View Full Version : SMC Turner Interview - Joe Fisher

Andy Hoyt
11-19-2006, 10:56 AM
Name: Joe Fisher

How young are you? 31

Physical description:
About 5'9", 185lbs, black hair, brown eyes, Italian complexion. I like long walks on the beach, moonlit dinners...wait, what are we talking about again?

Where is home?
I currently live in Lake Hopatcong, NJ. I grew up on Staten Island, NY and moved to NJ when I was 26 to take my first "real" job. Up until then I had worked at my family business - an auto parts store called The Parts House. I was a manager/counterman. I really love working with people, and would still be working there if Intel hadn't offered me gobs of money to work for them. I still fill in at The Parts House from time to time. It’s always good to see the old salts from the neighborhood still coming in for parts.

Family information:
I have a beautiful wife, Liz, who understands and encourages my various hobbies/obsessions. When I came home with an 8" jointer in my truck a few weeks ago, she hardly batted an eyelash. I spoil her rotten, but she deserves it; I'm a lucky man.
No kids yet, but we have a very needy cat, which is pretty close. She thinks she's a dog - greets us at the door when we come home, likes belly rubs, guards the house against intruders.

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Do you have a website?
Yup, sure do. (http://www.fisherwoodcraft.com/)

Ever since I can remember, I worked at The Parts House with my dad. When I was 26, I had proposed to my now-wife Liz, gotten offered a job at Intel in Parsippany, and decided it was time to get out of the family business and off Staten Island. We move to a deluxe apartment in the sky - ok, it was a rented walk-up condo in Wharton, NJ - and I took the job at Intel in March, 2001. I have been working here as a computer programmer since. We just changed hands and are now known as Dialogic.

Shop Overview:
Ah, the shop. After our landlord sold our condo, we went house shopping. We looked at this little raised ranch in Lake Hopatcong. It was nice in front, on a narrow 40' wide lot. Walk in the front door, check out the house. Not bad, about 900 square feet, full basement, good enough for the two of us. Then we went out the back door and I saw it.

There, shining at me in all its galvanized glory, was the Holy Grail of male house hunting: the giant garage. I gaped, slack-jawed, at the 35x33' steel building with a gigantic 20' door. When I opened the door, it seemed to whisper, "You're home." It's got more square footage than the house and dominates the back yard. "We'll take it."

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After having my tools rolling around in that giant open space for a while, I divided the garage in half and built myself a proper workshop. This basically doubled the amount of storage I had for that half of the garage, since I could now put stuff on the “roof”. It also kept me from getting sawdust all over the things the missus stores in the rest of the garage 

The work area is 16’ x 22', while the wood room is 16’ x 8'. Yes, I have a whole separate room for wood. I'm considering moving much of that wood into overhead storage in the workshop and converting it into a dedicated finishing room.

My workshop currently has the TS smack in the center of the shop with the DC line running along the floor to it. There's no room for my bandsaw or new jointer, I trip over the DC line, and my workbench/assembly table is against the wall, making clamp use an adventure. This weekend should be rearrange time.

And now a word from our sponsor.

Andy Hoyt
11-19-2006, 10:56 AM
How do you take your Moxie? (Straight up? beer chaser? neat? with corn flakes?)
In a glass (http://i42.photobucket.com/albums/e318/AndyHoyt944/DoIlookfat.jpg), of course.

Andy Hoyt
11-19-2006, 10:57 AM
And you thought that would be another shameless plug for paint thinner! Sorry. Please continue, Joe. You were saying.

I'm hoping to make it look something like this (thank you Grizzly workshop planner)


I got the idea for putting the tablesaw under the miter saw's infeed from the latest issue of Workbench. They have a great section on small shop layout.

My woodworking interests are all over the map. I’ve learned to make wooden bows, which are tons of fun. It’s something that can be taught to young ‘uns as well, and they LOVE being able to fire it when they’re done.

I want to learn how to make nicer furniture items. I've made some very utilitarian stuff (see the website), but want to get into finer work. I'm currently working on a hickory jewelry box with a curved and laminated lid. Pictures coming soon!

How many lathes do you own? Tell us about 'em. Even the ones you no longer have. Why did you choose these lathes? Is there anything new in the works?
My first lathe was a 1953 ShopSmith ER10 (http://i19.photobucket.com/albums/b162/nostalgia75/Turning/ss.jpg) that I purchased at a garage sale for $275. It also started a wonderful friendship with the daughter of the original owner, but that's another story. I just put it on Ebay a few weeks ago week (the ShopSmith, not the daughter) and it broke my heart.

I upgraded to a General 25-650. My wife unwittingly gave me the go-ahead to start lathe shopping. I brought in a small bowl that I had made on the ShopSmith. “It’s nice honey, but can’t you make a bigger one (http://i19.photobucket.com/albums/b162/nostalgia75/Turning/general3.jpg)?” I think I left tire tracks on the way to the computer to start shopping.


I chose it because I like bowls, and the ShopSmith just wasn't beefy enough. I considered the Vega 2600 bowl lathe, but I decided I wanted the flexibility to do spindles. I also chose it because I have a local General dealer, and I like keeping as much of my money locally as I can. It really is a nice tool. I only have two gripes: I wish it were heavier, and I wish I had waited a few months to buy it, because they changed the headstock to make locking the spindle easier.

I recently purchased a Jet 1014VS. What a nice little tool! I was asked to do some travelling demos, so I figured I'd better have a travellin' lathe. Amazon had a super-deal on the VS so I jumped on it.

How many turning tools do you have? Store bought; home made; favorites?
I'd guess I have a total of 20 that I've acquired over the last year or so. Most of those came as part of sets I got with something else...When I bought the ShopSmith I swung by Home Depot and picked up a set of 4 Buck Brothers chisels for $30. The lady I bought the ShopSmith from later found a full set of ShopSmith chisels in her garage and gave them to me. I got a set of Craftsman chisels with a different used tool buy. So most of the time they just seem to reproduce on their own. :)

I use two tools 75% of the time: a Crown Pro PM 1/2" bowl gouge with a swept-back grind on it, and a P&N 3/8" detail gouge with a long fingernail grind and relieved bevel. Other favorites include a Crown 3/4" skew and my mega-beefy P&N 1 1/4" roughing gouge. No tang breakage worries with this monster!

I've started trying to learn to use my Crown thread chasers. I tried making my own from an old scraper, but decided it was worth a few bucks to get it right.

How long have you been turning, and what got you started in the first place?
I guess I'm in the range of about 2 years now. My dad was always a woodworker and got me interested early. I have very fond memories of being in the shop with him as a young lad. I had never tried turning, and when I saw the ShopSmith at a garage sale it spoke to me.

What was your first completed turned project? You get bonus points for a picture of it.
A mock-up chanter (http://i42.photobucket.com/albums/e318/AndyHoyt944/chanter.jpg)for a set of Great Highland bagpipes. I do have a picture at home. Yes, you read that correctly. And one of them actually worked!

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Mint chocolate chip.

Yup, me too! Growing up this flavor was nonexistent except that my maternal grandmother in Cold Spring Harbor, NY somehow always had it on hand whenever we visited. Mmmm, good. Oops, sorry, Joe. Ya sparked a memory.

What do you enjoy most about turning?
Freedom. There are no rules, no measuring, no "wrong." I can go out in the garage, grab a random piece of wood, and make something nice out of it. I don't need a plan, don't need a cut list. Aaaaahhhh. Flatwork can be frustrating at times, but turning is usually relaxing. It’s fun to share, too. Children are especially good candidates because they don't have any preconceived notions about what they can and can't do.

What’s your favorite individual piece that you have turned, and why?
Wow. Very hard to answer. I love many of my pieces for many different reasons. If I had to pick one bowl, I think it would be this amber maple one (http://www.fisherwoodcraft.com/images/bowl23_1.jpg) I roughed out at Bill Grumbine's. It's just so elegant in its simplicity and beauty, and I think I really nailed the form.

As for visual interest, this (http://www.fisherwoodcraft.com/images/square_birch2.jpg)would have to be my pick. It just jumps out of the picture and makes you want to touch it.

Then of course in the natural-edged category, I really love my red elm and seen in these two (http://www.fisherwoodcraft.com/images/red_elm_side2.jpg) pics. (http://www.fisherwoodcraft.com/images/red_elm_top.jpg) There's so much going on in there you could stare at it all day and still find more to look at.

What’s your favorite form that you turn?
It's a toss-up between natural-edged bowls and boxes. I love turning wet NE bowls because I like to see what nature's given me. I love to see what the wood does as it dries and what interesting shapes will come out of the edge. For me, that’s a big part of the “magic” of the whole process. I have a platter (http://www.fisherwoodcraft.com/images/bowl2_071806.jpg)that I made from some wet, spalted maple. It warped seven ways from Sunday, and I grin every time I pick it up to look at it. The engineer in me likes the boxes. I sit on my couch and fit the lid on and off for hours after turning one. This is why I want to start doing the screw tops.

What do you not turn now that you want to - or plan to - in the future?
Screw-top boxes are on my to-do list. I'd like to play with some offset turnings, as well as larger cross-grain lidded bowls. Oh, and captive rings. Hollow ornaments? Yeah, those too.

What’s your favorite form someone else turns?
I've seen so much that I love. I'm a big fan of Bill G's winged turnings. (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=46026) His eye for form is incredible. Most of his pieces evoke emotion when I look at pictures of them. I want to touch them, or turn them to see them from different angles. Sascha Gast's work is also beautiful, and his photography is wonderful. His NIP bowls are spectacular, but the forms don't appeal to me. His winged bowls, OTOH, are awesome. Curtis Seebeck’s cactus pens (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=41766) are some of the most innovative I've seen in a long time.

What’s your favorite individual piece someone else has turned, and why?
I find it very hard to have a favorite anything when it comes to turning. Everything hits me in a different way. Usually I prefer simple open forms that let the wood’s beauty do the talking. This is why I’m drawn to so many of Bill’s pieces.

What’s your favorite wood to work with and why?
Anything wet, really. Wet wood turns like a dream. My favorite to work wet is probably pear. It’s very, very forgiving. If I had to pick an overall favorite, it’d probably be walnut. Turns like a dream, and is always beautiful.

What brought you to SMC?
The Internet, duh! I’m always looking for new ways to broaden my skill set, and a big part of that is meeting my peers and talking shop. I am a regular on WoodNet and decided I’d branch out for some new scenery.

Have you met or hung out with any fellow Creekers? Tell us about it.
I got to meet Mark Pruitt at Bill Grumbine’s annual 5 Barns picnic (http://simplyturning.com/wc/5barns/). I helped Mark out with some bowl turning and managed to talk his wife into trying my Jet Mini. By the time I left she was complaining about me taking “her” lathe home with me! Mark and his wife are both wonderful people, and I’m glad I got to meet them. Mark’s turning has also come along very quickly.

What was your first post about? Or don’t you remember?
I offered my method of putting a homemade handle on a P&N gouge. Man, I love those things.

Yeah – and you contradicted me (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=35368)! What’s up with that? No Moxie for you!

Do you recall the first thread you started?
I believe it was my introduction. After I’d dipped my toes in to feel the water, I decided to go for a cannonball (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=35501)and introduce myself. I posted up a little bio and some pictures of my recent work, including the amber maple bowl noted above.

Nope: It was this generous offering (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=35464) three days earlier.

What’s your favorite old thread on SMC?
Why - the one about me, of course! :eek: The Au Natural challenge (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=38447) was a lot of fun. It was great to see some of the wonderful work put out by everyone.

Got any nicknames? How'd you get them?
My wife calls me “jerk” a lot, does that count?

Now, let's get a little deep... If you were a tree, what tree would you be and why?
I’d be the old oak tree in the back yard with a tire swing on it. The one the kids climb in and build their tree forts in.

If you won the Irish Sweepstakes what part of your life would change?
If that’s the one where I win lots of Guinness, I’d probably get a lot less done. If it were money, I’d do a lot more turning and a lot less working!

A few last pics

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Hmm - I guess that I'd have to say "yes". It does make you look fat! Thanks, Jerk. It's been fun getting to know you better.

Randy Privett
11-19-2006, 2:15 PM

Having met at Bill's at the 5 Barnes, It is really good to see the pictures of your Lovely Wife and your shop. Gives me a little more insite on someone that I really had a good time with. Great interview.


Jim Becker
11-19-2006, 2:42 PM
Nice to know the details, Joe!!

Oh, and Dialogic isn't a horrible place to be these days with speech applications driving business interaction big-time!!

Mark Pruitt
11-19-2006, 3:15 PM
Great interview Joe! It was a real pleasure to meet you at Bill's place back in July. Susan and I were very appreciative of the time you spent working with us. You're an excellent teacher as well as an excellent turner. Nice to get to know you better.

Joe Fisher
11-19-2006, 6:39 PM
Thanks for the interview, Andy :) It was a lot of fun - I feel like such a celebrity!

Hmm - I guess that I'd have to say "yes". It does make you look fat!

No fair posting that without the picture ;)


Joe Fisher
11-19-2006, 6:40 PM

Having met at Bill's at the 5 Barnes, It is really good to see the pictures of your Lovely Wife and your shop. Gives me a little more insite on someone that I really had a good time with. Great interview.

Thanks, Randy! Good to meet you, too. I was just thinking about you today - I had two of your rests in action at the same time :)


Andy Hoyt
11-19-2006, 7:28 PM
...... No fair posting that without the picture ;) Joe Ahh, but I did!

Joe Fisher
11-19-2006, 9:04 PM
Ahh, but I did!
HA! I missed it the first two times :)


Bernie Weishapl
11-19-2006, 10:01 PM
Joe that was a nice interview. Nice to get to know you better.

Keith Christopher
11-20-2006, 1:53 AM
Awesome interview Joe ! Glad to know you better.

Joe Fisher
11-20-2006, 9:53 AM
Great interview Joe! It was a real pleasure to meet you at Bill's place back in July. Susan and I were very appreciative of the time you spent working with us. You're an excellent teacher as well as an excellent turner. Nice to get to know you better.
Thanks, Mark. I was excited to see your interview recently, too! I've been really impressed with how quickly your turning has ramped up.

I'm looking forward to another get together!


Mark Cothren
11-24-2006, 10:48 PM
Nice interview - enjoyed readin' it. Really like that Maple bowl...

Barry Stratton
11-25-2006, 1:08 PM
Good interview Joe!!! Thanks for sharing!!

Tom Sherman
11-25-2006, 2:04 PM
Interesting interview Joe, nice to meet you.

Ed Scolforo
11-25-2006, 4:16 PM
Fun interview, Joe. Thanks!

Don Orr
11-29-2006, 3:21 PM
Real nice interview. Great to get to know more about you. Couple things I like about you already-Beautiful turnings and you were smart enough to marry a good looking red-head(just like my wife did:D ).

Carry on,