For those of you eZine readers who are also regular readers of the Woodworker’s Journal print magazine, Brad Becker may be a familiar name. The builder of several projects which have appeared in the magazine’s pages over the years, Brad is also a woodworker in his day-to-day job, and as a hobby.
He got into woodworking in the early 1990s, after a job loss, when he heard there was an opening at a cabinet shop. “I’d always been interested in woodworking, so I kind of jumped at it,” Brad said. At the cabinet shop, he built on skills learned in high school shop classes, starting out cutting stiles and rails in the door department and eventually moving into building face frames, dovetail drawers, etc.
A family move to a different town in Minnesota caused him to look for a job closer to home, and he ended up hiring on at Rockler Woodworking and Hardware as a production worker, doing such tasks as making fixtures for retail stores. After a couple of years, “everybody higher up quit and moved on,” and Brad became “Rockler’s woodworker.”– a job which eventually led to opportunities to build projects for Woodworker’s Journal, published by Rockler Press.
Brad says his first project which appeared in the magazine, a Stickley leather-top desk, remains one of his favorites. It was also, he said, the first big project he’d built, something beyond picture frames.
Picture frames, however, are a regular part of Brad’s woodworking production at home. His wife is an artist, and he creates the frames for her paintings and drawings. He also uses driftwood, or pieces found in the woods, for her projects. “I flatten them out, then she draws and paints on ’em,” Brad said. “Sometimes we find big hunks of trees and peel the bark off a spot, and then put a picture in there.”
When he builds projects for the magazine, Brad said, it’s frequently an opportunity to experiment with an “endless supply of wood” – although that is definitely not the case for his latest project, appearing in the December 2010 issue, which features a choice piece of bubinga. It’s also a chance to try new techniques and expand his woodworking knowledge, he said. “It’s kind of fun. You get to know how to do it while you’re working, and then you get to do it at home, and you’ve already practiced.” For instance, he built a Quilted Sapele Secretary Desk for the magazine, and used a Leigh jig to create the dovetail spacing – a tool and a technique he appreciated so much that he has used it since.
Brad has also shared some shop tips with readers of Woodworker’s Journal magazine, most notably his invention of “the Bradford.” It’s a pencil holder created by measuring the diameter of his favorite pencil, drilling a 5/16” hole in a 3/4” x 3/4” block of wood, then sanding off one side of the hole. He attaches the Bradford with Super Glue to his safety glasses, breaking it off and re-gluing it to subsequent pairs. “My ears aren’t big enough to hold my glasses and my pencil at the same time, and I could never remember where I set my pencil down,” Brad explained.
That useful project may be a small one, but the woodworking project Brad lists as his prize is a big one: a bar for his house, built from a 1900s rowboat found in his in-law’s garage, that took him three years to build. “We get a lot of enjoyment out of it,” he said.
Right now, he’s also beginning to experiment with turning, and is in the midst of making several pizza peels, the paddle that lifts the dough from a pizza stone. Like most of his woodworking, Brad says, “That’s been fun.”