Michael Kendra, Woodturner

I’ve always had an interest in woodworking, from the time I was a teenager, I helped my dad build a wooden deck for our above ground pool. Not long after, in High School, I had a good shop class teacher who taught me to use tools like a Band Saw and a Disk Sander. My first projects included making a wall mounted coat and magazine rack, I pretty much built any wooden project they would let me. Shop class only lasted a few months, but the memory of the experience has lasted.

I have to give my father credit for also passing along many of my favorite interests… American History, the Civil War, Wood Working, and even Lathe turning! I used to spend hours watching him, as well as my uncle, and one of my cousins turning various metal tools on an old craftsman lathe. I think I picked up some of my skills watching and helping them.

As these things typically go, I was drawn to learn about computers, and that became my profession. Woodworking was just an occasional hobby…

A few years later, I spent time with my dad building a wooden cart with wheels for our Civil War Skirmishing events. Even as an adult, he was still teaching me the value of using hand tools, how to use many power tools safely, and creating useful things from simple pieces of wood.

For the last 20 years or so, my profession has been working as a computer systems contractor, most recently helping to replace old laptops with new ones, I consider this my day job. At home in the evenings, I work as a Webmaster and Community Manager at my forum, CivilWarTalk.com.

My dad’s been gone a few years now. In a moment of boredom, I was looking for a way to get creative making gifts for friends and family, and my web site. I discovered that it might be possible to pick up wood from a sailing ship like the U.S.S. Constitution, or “Old Ironsides”, but what could I do with this small piece of timber from a ship like that? Looking further, wooden pen turning seemed like a great place to make use of such wood! Everything just clicked for me.

Soon, I found a great lathe, watched a few videos on YouTube, and spent hours practicing my new craft, as well as restoring my fathers old lathe! I was making new contacts that had access to historic woods from around the country, and I found that many of the lessons I had learned many years ago helped me progress along the way.

I have never formally taken a class in woodturning, everything I’ve learned, I learned on my own. I’ve spend many hours in my workshop perfecting all the different techniques I use. I seek out new ideas and techniques wherever I can find them. I also hunt down wood from historic witness trees, as well as wooden artifacts that might work well with woodturning. I love American History, and hope to create many different projects, but I plan to specialize in American Civil War witness tree woods.

I picked the name Shenandoah Arsenal Turning for my business because I feel like it encapsulates a lot of the emotions and feelings I have about my wood turning projects. I moved from New Jersey to West Virginia because my family and I wanted to live in a more rural area. The Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, and the surrounding areas are beautiful and filled with many wonderful, wild, and historic places to explore. I also am reminded of my studies of Civil War artillery, and the works of Robert Parrott and Thomas Rodman, both expert cannon makers of their time. I remember the amazing lathes they used to turn giant iron castings into cannon barrels. I also think of how Civil War arms were manufactured and stocked in American arsenals like Springfield, and Harpers Ferry which is just a few miles from where I live…

My friends and family are quickly learning to accept that I’m a bit of a perfectionist with my work. I’m willing to compromise on my designs, but only if it improves them, when the result is less then perfect, I either scrap the project for firewood, or set it aside as a reminder of ways I’ve gone wrong. I use this as a reference of “ways not to turn wood on the lathe”…

Most recently, as I’ve started to show my products at local markets along side my wife. She does colorful poured paintings and other Artwork, and we’ve recently started using a new road name. Her art business is Vibrantly Ami, but together, when we attend shows, you may see us under the name Turner & Splat!

Besides pens, I enjoy making toy spinning tops, spice mills, and honey dippers, and plan to begin making small bowls soon. I hope to one day be able to turn some toy cannons on my lathe!

I’m expanding my product offerings all the time, so check my website often!