View Full Version : SMC Turner Interview - Steve Schlumpf

Andy Hoyt
06-16-2007, 1:01 PM
Name: Steven J Schlumpf

How young are you?
Managed to turn 55 this past May 16. Donít feel Iíve changed over the years; but the mirror and the numbers donít lie!

Physical description:
Well, Iím kinda hippie looking I guess. Figure Iím around 5í10Ē, 160 lbs., hair is mostly brown with some gray and white thrown in for texture, all tied in a ponytail that reaches to my belt. Keep thinking one of these days Iím going get it cut.

Where is home?
I live in Harvey, Michigan, which is about 5 miles south of Marquette; the biggest city in the U.P. Our house, is located a little less than Ĺ mile from the shore of Lake Superior and we hear the waves most evenings. I moved to the Marquette metro area (population around 65,000 for the entire county) in 1990 and have called it home ever since. Where else have I lived? Well, I was raised military as my Dad was career Air Force. As a kid we lived in Illinois, Alaska when it was still a US Territory, Indiana, Germany and Montana. When I turned 18 I left home and have lived in Wyoming, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska (when it was a state), Colorado, California and then moved to the Upper Peninsula Michigan. Itís not that I liked to move around a lot Ė it just seemed like something that I had to do every few years.

Family information:
My wife, Colleen, and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary this coming Oct. We both had been married before and together we have 1 daughter, 2 daughters-in-law, 4 sons, 1 son-in-law, 2 granddaughters, 6 grandsons and the 9th grandchild is due this November!

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Do you have a website? If so, whatís the URL?
Always figured SMC was my website as it is the only place I post what I do, photos, opinions, etc.

Iíll start with ďThe previouslyĒ in the hopes the progression makes sense. I was in the Air Force from November 1970 to March 1978 and trained in electronics. March Ď78 to January Ď80 I was a commercial fisherman out of Coden, Alabama Ė mostly shrimp but did manage to pull my share of crab traps and learned how to rake and shuck oysters. Had hurricane Frederic hit September Ď79 and by relieving us (wife, son and I) of all personal property, gave us the opportunity to start over.

We moved to Colorado Springs where I was hired as a systems tech for TRW. Got divorced shortly after and I moved to Denver area and worked as a systems tech for Colorado Data Systems, which designed and manufactured automated test systems. Everything was going great until the shuttle blew up and the electronics industry came to a screeching halt. Wow, what a great chance to start over Ė meaning I was soon to be unemployed. I moved to the Silicon Valley area of California and once again found work, this time as a senior lab tech for ROLM Ė which designed and manufactured telephone switch equipment. IBM bought out ROLM a year later; and then Siemens bought the division from IBM a year after that. Went through the big Bay Area earthquake of 1989. I was lucky - many were not.

Well, I had been in California for about 3 years at that point so figured I would move someplace new. Thought about Seattle but decided to move where my folks were living Ė Marquette, MI Ė just to be around family for once. Arrived here and found no electronics jobs available. Worked in a music store repairing audio equipment and signed on as a tech with a production company which put on major venue Rock & Roll shows throughout the Upper Peninsula. The music store eventually closed and I went to work for a local retail store for a couple of years, then a printing company for 2 more. A good friend of mine had a DJ business and also managed a number of Rock & Roll bands Ė offered me a job repairing all the amps, light systems, etc. It was fun but to pick up a little extra cash I served legal papers Ė another of my friendís businesses was process serving. You meet some of the nicest folks that way!

Eventually I started booking the bands and we did have a couple of them go national. About that time I helped my Dad build a screened-in porch on the back of his house. Had a blast working together and it was the first time either of us had built anything that complex. A couple of years later we built a front deck with a long terraced stairway and I decided that woodworking was something I enjoyed doing. Started working for a local construction company and learned about framing, roofing, siding, and windows. I eventually worked my way into finish work and managed to do some custom built-in bookcases, shelf units, vanity mirrors, etc. This year I got a DBA as SJSWoods and plan on going into business for myself.

Shop Overview (size, relationship to house, list of basic tools, woodworking interests other than turning Ė as if that were possible!):
We live in a ranch style house with a full basement. The shop takes up about 2/3s of the basement which works out really well for me as this area of the country gets more than itís fair share of winter weather. Figured I would throw in a few photos of the shop. Everything is a mess right now as I am in the process of closing out my folkís estate and have to find places to store the contents of their home.

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Over the years Iíve managed to pick up some basic tools: Jet 14Ē CS Bandsaw, Jet 6Ē CS Jointer, Jet JDP-17 Drill Press, Ridgid 13Ē Planer, Grizzly 1023 SLX 10Ē 3 hp left tilt tablesaw w/ 7í rails, sanders, hand drills, routers, router table with a 2 ľ hp Freud, lots of clamps and little things you know you just canít live without.

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Andy Hoyt
06-16-2007, 1:02 PM
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 something new in the works?
Right now I have 2 lathes. My original lathe (1954 Craftsman) was given to me. It hadn’t been used for close to 30 years – so it didn’t work when I got it home. Took about a month to get it up and running. First time I put a piece of wood on it (birch 16” long x 10” diameter) and turned it on it scared the heck out of me because the log started spinning fast, Faster, Warp 2!!! The log came off the lathe (insert sound effects here) and smacked into the wood panel covered cinder block wall hard enough to put a large divot into the wall! What the?? So I did some figuring, some waiting, then days later tried it again with a smaller piece of wood. Oh, I also discovered that the belt on the motor pulley actually changes the lathe speed! Found I had it set at the fastest setting of around 3600-rpm! So, started already learning about turning and hadn’t even put a chisel to the wood!

Used the Craftsman for 2 years and was more than ready for an upgrade. Researched for about a year and decided on the Jet 1642, 2 HP version. I liked the sliding head, 16” capacity, cam-lock banjo, 4” quill travel, variable speed and 2 horses to keep things turning. Thought about the Powermatic 3520B but really didn’t think I needed that much lathe and everything else was out of my price range. So far the Jet has done everything I’ve asked of it and I really enjoy all those features that I waited so long to get!


How many turning tools do you have? Store bought; home made; favorites?
I actually went down to the shop and counted them, as I had no idea. Counted 27 various store bought and 1 homemade scraper. As far as favorites, when roughing out a bowl I grab a Henry Taylor 1/2” bowl gouge, for finishing I use a 3/8” Sorby bowl gouge. Not actually promoting either of the gouges, just happens to be what I have on hand.

How long have you been turning, and what got you started in the first place?
Been turning since October 2004. Wanted to teach myself turning cause I thought it could make me a more versatile woodworker.

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Up here we have a brand called Blue Bunny and my favorite one of theirs is called Bunny Tracks. Its real simple – vanilla ice cream with chunks of peanut butter bunny shaped cups of chocolate in it! What more could you ask for?

A second serving, duh!

What do you enjoy most about turning?
The lack of limitations! Everything in flatwork deals with precise angles, mating surfaces and joinery. When I started turning all those limitations went out the window and I felt absolutely free because for the first time I was actually creating curves!

What do you enjoy the least about turning?
Watching a project explode while on the lathe! I mean its exciting and all that, but it only happens to those pieces that you just know are going to turn out to be the very best you ever turned!

What was your first completed turned project? You get bonus points for a picture of it.
A candleholder turned from a spalted birch log that I had sitting and drying in the shop for about 4 years. It’s the candleholder on the upper left of the group photo.


What’s your favorite individual piece that you have turned, and why?
I actually have two favorites. First is a cherry compote that I made using pieces of some rough cut boards that I had. Went into it with an idea and no real plan and still love the way it turned out. Have made a few since then but will always keep the first one – which has darkened to a very rich red/brown color now! The second is a pair of goblets that I made out of Jack Pine. My Dad loved everything about them, specially the color so my Mom arranged for him to receive them as a Christmas gift from her. My parents are both gone now but I will always treasure their support.


What’s your favorite form that you turn?
I really enjoy turning bowls because I feel comfortable with the process and can relax and focus on the turning.

What do you not turn now that you want to - or plan to - in the future?
Hollow forms! For me there is something about hollow forms that unleashes the imagination. There have been quite a few outstanding hollow forms displayed here lately and I just gotta give that a try!

How do you take your Moxie? (Straight up? beer chaser? neat? with corn flakes?)
Never been to Moxieland so have not had the chance to check it out.

Aw man. I'm gonna have to hire more staff.

What’s your favorite form someone else turns?
I am constantly amazed at the various hollow forms that people on SMC create. A lot of them are more air than wood and look like they defy gravity!

What’s your favorite individual piece someone else has turned, and why?
Right now I have 22 different folders filled with photos of favorites and all of them from turners here on SMC. I love coming across a post that just blows you away because of turning skill and imagination!

What’s your favorite wood to work with and why?
Cherry, love the way it smells, holds an edge and finishes.


What brought you to SMC?
Once I got the Craftsman lathe up and running I jumped on the web and did a search for anything on woodturning because I knew nothing. Came across the SMC site and kept checking back over time. Got to know some of the personalities and eventually decided that the fastest way for me to learn was to participate – so I joined. Best decision I’ve made in a long time!

What was your first post about? Or don’t you remember?
I honestly don’t remember my first post.

Well Your first post was also your first thread, so lemme ask you this. Do you recall the first thread you started?
I am pretty sure I asked for input on the Jet 1642 lathe. I was getting ready to order one and wanted to find the best locations for a good deal.

Yup. (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=44048)

And as a follow-up do you recall your second post?
Not a clue.

Ya hid for nearly two weeks! (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?p=452743&highlight=carpeting#post452743)

How many shares of Titebond II stock do you own?
Never used it. I did get my first bottle of Titebond III last year and it seems to work pretty good. I think if I was going to own stock in anything it would be in sandpaper – I go through that stuff like I didn’t have to pay for it!

What’s your favorite old thread on SMC?
The one thread that really got to me was Jim King’s post when he delivered his woodworking to the local children’s orphanage around Christmas time. It humbled me and made me more aware of the importance of helping others, especially children, and for that, Thank You Jim!

Yup – I liked that one too. (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=47544)

Have you met or hung out with any fellow Creekers? Tell us about it.
I haven’t had the chance to meet any Creekers yet and figure that is mostly due to my somewhat remote location. I hope to do a little traveling this year and if I’m lucky will get the chance to meet some folks.

Now let's get a little deep... If you were a tree, what tree would you be and why?
Cherry. I love the fruit, love the way the wood smells when turning, it holds crisp detail work, finishes great and unlike me, it looks better with age!

If you won the Irish Sweepstakes what part of your life would change?
Isn’t that like a Gazillion Dollars? I’d set up trust funds for all our kids and grandkids, feed the hungry children of the world, then buy some wooded land away from everything, build a house, a shop and turn until I became famous!

Thanks for doing this Steve. Let the humiliation begin.:D

Pete Jordan
06-16-2007, 1:26 PM
You are a great guy, Steve! I look forward to your comments and your work.

Nancy Laird
06-16-2007, 1:53 PM
Great interview, Steve. It's nice to know more about the "man behind the picture." Nice to know there's someone else out there who has lived more places than I have!!

By the way, I LOVE that cherry compote/cake dish.


Jim Becker
06-16-2007, 2:27 PM
Thanks for a great interview, Steve! And that's some pretty kewel carpet in your shop.... :D :D :D

Keith Burns
06-16-2007, 4:24 PM
Steve, thanks for sharing part of your life with us. Great interview !! It's nice to know more about you.

Ken Fitzgerald
06-16-2007, 5:07 PM
Nice to know more about you Steve! Good luck with you future small business!

Travis Stinson
06-16-2007, 8:10 PM
Great interview, good to know more about you Steve.
Andy, Thanks for bringing these back! :cool:

Curt Fuller
06-16-2007, 11:33 PM
Nice to learn a bit about you Steve. Sounds like you live and interesting life.

Jeffrey Fusaro
06-16-2007, 11:35 PM
great interview, steve. good to know you better.

thanks for posting the pics, too. definitely a nice plus.

now i see why you call your work space a 'studio' instead of a 'shop'.

did you clean up just for us? ;)

Shane Whitlock
06-17-2007, 12:14 AM
Nice to meet ya Steve ... Great interview

Happy Turning,
Shane Whitlock

Bernie Weishapl
06-17-2007, 12:20 AM
Great interview Steve. It is good to get to know you better. You have a great family.

Steve Schlumpf
06-17-2007, 10:34 PM
Thanks everyone for all the kind comments!

Didn't take long for SMC to become a big part of my life - so many great examples of what turnings can be and even more importantly - so many great people willing to share their experience and help out!

Never really thought that I moved around all that much until I re-read this interview. A change in scenery always just seemed a normal progression. I have actually met people up here that have never left the Upper Peninsula - THAT to me is just wierd! Well, I'm just rambling...

Thanks again for all the kind comments. Hope to be able to get back to turning soon and start posting again.

Barry Stratton
06-17-2007, 11:51 PM
What a great interview! Thanks for sharing Steve.

Cory Martin
06-18-2007, 11:38 AM
Thanks Steve, This community is made great because of people like you.

Frank Kobilsek
06-18-2007, 5:34 PM

Thanks for the interveiw. A Rock & Roller huh, I was a roadie for REO Speedwagon back in about '81. I only lasted one night. Just couldn't figure out how to tell Dad that I wasn't in college anymore. Thumbed it back to school. That story works better in person and with a few drinks in me so we'll save it for another day.


Tom Sherman
06-18-2007, 6:01 PM
Travel broadens a person keeps things interesting, but it is nice to have roots. Great interview Steve, good to know more about you.

Don Orr
06-19-2007, 9:24 AM
...very nice interview-nice to know more about you. Sounds like you have led an interesting life. I especially like your lathe! I have the 1.5 HP version!

Dennis Peacock
06-19-2007, 11:13 AM
Wow Steve....nice to know you....more. :D
Great interview. Hey...isn't that "carpet" in your "shop"? How ya keep it looking so good? Inquiring minds wanna know. :)

Mark Pruitt
06-19-2007, 2:38 PM
What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Up here we have a brand called Blue Bunny and my favorite one of theirs is called Bunny Tracks. Its real simple Ė vanilla ice cream with chunks of peanut butter bunny shaped cups of chocolate in it! What more could you ask for?
Same thing, only with chocolate instead of vanilla, that's what!!!:D

Excellent interview Steve! It's good to know you a little better.:)