A friend let me know that the university woodshop was open to employees. I took this opportunity to make 2 Adirondack chairs from scratch. My (then girl friend) wife then asked me a question that changed my hobby for the rest of my life “Do you think you can make me a fruit bowl?” Since then I have turned over 300 bowls as my hobby became a passion.

I believe that the real reason I embrace woodturning is because I will start with and idea and in a few hours have a tangible result. My work in Nanotechnology is much more esoteric and theoretical, I really enjoy seeing the fruits of my labor when leaving my lathe.

What drives your passion for woodturning and who are your biggest influences?

I primarily work with local woods from trees that have already fallen to the ground. I love the idea of taking something that would either decay or be used as firewood and converting it into something useful or beautiful.

My biggest influencers are my wife, Herb Yamanaka (who always helps teach me), and Reed Gray (who’s youtubes have got me started). I have may favorite wood turners and always count myself lucky to learn from others.

Do you have favorite species of wood, or favorite tools?

Apple wood hands down is my favorite wood to turn for its smell! I also love Black Walnut for its beautiful color.

Is there one wood turned piece you’ve created which you are particularly proud of?

My absolute favorite piece is a live edge Black Walnut Burl. A friend had recently removed a decaying Walnut farm and loaded a 600lb burl in my truck. The piece that I chose to turn was a beautiful burl cap.

I am so happy with how the patterns in the middle of the bowl play off of the live edge that surrounds it. I feel as if the bowl is alive.

How did you develop your woodturning/woodworking career?

SO MUCH PRACTICE. My fail rates in the beginning were 1:1. Bowls would crack, warp, just look ugly.

I continue to learn from woodturning websites where experienced turners are excited to share their knowledge as well as critiques.

How do you seek out or find professional opportunities?

More so than ever in the past the world is online. When I started I had goals for entering artisan markets, fairs, and shops. Because of current world conditions I found my best opportunities lay on building my brand on social media and developing an internet presence for sales.

How have you built your brand and cultivated a loyal customer base?

I put a lot of effort into customer service. After receiving an order I am immediately dialoging with the customer. They have just spend a good deal of money and I want to make sure they understand how appreciative I am.

People rarely need more than one wooden bowl however I have noticed that I have received references as they tell their friends

What is the biggest challenge or biggest thing missing from your woodturning career?

The biggest challenge is time. If all I needed to do was make bowls and finish them Woodturning would be a breeze. The actual turning takes only 2 hours.

The majority of the work comes from: finding wood, cutting to size, drying, taking photos, maintaining a social media presence, and fulfilling orders.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those just getting into the craft?

Make lots of mistakes and enjoy the learning process

Peter Polesnak

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