C.C. Boyce: Useful, Beautiful Things (Plus Humor)

C.C. Boyce: Useful, Beautiful Things (Plus Humor)

Like many woodworkers, C.C. Boyce grew up with a dad who was a woodworker, with a basement shop. “I kind of learned by osmosis,” she said. “I was always making stuff. I was on the band saw by age eight, making puzzles for myself.” 

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She continued to hone her skills in college, where she lived in a house with several other young women  and, as is the case with houses, “things needed fixed. I asked my dad for some tools, and he kind of went crazy, and brought me a tool bag with almost all I’d ever need.”

Well, maybe not all she’d ever need, since C.C., now living in California, just got her own shop up and running a couple of weeks ago. She’s stocked it, so far, with tools she’s had a chance to try out at El Camino College, where she’s working toward her associate’s degree in cabinet and fine woodworking.

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“I’ve been scrounging eBay for old [Jorgensen] clamps, because I do laminate wood so much, I need a lot of hand clamps,” she said. “I used a Powermatic table saw with a left tilt at school, so that’s what I looked for; it felt safer because I was used to it.” Some of the purchases were funded through income earned by building tables for a Beverly Hills restaurant, and her in-laws bought her a Festool plunge router for Christmas. “My father-in-law is also into woodworking, so he’s pretty excited that I have a shop,” she said. 

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Her one-person shop is an industrial warehouse, where “I’m lucky to be able to have my own space but at the same time be around other artists.” That fits well with C.C.’s favorite part of woodworking: problem-solving. It’s nice to have other people around to bounce ideas off of, as “Sometimes it takes another pair of eyes to make you see something,” she explained.

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A lifelong learner herself — “Each project that I do, I try to learn something different. Whether I say yes or not depends on what I can learn from the project” — C.C. also wants to introduce others to the joy of woodworking. For instance, she ran a Kickstarter campaign that successfully funded a series of videos entitled “Would You Woodwork?” in which she teaches comedians how to do beginning woodworking.

Being on-camera was not new to her, as C.C. originally moved to the Los Angeles area to do commercials and voiceover work. When she hit a dry spell in that field, those who knew she did do-it-yourself projects encouraged her to start a DIY blog.

“People would ask, ‘How did you get into that?’ I grew up around it, but if you didn’t, I can see how it would be so intimidating,” she said. That’s why she chose comedians for her videos: “I wanted it to be funny and relatable. I started basic: ‘This is a table saw. This is how you use a table saw.’”

“I want to get more young people and women into woodworking, demystify woodworking,” C.C. said. “People think woodworking is one thing, and I say, ‘No, it can be anything you want.’”

C.C., who is now doing only voiceover work and not on-air commercials, is also spreading the word about woodworking as one of the regular contributing bloggers at woodworking.com.

She’s also continuing her own education by learning more about joinery, being introduced to the lathe through classes sponsored by the turners’ guild at the school and “finding out my own identity as a woodworker, figuring out my own style and my own aesthetic.”

Part of that aesthetic is that, “I like simple lines, clean lines,” C.C. said. “The stuff that I like to build is more minimal, more modern. I really like to make useful things, things that people are going to be able to keep and use for a long time.” 

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The first project she did in woodworking class, for instance, was a TV stand for her living room. “It was my first semester, so I wasn’t sure if I could tackle it, but it turned out great. And it’s definitely a useful piece: we use it every day.” 

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She also recently made a standing desk for her work-from-home husband. “Every time I walk by and he’s using the desk, I feel proud that I made something so useful and he loves it so much.” A friend for whom she created a Gio Ponti-inspired 60s modern headboard with built-in storage raves about it every time she sees C.C. “There’s something about how everybody uses it in daily life that really touches me,” C.C. said. “I don’t want to make a beautiful showpiece that nobody touches.”

She particularly enjoys making home goods, with one of her favorites being a pencil holder/airplant holder. “It’s a little bit of green for your desk without having to water it,” she said.

“I do a lot of laminating blocks together, for lamps, or a candlestand, or a plant holder,” C.C. said. She’s also become known as someone who will take scraps. “I was at a craft fair, selling my home goods made out of scraps, and a guy who makes doors came over and said, ‘Come and take my offcuts.’ 

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“It’s an interesting design challenge to make scrap wood beautiful or useful. What I get from the scraps kind of dictates what I’m going to make: What’s the grain? What’s the thickness? Can I glue it to something else?”

Not all of her projects are made from scrap wood, and she enjoys trying new woods as well. C.C.’s local lumberyard, the family-owned since 1910 Bohnhoff Lumber Company, “will give offcuts so you can try it out and handle a new wood,” C.C. said.

Although she has consistently liked walnut, she’s currently finding herself favoring ash, for its “creamy wood, with a beautiful grain pattern,” and hickory: “the sapwood is the color of maple, but it’s a nice, warm, brown color.”

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In fact, her current school project is an outfeed table/work table/storage cabinet for her 500 square foot shop. “I’m making it out of hickory to kind of warm up the space — it’s kind of industrial,” she explained.

“I like making things out of wood that are really beautiful and can still be beautiful even if it’s banged up a little bit. I just want to keep learning and keep making things that people are going to use.”

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