Chuck Raudonis, Class of 1975
Chief Information Officer
Emergent Business Group
And His Hobby Since
Yes, he made that beautiful 3-sided desk and the model ship. He'll share the ship's name and the beautiful story behind it in just a moment.
We're pleased to welcome Chuck Raudonis Class of 75 and his impressive woodworking and furniture-building skills to our Alumni Q&A corner.
Grab your favorite beverage, but first enjoy a slide show of his woodworking projects. (They will amaze you!) Then, read about his journey.
When did you start woodworking? Who taught you?
What was your first project?
I have been woodworking since I was in Frankford. My dad taught me a couple things, and I had a buddy who was a pretty talented furniture maker and he taught me a bit.
Mostly I learned by reading books on woodworking, furniture-making, cabinet-making and the like. I took a full semester college course in wood carving, last year, to expand the techniques in my arsenal.
For that class we had to carve a bowl, spoon, a bas relief panel and a piece of furniture.
I really don't remember what my first project was but it was most likely something simple like a box. I progressed from there all the way up through full furniture suites.
I decided to try my hand at building a five string bass in 2012. I had no idea how it would come out, but I was committed to documenting the whole process, warts and all on a blog.
The blog starts in the design phase and ends up with sound samples from the bass. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.
The adventure starts at the bottom this page: https://thewaywardluthier.wordpress.com
After the success of that project I was hooked on instruments.
When did you start building the "Black Cherry"? How long did it take to complete? What was the most challenging part of it? What gave you the most satisfaction?
Actually, Black Cherry is my fourth instrument. I built the five-string bass ("Woody") mentioned above, a solid body Telecaster style guitar ("Charlie Brown") and a hollow body electric ("Blondie").
Black Cherry was the most challenging build to date. Normally when you build a guitar body out of two pieces of wood together, you glue them together and then shape the combined piece into the shape you want.
Since I wanted the finishes of the two parts to be so completely different, I took the approach of finishing them separately and then joined them at the end.
This required that the two pieces fit exactly without any additional shaping, since the pieces would already have all the finish on them. When those two pieces fit seamlessly at glue up time, I could breathe again.
What woodworking projects have you completed? What was your favorite project and your most challenging?
My first serious piece of furniture was a media cabinet that stood about 5' tall and held the TV, had a slide out drawer for the VCR (tells you how long ago this was) and storage at the bottom for video tapes.
Since then, I've built every piece of furniture in my home office. That includes the full U shaped desk, wall cabinets, a bookcase/storage unit, a guitar cabinet to store and protect my acoustics and a stool for playing my guitars, along with a music stand.
I've built a set of four matching bar stools (two for our house and two for our daughter's.)
I also made a jewelry box for my daughter and a recipe box for my daughter-in-aw. I used some of the techniques from my carving class to inlay her monogram into the walnut lid.
FAVORITE & MOST COMPLEX
One of my most complex builds and probably my favorite project of all time was a joint venture with my father-in- law.
He started a scale model of Admiral Nelson's British Man of War the HMS Victory. The ship was to be his retirement project.
The ship is 3 1/2 feet long and two feet high. Every piece is solid wood and had to be shaped by hand.
For example, the ladders between decks were built out of multiple individual rungs and two side rails that had to be slit for the rungs before the 1" tall ladder was assembled.
The masts were made from standard dowel rods and then shaped and tapered by hand. He got the hull started and then ran into some health issues that prevented him from finishing the ship.
I took over the build and completed it for us. It took a total of five years between the two of us working on it to complete it. I am very happy with the results.
He passed away a couple of years back and I think of him every time I walk by it.
"I'M ADDICTED TO MAHOGANY."
What's your favorite part of woodworking, and why? What's your favorite wood to work with?
My absolute favorite part of the woodworking process is that minute when the first bit of finish is applied to the wood.
After all of the work in the designing, planning, cutting, joining, sanding and prep--and with just the first swipe of finish--the color and grain of the wood just jumps out.
I'm addicted to mahogany. It's a pleasure to work with and is just beautiful. I've built all of the furniture that I have in my office out of mahogany.
ADVICE TO BEGINNERS
Pick something simple and try it. YouTube has a wealth of knowledge in the multitude of woodworking channels.
There are channels dedicated to beginners and others focused on extremely complex techniques.
One really good channel for beginners is Make Something.
I'm not sure what is next. I just finished the guitar, a pair of rigged sailboats for my grandson's room and a music box for my granddaughter's room.
We're coming into summer, so my shop time will lessen. I prefer to spend the nice weather months out by the pool, not in my shop.
I took that carving class last year, and I need to keep those skills up-to-date. So, I will most likely dig out those tools and carve something detailed.