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Thread: creeker interview. Mike Henderson

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Plano, TX

    creeker interview. Mike Henderson

    Back after a long absence Please meet Mike Henderson

    1. Name (and nick names)
    Michael Henderson (but everyone calls me "Mike")

    2. Age/DOB
    I'm very close to 65, and my birthday is February 14 (I know, I was a love child)

    3. Location (present and previous):
    Tustin, California – about the closest thing to Paradise as you can find on this earth. Been here about twelve years. Prior to that, we lived in Largo, Florida – which from the heat in summer is about the closest thing to Hades as you can find on this earth. We’ve lived in a variety of places, from New Orleans, to Washington, DC, to San Jose, CA. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for San Jose – whenever I fly in there, it feels like I’m going home.

    In my job, I traveled quite a bit – all over the US and many places internationally. My two absolute favorite international places are Paris, France and Jerusalem, Israel.

    4. Tell us about your family:
    My wife, Norma, and I have been married 36 years. We met in Saigon, Vietnam. During one of the mortar attacks on the Ton Son Nhat airbase I dove into foxhole and fell on top of her. Well, that’s not really true but it makes a good story. The truth is that I was a lieutenant in the army signal corps and was assigned to MACV HQ to do computer work (a statistical analysis of terrorist incidents in an attempt to forecast Viet Cong (not NVA) movements). She was a civilian employee of Control Data and we met in the office. We were married after we both returned to the US.

    During our marriage we hosted international kids, mostly Asian, who were going to school in the US. We stay in touch with many of them. One girl (now a woman), perhaps who we’re closest to, just announced that she’s pregnant. She’s always called us her “American parents” so maybe we’ll be adopted grandparents.

    5. How do you earn a living, woodworking or other, any interesting previous occupations.
    I’m retired. I was (I guess still am) an electrical engineer and worked mostly in the computer and communications field. I worked on a lot of failed products during my career but did contribute quite a bit to the development of the 56K modem and did some important work on digital subscriber line (DSL) technology. I hold a patent (along with several other engineers) on what’s known as “splitterless DSL” technology – meaning that the phone company can just ship you a DSL modem and you install it – they don’t have to send a technician to your house (patent number 6,101,216). I hold 32 patents overall.

    I’ve always had hobbies. For a long while I was into running. I’ve run an untold number of 10K races (best time, about 40 minutes), and six marathons including New York City, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, and the Boston Marathon (best marathon time about 3:25 – I ran Boston as a bandit). I eventually switched to bicycle riding and rode with a group of crazy, killer bikers every week for a number of years – but we’d usually stop half way and have breakfast and social time before we went back to killing each other again (I was usually hanging on to the wheel of someone stronger).

    I got into woodworking when I retired in 2003. I started taking courses at Cerritos College and have gradually improved. I highly recommend some kind of formal education to people just starting woodworking. If nothing else, it will improve your safety practices.

    I’ve always enjoyed teaching – I use to teach engineering things – and I now teach carving and veneer work at the Woodcraft store in Stanton, CA.

    6. Equipment overview (hand tools and other):
    I have an extremely small shop – 10’ by 11’ – so I have to choose carefully what equipment I purchase. I have a Craftsman contractor’s table saw which I upgraded to 2HP and a Biesemeyer fence. It’s the center of my shop because one wing of the saw is a combination router table and bench vise. The outfeed table opens after I open my garage door and provides me a work surface when I’m not using the saw.



    I have a Bosch 12” miter saw, a Jet 14” band saw, a Craftsman drill press, a Jet 1236 lathe, a DeWalt 735 planer, and a Ridgid oscillating spindle sander.

    I also have things to do veneer work – veneer saws, knives, bag, vacuum pump, torsion boxes, etc. I especially enjoy decorative veneer work.

    I have a number of handplanes, almost too many to list all of them. I have several #3s and #4s, a #5 ½, and a #6. I have several wooden smoothers and quite a few block planes – a LN low angle, LN rabbit, Stanley 65, LN 102. Also, an LV medium shoulder plane, several wooden skew dado planes, and two chairmaker’s planes – one brass and one homemade wood. Excluding the LN and LV planes, my favorites are the Vaughan and Bushnell planes, especially if I’ve upgraded the iron.

    7. Describe your shop:
    Small. Packed.


    8. Tell us about the hand planes you own, and your favorite one(s) to use:
    Oops, I described this above.

    9. Your favorite chisels:
    Ah, chisels! I have a weak spot for chisels. I have a set of LN chisels, plus a set of bevel side Witherbys, plus a set of James Swan firmers marked “cast steel” (all except a 7/8”), plus an extended set of Hirsch and Two Cherries (from very small to very big), plus a set of Japanese chisels (I used to have more Japanese chisels but sold off all but the set I now have left).

    And, of course, I have a pile of carving tools, mostly Pfeil but also a few other brands.

    10. Your favorite handsaw(s):
    I’m not a big user of handsaws. When I do use them, as for cutting dovetails, I use a Japanese saw because they’re reasonably priced and you don’t have to sharpen them – you just buy a new blade. If I were to go with western saws, I’d have to learn how to sharpen them and buy all the tools to do so.

    11. Do you use western tools or Japanese, why do you prefer the ones you use:
    I mostly use Western. I tried Japanese chisels but don’t find the handles to be comfortable. And though they’re harder, I didn’t find that the edge lasted a whole lot longer than my western chisels.

    I use Japanese saws for the reasons given above.

    12. Do you have a woodworking home page:

    13. Do you have any influences in your work? Certain styles or designers you follow/prefer:
    I like Queen Anne because the construction is challenging and it generally incorporates carved elements. I also like modern, sculptural furniture because of the challenge in building all the curved elements. I’m not a big fan of Craftsman furniture. I find it too rectilinear.

    14. Do you have any ancestors who were woodworkers that served as inspiration?
    My grandfather on my mother’s side was a carpenter. Grand-pere worked for the Chalmette Laundry in New Orleans. Back then, the body on the Chalmette trucks was wood and they needed constant upkeep – that’s what grand-pere did. He also made things for the home. I was always amazed that he could cane a chair – I couldn’t see how he could keep the weave straight.

    15. What is your favorite neander project, or part of a project, you have ever done and why:
    I built a chest inspired by a John Townsend chest. Lots of difficult hand work.

    16. Do you believe there is any spiritual dimension to woodworking with hand tools:
    No, but I do enjoy it. I’d go crazy without something to do. Retirement sucks. I’d rather be working.

    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:
    I use whatever works best. Often, that’s a hand tool. In fact, as I get into woodworking further, I find I use hand tools more.

    18. What is your single most favorite tool, and why.
    Wow – that’s a really difficult question. I suppose my answer has to be “the tool I need to accomplish the task at hand.”
    The means by which an end is reached must exemplify the value of the end itself.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Etobicoke, Ontario
    Nice to meet you Mike!

    ...and a big thanks for all the worthwhile contributions you've generously made to help make SMC the enriching experience that it is.


    Louis Bois
    "and so it goes..." Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Central NY State
    Nice to learn more about you Mike.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Waterford, MI
    Wow. That's an extremely well organized shop in such a small space. Looks like the swing towards the handtool methods were influenced at least in part by the space constraints - much to our benefit.
    Use the fence Luke

  5. #5
    Thanks for the welcome and comments everyone. I'm honored to have been selected as an interviewee.

    I'm looking forward to reading the interview of each of you.

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

  6. #6
    Thanks for letting us know more about you Mike.
    Dave Anderson
    Chester Toolworks LLC
    Chester, NH

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Montreal , Canada
    Hi Mike,

    I've always valued your input here on the Creek, but ,this is the first time I've ever visited your say I am impressed with your work would be a gross understatement!!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. And, thanks to Zahid for doing and compiling all these great interviews.
    Last edited by Brent Smith; 10-29-2008 at 2:18 PM. Reason: Spelling
    Have a Good One,



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Plano, TX
    Mike, to echo what everyone else has already stated, thanks for adding to the knowledge base of the creek. For those who do not venture to the woodcarvers forum Mike has a very good hands-on tutorial on beginner carving going on.
    The means by which an end is reached must exemplify the value of the end itself.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Central Michigan

    Thumbs up

    Nice bi-owe Mike and since you are being highlighted my I say I appreciate all the info. and feedback you have given to the forum over the last few years.
    Sincerely Richard
    Richard Poitras
    Central, Michigan....

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    New Hampshire
    Thanks guys, I enjoyed reading the interview. It actually prompted me to quit sponging off of everybody else and become a contributor. I feel stupid for putting it off for six months since discovering SMC, as it was really easy to do with Paypal. Anyway, when I first started reading SMC, it seemed like Mike was always one of the first to respond to whatever stupid question I posted. Thanks.

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