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Thread: Neander interview: Wolf Kiessling

  1. #1
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    Neander interview: Wolf Kiessling

    1. Name (and nick names)
    Wolf Kiessling is the name, wood sculpture is the game. I have had many nicknames over the years, especially during the Navy years, but can't remember most of them although I recall that some weren't all that flattering. In any case, I developed the philosophy that you can call me anything you want, just don't call me late for lunch or supper.


    2. Age/DOB
    67, born on March 6, 1939

    3. Location (present and previous)
    Have lived in Oklahoma since February 1999. Started out in Marlow and am now in Duncan. (Actually, these are just mailing addresses. The true location is Stephens County (which, by the way, has been burning up for the last couple of months)). Prior to that, we had split residence between Corpus Christi, Tx, and Lake George, Co. For 15 years before that, we were proud residents of Houston, Tx. For all of the years before that, I have had residences in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Arlington, Virginia, San Diego and Alameda, California, Boston, Massachusetts, Centerville, Indiana, Ocean Springs, Ms, Berlin, Germany, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Sasebo, Japan, Olongapo,. Philippines and Tehran, Iran. A note of interest, I was in Iran for only a year of a three year contract. That stay, and job, got cut short due to the revolution that started in 1978. I got out of there about two weeks before they took those embassy personnel hostage.

    4. Tell us about your family.
    Well now, I have an ex-wife, that I was married to for 25 years, and with whom I had 5 children. I was then with Joyce, the true love of my life, who brought along 3 adult step children, for 23 years until she died in January of last year. I am estranged from all of the children except one natural son and one step son. I have 14 grand children and approximately 7 or 8 great grand kids, most of which I have never seen.

    5. How do you earn a living, woodworking or other, any interesting previous occupations.
    I am retired (retarded?) and make my living the old fashioned way, I live off others, i.e. social security, military retirement pay and income from a variety of investments. I retired from the U.S. Navy in 1976 as a Chief Radioman. I took a job in a Mississippi shipyard, as a marine electrician (specifically Interior Communications technician), working on the Spruance Class destroyer program. I was eventually transferred to working on the Tarawa hull and finally got sick of the job after a year and quit. I decided that working was not really all that some people crack it up to be so I decided I wanted to make a lot of money and retire early. Consequently, I went to work for Collins Systems Intl as a senior training instructor teaching a 180 hour Iranian Navy Operations Officer course, regarding the operation of a fleet communication system that Rockwell has sold the Iranian Navy, in Tehran. As I mentioned previously, the little bang-bang that started in '78 cut that program right off. Myself, and the other 399 or so personnel that were involved in Project Pearl were consequently laid off and left to look for greener pastures. I returned to Mississippi and about six months later took a job with RCA Global Communications in Houston. The company had decided to expand the U.S. domestic portion of their existing world wide communication system and I hired on to build the technical operations center (TOC) in Houston. After I finished installing, testing and getting the system up and running, I stayed on to run the center. It eventually got too big for me to handle alone, so we hired additional personnel. I got bored with that job and switched over to the engineering department, located in New York city, as a field service circuit engineer. I had responsibility for Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Colorado and Utah and no longer had to deal with the U.S. links. My responsibility was to design and supervise the implementation of international, point-to-point, leased line circuits. When the oil crunch hit my part of the country in 1985, my job was eliminated and my only choices were to relocate to Chicago or Atlanta. Neither option was very appealing so I asked for, and received, a severance package in 1986 at age 46. My wife, Joyce, and I then spent five years traveling extensively, both abroad and in the U.S. In 1992, while visiting the Pike National Forest in Colorado, we started working as Forest Service volunteers and did that, during the summer time, until 1994 when the Forest Service was forced to privatize their recreation areas. The volunteer work we did was working in the Wilkerson Pass Visitor Information Center and also as campground hosts. Anyhow, at that point we started working for the concessionaire doing essentially the same thing. Only thing was, it was now a paying job instead of a volunteer position and was no longer fun. Therefore, we quit after the 2001 season. In any case, In 1992, while whiling away the hours in the high forests of Colorado, I started whittling and eventually evolved into full blown sculpture. That, in turn, started me on the turning bug. Ultimately, I am now concentrating on carving my turnings. Prior to LOML's demise, we had talked about collaborating on some sculptures; me doing the carving and she doing some stained glass work to combine with the wood. Unfortunately, she passed away before this came to fruition.

    6. Equipment overview (hand tools and other)
    My garage is full of the "normal" array of tools that probably every home owner has such as a good collection of hammers, pliers, wrenches, socket sets, ad infinitum. This is the stuff one needs to repair everything from the car to household appliances to the house itself. My shop, however, is another story. It houses all of the tools that I use for working with wood. This includes the Dayton 6" bench grinder with blue wheels, along with the Wolverine grinding jig, One Way Vari-grind, Veritas tool rest and Diamond wheel dresser, DeWalt 12" SCMS mod DW-708, Delta 14" band saw Mod 28-275 along with the 18" rip fence mod 28-843, DeWalt 12" planer mod DW-733, Terrco Dupli-carver mod T-110, John Burke two shaft Tool Sharpening System, Grizzly bench top drill press mod G7943,Delta 4" belt/6" disk sander mod 31-460, Penn State DC mod DC 1B-XL, Jet wood lathe mod JWL 1642 EVS with factory supplied accessories along with Vicmark VM100 chuck, live center with 60 deg cone, 3/8" X " long point and cup center, Superior Design and Machine 1" bent tool rest plus Jamieson style (home built) deep hollowing system.

    Lathe tools include Sorby �" bowl gauge and articulated head angle sander, Hamlet M2030 radiused scraper, Glaser 1" scraper, Henry Taylor fluted 1.4" beading tool and Stott narrow parting tool. In addition to this there is a variety of sanding aids and assorted carbon steel spindle tools about half of which have been reground and shaped into a variety of specialty scrapers.

    I have a modest collection of about 50 wood carving tools which is made up of various palm tools and long handled tools suitable to be driven by mallet. This collection consists of various chisels, sweep gauges, veiners and parting tools. I also own two Helvie carving knives, one unknown brand carving knife plus three chip carving knives.

    If one continues looking they will also find a reversible Foredom, two Dremel and one B&D Wizard battery operated rotary tools in addition to corded and cordless hand drills, sabre saw, circular saw and several electrical hand held sanders.

    I'm sure I have forgotten to mention some of the other tools that just don't come to mind right now and I hope they will forgive me for the unintentional oversight. Sorry guys.

    7. Describe your shop
    Ah yes, "THE SHOP". Sometimes, depending on whom I'm talking to, also referred to as "THE STUDIO". Then again, mostly depending on my mood and also depending on whom I'm talking to, occasionally called "MY PRIDE AND JOY" (not so much anymore, though, now that my true love has passed away)

    This is a stand alone 24' X 24' building, on a concrete slab, fully insulated, pressed board siding clad, asbestos shingle covered and wired to accomodate 240 volts. It has a single car sized front garage door and a 36" side door. It also contains a partitioned off 10' X 12' room which I had intended to be a "finishing room" However, it has a northern exposure which makes it so well lit that I also do a LOT of my carving in there, especially when it is a piece that I have to hold in my lap. This room is also equipped with two work benches, one at stand up height, the other at sit down level. The main part of the shop also contains two work benches, at stand up height, and I use a portable Work Mate for sit down work in this space. Lighting is provided by one small window, door window and strategically placed fluorescent fixtures and one hanging halogen fixture over one of the work benches. I also use portable clamp lights as I require them. (This is why I installed the two 4'X3' windows in the "finishing room" which is also equipped with an overhead fluorescent fixture and incandescent clamp light on the sit down workbench) Currently, I have just enough room in this building to house the lawn tractor just inside the garage type door. If one more tool comes into the shop, I'm gonna have to build another building for the lawn tractor which would then be designed to accommodate all of the gardening/ground maintenance tools. I digress, back to "The SHOP". Year before last I got really tired of the primitive climate control I was using which consisted of a fairly powerful Lasko floor fan, for summer use, and shop heater, for the winter. I had a 1.5 ton split system installed and now I COULD live in this building. Well, I don't have running water to it (yet) but I did equip it with the bed side portable toilet that was used by Joyce.

    8. Tell us about the handplanes you own, and your favorites one(s) to use

    I only own one handplane. I have no idea what brand it is, it is only stamped with Made In The USA. I have owned it probably 40 some years and doubt if I used it a half dozen times.

    9. You favorite chisels.
    Don't have any favorite chisels. I used them all and all of the time. I am brand neutral and use Flexcut, Pfeil, Warren, H. Taylor and Harmon normally. When I buy one, I purchase according to what is available to meets my needs at that time. I guess I should say, though, that whenever possible I try to avoid H. Taylor and Harmon.

    10. Your favorite handsaw(s).
    Don't have a fave. I have three handsaws, one each back, coping and rip. Hardly use them at all.

    11. Do you use western tools or Japanese, why do you prefer the ones you use
    Never used a Japanese tool in my life.

    12. Do you have a woodworking home page.
    www.texhoma.net/~wjk

    13. Do you have any influences in your work. Certain styles or designers you follow/prefer.
    Not really. I study all the sculpture I can, mainly for form and design. My techniques, mainly sculpture, are mostly my own. Regarding my turning techniques, a really nice guy named Larry Hancock taught me everything I know. This is no way any reflection on Larry. We only spent a couple of hours together so I forgot a lot of what he told me. I have one of Raffan's books but find it really hard to learn technique out of a book. I do not own, or have ever watched, a turning instructional tape even though I know there are plenty available. I am probably the worst tool handler anyone has ever seen. Lots of times I know what I am doing wrong but am too lazy, or maybe just disinclined, to practice, practice, practice. I do most of my work with scrapers because I know I can get the job done. If I have a really persnickety piece of wood I will use my bowl gauge because I can get a smoother finish and lessen my sanding time. In any case, when I mount a chunk of wood on the lathe, even though I may do it with the intention of simply practicing shearing techniques, I will end up just grabbing my scrapers and making a bowl that I can sell. The faster I can get it done, the sooner I can sell it. I probably just feel that I'm too old to learn how to do it really right. (I sure do hate to psychoanalyze myself. Then why the hell am I doing it??????)

    14. Do you have any ancestors who were woodworkers that served as inspiration.
    Short answer! nope.

    15. What is your favorite neander project, or part of a project, you have ever done and why.
    Not sure how to answer that question, so I won't.

    16. Do you believe there is any spiritual dimension to woodworking with handtools.
    I can answer that best from quoting directly from the "Philosophy" page of my web site.

    ************************************************** ********
    In the wood of each piece is reflected the work of the hands, and the mind, and the heart of a man. With many a work-weary moment, a frown, a pause, more work and a smile of pride, and strongly impressed in the line and the form and the pores is not only a man's need but his will to create what is proudest and best of what he is given.

    In a tree, beneath gnarled and shedding bark, lies a crossed, and swirled, and contrary grain. It is given by God, then wounded and buried, twisted and bent by sores and sickness, by drought and by rain, and the coldness and warmth of life in the world. Such are the fibers in wood and in man. That, worked well and polished, with effort and renewal, show brilliance and depth and a beautiful richness that grow warmer and greater with age.

    And the seeker of richness in the roughness of the grain earns the peace of struggle in well fitted work, an eye for the delicate and strong the strength of softness and sureness, and the promise of love that's felt and given and mirrored in the eyes of others.


    o From "Reflections in a Looking Glass" John Keith Johnson 1974



    A few years ago, friends of mine found a Chippendale mirror at a flea market. "Reflections in a Looking Glass" was written on the back panel. When I was first introduced to this beautiful statement it grabbed my heart and has been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration ever since. It also does a wonderful job of summarizing the personal relationship I have, ranging from anger, frustration, love and, ultimately, satisfaction, with that ever unpredictable medium we call wood.
    ************************************************** ********

    I suspect a few of you may know who this unnamed friend is. He was actually just an internet acquaintance but he was a source of inspiration to me. He is now deceased and his name was Phil Wall. I am guessing some of you in the Pennsylvania area may have been acquainted with him.

    17. How much of your work is done by handtools. Do you use whatever is best for the job or do you use handtools even when they are less efficient.
    Now we are talking stictly about carving. Most of my work is done with handtools. If I had to put a percentage on it, I would have to say probably about 85 percent. I should also point out, however, that if I do stylized work, this being defined as work with barely discernible details but consisting mainly of smooth, flowing lines, the entire thing might be done with power except I always hand sand for finishing. I find that I can't do really good, clean detail work with power. I use power whenever possible, and when it is most efficient, and generally that is during the rough out phase of the project when I have to move a lot of wood. Whenever it is practicable, I also use a bandsaw, or maybe chainsaw, during this stage. In my opinion, you just can't beat a good, sharp steel edge for clean, neat and good looking work. In summary, I should say that I don't use power or handtools just for the sake of using one or the other, I do what is necessary to get the job done but the most efficient means possible.

    18. What is your single most favourite tool, and why.
    THE LATHE. IT'S FUN.....

    If I phase myself out of woodwork, or art in general, this will be the last tool I get rid of. Actually, I've been thinking along these lines the last couple of months and getting back into fishing. I have thousands of dollars of fishing equipment just sitting/hanging in the garage. Haven't used it since I left the Gulf Coast and Colorado.

    I did win the Mayor's award for his pick of best of show yesterday at Grapevine, Tx, so that makes me more disinclined to quit for a while. Well, time will tell
    Last edited by Zahid Naqvi; 03-10-2006 at 3:13 PM.

  2. #2
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    Another splendid interview.

    Wolf---Is there more to the poem you quoted (Reflections...)? I tried to Google it, but there are no references to it. If there is more, I would really appreciate seeing the rest. Quite lovely, truly reflects the range of emotions associated with the creation of true art.

    Dan
    Eternity is an awfully long time, especially toward the end.

    -Woody Allen-

    Critiques on works posted are always welcome

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Forman
    Another splendid interview.

    Wolf---Is there more to the poem you quoted (Reflections...)? I tried to Google it, but there are no references to it. If there is more, I would really appreciate seeing the rest. Quite lovely, truly reflects the range of emotions associated with the creation of true art.

    Dan
    Dan, as far as I know, that is all there is.....
    Wolf Kiessling

    In the pursuit of excellence, there is reward in the creation of a wondrous relationship between the artisan and the soul of the tree

  4. #4
    Aaaahhh...another Navy guy that has seen many places and done many things. Nice to know ya Wolf.
    Glenn Clabo
    Michigan

  5. #5
    Hi Wolf, great interview and what a varied (and poignant) life you've led so far. As well as your wood wooding I noticed you were stationed in "Londonderry, Northern Ireland". Was this the US Navy base in Limavady Road? I used to live almost next door when I was a kid. In those days real live Americans were seen as something out of programmes like "Get Smart" and "Man From Uncle" etc. Rumour was that the base had a real bowling alley and you could buy Hershey bars and other such exotica that a kid my age only ever saw on TV. The base is now an army barracks as a hangover from the little problems we had over the last 30 years or so.
    Thanks Zahid and Wolf, very interesting interview.

    Rgds

    Noel

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noel Hegan
    Hi Wolf, great interview and what a varied (and poignant) life you've led so far. As well as your wood wooding I noticed you were stationed in "Londonderry, Northern Ireland". Was this the US Navy base in Limavady Road? I used to live almost next door when I was a kid. In those days real live Americans were seen as something out of programmes like "Get Smart" and "Man From Uncle" etc. Rumour was that the base had a real bowling alley and you could buy Hershey bars and other such exotica that a kid my age only ever saw on TV. The base is now an army barracks as a hangover from the little problems we had over the last 30 years or so.
    Thanks Zahid and Wolf, very interesting interview.

    Rgds

    Noel
    Yes sir, Noel, it is the one and same. The Brits had a base right up the road, which I'm sure you remember, the HMS Sea Eagle. I got to Derry in '63 and the event I'm about to mention happened not too long (if I remember right) before I got there but you may recall it. One night the IRA decided they wanted to do some damage to the Brits so they decided to detonate an explosive device but they got the wrong base. Yeah, they blew up the building that housed the noninterruptible power for the U.S. Navy communication base. They did pay for it.

    There was definitely a small bowling alley on the base but I don't remember how many lanes. I have fond memories of The Diamond and Quigleys Hotel, near the Guildhall, where I used to spend Wednesday afternoons watching the horse races on the TV above the bar while placing my bets at the Off Track betting shop two or three doors down. Good times.........
    Wolf Kiessling

    In the pursuit of excellence, there is reward in the creation of a wondrous relationship between the artisan and the soul of the tree

  7. #7
    Hi Wolf, small world, eh? Alas, I think Quigleys bar is long gone but having a few drinks and nipping out to the bookies (off track betting shop) is still a daily/weekly ritual for many people.
    Don't remember the incident you mentioned but I can well believe it.
    I remember Sea Eagle barracks but it has also been closed for many years now.
    Glad you enjoyed your time over here.

    Rgds

    Noel

  8. #8
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    Great to really meet you Wolf, you and I lived in a number of the same place's.
    Dick

    No Pain-No Gain- Not!
    No Pain-Good

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