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Thread: Creeker Interview:Robert "Bob" Rozaieski

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Plano, TX

    Creeker Interview:Robert "Bob" Rozaieski

    1. Name (and nick names)
    Robert "Bob" Rozaieski

    2. Age/DOB
    I'm 33, born October 1975.

    3. Location (present and previous):

    I was born in Reno, NV and lived there for almost two years before my parents moved us to Iselin, NJ when I was about 2 years old. I spent the next 23 years in Iselin until I took a job with my current company, at which time I moved to Hatfield, PA. In 2001, I moved to Williamstown, NJ where my [now] wife and I bought an investment property and spent the next year and a half tearing it down to the studs and rebuilding it ourselves (remind me never to do that again ). From there, we took our profits and moved to Pottstown, PA to be closer to where we worked. We stayed in Pottstown until my wife fell victim to downsizing in 2005 at which time we moved to Swedesboro, NJ, which is where we currently reside today. I think we're finally settled for awhile. It's a small town in South Jersey, about 10 miles south of Philadelphia and about 10 miles north of Delaware. It's just close enough to the action and our respective families without being too close, if you know what I mean .

    4. Tell us about your family:
    I've been married for almost 7 years to a wonderful selfless woman. She has to be selfless to put up with my antics . I mean how many women do you know that would let you set up your shop right next to the family room. In addition to dealing with me, she stays home and takes care of our two daughters, a 3Ĺ year old and a 1 year old. She has the patience of a saint! We also have two dogs who along with the kids manage to keep us pretty busy. They also like to eat my beeswax and hide glue so I have to keep my eye on them when they decide to join me in the shop.

    5. How do you earn a living, woodworking or other, any interesting previous occupations.
    I don't make my living in woodworking and I'm not sure I'd want to as I don't think I'd enjoy it as much if I had to do it. I do take on a commission from time to time but not full time.

    I have a degree in chemistry and have worked in the pharmaceutical industry since graduating from college. I currently work in regulatory affairs, which has its ups and downs, but it pays the bills and pays me well enough that we can [barely] afford for my wife to be a stay at home mom. I really canít complain.

    6. Equipment overview (hand tools and other):I do all of my woodworking with hand tools so I don't own any machines for woodworking. I know I'm one of the few who don't use any power at all (except for the lighting and occasionally a space heater) but it's how I choose to work. This decision was partly due to space limitations but also because I don't like the dust & noise of power and because I'm somewhat accident prone in the shop. I cut myself often enough with chisels and hand saws, never mind adding power to the mix. If I used any power, I'd have to be the poster child for Saw Stop .

    Besides not liking the noise and dust of power, I just really enjoy working by hand. I'm one of those sick individuals who doesn't mind hand planing 100 bd. ft. of rough sawn lumber or ripping 12/4 stock with a hand saw. Iím also very interested in the historical aspect of the craft. I just like the furniture that came out of the early 18th century. Learning how these craftsmen worked has helped me to understand the furniture better and how to better apply tool to wood. As I've learned more about how our ancestors worked and done some experimenting on my own, I don't feel as though working by hand makes me inefficient. However, I do probably work differently than a lot of other folks because of the tools and methods I choose to experiment with.

    My equipment includes the typical hand planes, chisels, hand saws, marking tools, carving tools, braces and of course shop appliances like shooting boards, bench hooks, etc. I built my workbench from locally cut Pennsylvania birch that I got for a steal, but it is an ever changing tool as I always seem to be modifying or altering it somehow to suit my work better. I recently (over the last 2 years) made the switch from using metal planes to using wooden planes and I've found that I really like the feel of using the wooden planes. Unfortunately, now I need to shorten my workbench by 3-4" as I now find it too high for comfortable planing sessions.

    I recently completed a Roy Underhill designed spring pole lathe to complement my shop so that I can learn to turn. I don't do a lot with round things but this will be a nice way to incorporate more spindle work into my projects. I'd also like to try my hand at building a Windsor chair (or a set) so the lathe will be a necessary tool for that as well. I've decided that turning will be my new skill to learn for 2009 . I also have a shaving horse which will complement the lathe nicely.

    IĎm not completely without power tools. I will use power for doing carpentry tasks and I donít do all of the minor metal working that I occasionally I do without power. I do have a small bench top drill press that I really only use for working metal, and I also have the requisite home improvement power tools. These reside in the garage though as I just don't have the room in my shop. I currently do the grinding of my chisels and planes on a high speed dry grinder but I do have a hand cranked grinder on the way so the high speed grinder will likely get moved to the garage where I do most of my dirty metal working.

    7. Describe your shop:
    To most the best way to describe my shop would be SMALL! But for me itís perfect. If I had any machines at all, they wouldn't fit in here . The room is barely 100 square feet. The short wall is just shy of 7'6" and the long wall is just shy of 13'6". There's basically just enough room for my workbench, tools hanging on the wall, the lathe, shaving horse, my WIP and a small area for my daughters to "work". Lumber is stored on the upper 3 feet of the wall across from my workbench, but I never really have a lot to store, as I prefer to buy my lumber specific to my projects.

    The shop is insulated and has a single small window, which I really like. My last shop had no windows. The room was added on after the house was built so there's no AC or heat in the room but it stays comfortable most of the year. In the summer it can get a little warm and in the winter it can sometimes be a little cold. I have a small space heater for the winter but in the summer I just have to deal. Thatís fine by me though. I've had other shops in both the garage and in the basement and this one is by far my favorite. My daughters really like it too, which suits me just fine. It's nice being able to have them come in and "work" with me.

    I wanted something easy to sweep clean so the floor is *GASP* laminate but it was cheap (less than $1/Sq. Ft.) and looked nicer than plain or painted concrete. I figured it would likely get damaged from dropped tools so I didn't want to spend a lot on wood. I was right, so I'm glad we didn't spring for real wood. We're on a slab anyway so real wood wouldn't add any cushion to the floor. It looks nice though .

    8. Tell us about the hand planes you own, and your favorite one(s) to use:I own quite a few planes, but most are not bench planes but rather specialty planes. As I mentioned earlier, I now prefer wooden planes so all of my planes are antique wooden models unless I build them myself. I have the requisite bench planes needed for surfacing stockÖfore plane, try plane and smoother. I have the requisite joinery planesÖjointer, rabbet planes, moving fillester, several dado planes, match planes (tongue and groove), strike block (a.k.a. miter plane). I also have quite a few specialty planes like a toothing plane, hollows and rounds and other molding planes.

    My smoother is a plane that I built myself so I like using it but I think my favorites to use are well tuned molding planes. There's really nothing like taking a plain straight stick and turning it into a beautifully shaped piece of molding. Applying said molding to a plain case or table really makes a piece pop and look very elegant and finished. I get a lot of satisfaction from that part of the process. Of course trying to use a poorly tuned molding plane can be a nightmare.

    9. You favorite chisels:
    I've owned several sets of bench chisels from the Marples blue chips to antiques to my current set of London Pattern Ashley Isles. I really like antique cast steel chisels but I found it very difficult to put together a good working set of them buying one at a time so I eventually bought a set of Ashley Isles chisels. I really like them a lot as they take a very keen edge and hold it for a reasonable amount of time. The London pattern handle is also very comfortable to use and the graduated sizes of the handles is a nice touch not done on most modern chisels.

    I also have two Ray Iles mortise chisels and I like them a lot but they are priced a little too high in the larger sizes for me to afford. I need a couple more and think I'll be going with vintage cast steel models for those. For carving tools I use Henry Taylor tools. I've tried to find good vintage carving tools but again, finding them in the exact size and sweep you need when you need to is like playing the lottery. Plus, they go for as much as a new chisel anyway. I like the Henry Taylor tools a lot and they are always available right when I need them.

    10. Your favorite handsaw(s):I think handsaws are a very personal thing. You can only do so much to a plane or chisel to make it work differently but saws are a completely different animal. Once you learn to sharpen a saw yourself there's no end to what you can do to make it cut differently. Change the pitch (number of PPI), change the rake, change the fleam, file a progressive pitch, file a progressive rake, file a progressive pitch and a progressive rake, set them light, set them heavy. There's just so many things you can do to a saw to make it fit your working style and the woods you use perfectly. Of course I'm talking about Western saws here. I've tried Japanese style saws and just could never get used to the feel. I like Western saws better.

    Being that I use only hand tools in my work, I use hand saws a lot, but I don't have that many. I currently have one large rip saw and one large cross cut saw, a crosscut filed sash saw (or carcass saw, tenon saw, backsaw, whatever you want to call it), a rip filed tenon saw (insert your name for it here) and a rip filed dovetail saw. My large cross cut saw is a Disston #7 from the 1800s that I really like a lot. I have not found another large panel saw with a handle as comfortable as the #7. I really like using it a lot.

    I recently started making my own backsaws as the types of saws I wanted aren't available for purchase on the retail market for what I could afford to pay so I really had no other choice. Right now I'd say my favorite saw is a small dovetail saw I made myself for cutting dovetails in thin stock like drawer sides. It's comfortable, balanced, cuts really well, cuts fast and cuts clean.

    I'll have a few more in the works (carcass dovetail saw, a saw for tenon cheeks and a crosscut sash saw for precision cross cuts). Since I like the dovetail saw so much and since I've found a better method to fold the steel backs than I used when I built and posted the dovetail saw, I think these new saws will come out even better. I'm really excited about them.

    11. Do you use western tools or Japanese, why do you prefer the ones you use:I like Western tools as I think they are better suited to building Western furniture. My preferred style is early American so I think these tools are most appropriate. I have tried Japanese style saws and I don't really like them. They just don't work for me as well as my Western saws the way that I work. I've never tried a Japanese plane or chisel and I'm sure they work fine but again, they aren't for me. I use my chisels to pare with only hand pressure a lot more than I use them with a mallet and the Japanese hooped chisel handles just don't look comfortable for this kind of chisel work. Similarly, Iím more comfortable using Western planes. Iím not sure I could get used to using a Japanese style pull plane after using Western tools for so long. Iím just more comfortable with the Western tools and in my opinion, when it comes to hand tools, how comfortable they are to you when you use them is far more important than any other factor. If a tool isn't comfortable to use, you won't do good work with it regardless of how hard the steel is or how flat the sole is.

    12. Do you have a woodworking home page:
    Yes, it's

    13. Do you have any influences in your work? Certain styles or designers you follow/prefer:
    I really like the early 18th century American furniture, with the Queen Anne period being my favorite. These pieces were elegant and beautiful but simple at the same time. They didnít rely heavily on added ornamentation to make them beautiful rather they used proportion and stance. Some pieces might have some simple carvings or maybe even a ball and claw foot but they werenít typically overly carved like the later Chippendale styles which are just too ornate for my tastes. Iím not a fan of the Rococco at all.

    I also like simpler painted pieces typical of the Shaker and Windsor designs. These pieces are functional yet beautiful. Their slender lines and subtle details speak of function and grace without being overly boisterous. In my opinion, thereís no chair more beautiful than a Windsor. Simple, functional and beautiful.

    14. Do you have any ancestors who were woodworkers that served as inspiration?
    I am mostly a self taught woodworker. No one in my family was ever a woodworker per se but they were all very self sufficient do it yourselfers. I definitely got this gene as I canít stand to hire out a job I can do at 1/10th of the cost. It burns me up .

    I would say I got really into woodworking through my high school shop program. While other kids took shop to goof off, I actually wanted to make stuff. My very first project was a coffee table for my mom that won me an award for best project of the year. I think that spurred me on to continue to build and learn and I still do so today.

    My main inspiration is learning new skills and challenging myself to build harder and more complex projects. I just really like to learn new things.

    15. What is your favorite neander project, or part of a project, you have ever done and why:
    Itís really hard to pick a favorite as I learn something from each project I build. Really, I think my favorite part of any project is the part that I havenít done before that teaches me something new. In my current project, Iím building tombstone raised panel doors. This is something I have not done in previous projects so itís been the most enjoyable part of this project.

    I think if I was forced to pick one part of a project that is my favorite to do it would be making moldings by hand. I really enjoy taking a well tuned molding plane, or several if the molding calls for it, and turning a square boring stick into something gracious and beautiful. Itís similar to carving to some extent. I do enjoy carving too, though I donít feel that Iím a very good carver yet.

    16. Do you believe there is any spiritual dimension to woodworking with hand tools:
    I guess that depends on your definition of spiritual. If your asking if I feel connected to some greater force when I work with wood, Iíd say no; I save that connection for church. However, if you think of enjoyment as spiritual then I guess maybe you could say so.

    For me itís not really about finishing the project or achieving a greater Zen or feeling connected to the wood. Itís just about the enjoyment of working with wood. Itís just one way I like to spend my free time and unwind from the daily grind. Some folks like to use jointers and planers to get what they consider the grunt work out of the way so they can do the enjoyable parts like the joinery and carving by hand. I just happen to enjoy all parts of it, including the ďgrunt workĒ. I don't think of it as grunt work but rather just another part of building the piece. If my projects take a little longer, thatís ok by me. No one is paying me for my time and any time in the shop is time I enjoy anyway.

    17. How much of your work is done by hand tools. Do you use whatever is best for the job or do you use hand tools even when they are less efficient:
    Iíd say that probably 99% of my woodworking is done with hand tools. I do try to use the best tool for the job but for me that's usually a hand tool. I think that the best tool for the job is a matter of personal opinion. For someone who doesnít like planing rough timbers, a jointer and planer might be the best tool for the job. For me, a fore plane and try plane are the best tools for the job. I will occasionally use a drill press to bore holes larger than my available hand brace bits (larger than 1") but that's about it for power when I'm working wood. If I were to acquire brace bits or T-augers larger than 1", I would not use the drill press.

    I also think that the notion that hand tools are less efficient is somewhat misguided. In a production shop making dozens if not hundreds of interchangeable parts, machines are 100% more efficient. However, in the weekend shop that builds one off pieces, Iím not sure that machines are any more efficient. It depends on your definition of efficiency. Is it completing a single task faster or the entire project. I truly believe that many one off projects can be built equally as fast by hand as they can by machine. However, the method of building may need to be different between a machine tool user and a hand tool user to get the same efficiency.

    18. What is your single most favorite tool, and why.
    I think my chisels would have to be my most favorite tool because they are so versatile. They can be used for roughing tasks, trimming tasks, fitting, smoothing, carving, chopping. I think my chisels are probably the most reached for tool in my shop because they do so many things so well without any type of fancy adjusters, gizmos or guides. A steady hand and a sharp eye can come together to do some amazing things with little more than a chisel.

    19. If you were a hand tool what would you be and why?
    I think I'd probably be a chisel. They are probably the hand tool that is most like meÖsimple and boring on first impression but sharp, versatile and dependable when you get to know them.
    The means by which an end is reached must exemplify the value of the end itself.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Plano, TX
    First interview of the year.
    Nice to get to know you Bob. If it's any complement I thought you'd be much older , considering how much you know about handtools and such.
    The means by which an end is reached must exemplify the value of the end itself.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Fort Gordon, GA
    Bob's on my shortlist of woodworking heroes....
    - jbd in Denver

  4. #4
    Good to know more about you, Bob. I'm in awe of you doing all the stock prep work by hand.

    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  5. #5

    nice interview


    Nice interview and thanks for sharing those thoughts on woodworking. The questions were also quite appropriate. Being a pastor I always find discussions on woodworking fertile ground for the topic of spirituality.

    Jim Paulson

  6. Nice interview.

  7. #7
    Great interview Bob. I've always wanted to know a bit more about you and your shop. Thanks for posting it.
    Dave Anderson
    Chester Toolworks LLC
    Chester, NH

  8. #8
    Thanks everyone! I was really honored to have been asked to do an interview. I don't even consider myself in the same league as the exceptional craftsmen who have been interviewed before me. I'm really just a guy who likes to work with wood.

    My wife jokes with me that I like old man hobbies (i.e. woodworking and fishing) so I understand the surprise at my age, Zahid. I think our craft is very often viewed as a post retirement hobby but the way I see it, this is a craft for all ages and all skill levels. Places like SMC allow it to span generations so I think we'll see more people my age and younger joining our ranks in the furure.

    Again, thanks for the opporunity to do this interview. It was a great honor!


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Lansing, KS
    Thanks for sharing your shop and perspective. Please do share with us the new method you have of bending saw backs. You inspire me to try new things. My goal for 2009 is to make my own dovetail saw.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Finger Lakes, NY
    I'll echo John Dykes' comment above. Bob's one of my favorite posters, here or elsewhere. Always look forward to learning something new from him. Excellent blog, as well.

    Really good stuff here, and glad to hear we've got fishing in common. Though I've got quite a bit of practice ahead of me if I plan to be that good or half as knowledgeable when I turn 33 ("just" three years away).

    Back to the shop,


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    McConnelsville, Ohio

    What a great interview. Your attitude towards learning something new all the time is inspiring. It reminds me of the Shakers. Like your dovetail saws, if they didn't have what they wanted they just made it. Also, like the web site and your idea of the demonstration videos.


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