South Lake Tahoe woodworker crafts one-of-a-kind pieces
September 10, 2017
In the scar of the Angora Burn, just steps from his South Lake Tahoe home, woodworker Steve Miller walks through the sparse forest looking for interesting chunks of fallen timber.
He likes pieces that are gnarly or charred from the fire that devastated the area 10 years ago, burning down many of the homes in the neighborhood excluding Miller's and a few others.
"It adds character to the wood," says Miller.
Later, back in his shop — a building he constructed near his home, which he bought two years after the fire — Miller secures his find in the lathe, flips on the machine and use a chisel to shape the chunk into a bowl as it spins.
Though his Facebook profile may read "Happily Retired," Miller spends six or seven hours a day crafting everything from wooden pepper grinders and intricate vases to pens and decorative bowls.
"I've always enjoyed working with wood, but never had the time or the place to do it," said Miller, who owned and operated an air conditioning company in Southern California before moving up to Tahoe full time two and a half years ago. "YouTube is an amazing thing. There is an awful lot that you can teach yourself there."
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In contrast to Miller's natural-edge bowls created from foraged wood are what he calls "dizzy bowls" made with a mash-up of hardwoods like alder, maple, mahogany, walnut, oak and purple heart.
He starts by gluing together slats of the different woods into a patterned board, which he then slices into four thinner boards. From there, he cuts out rings of ascending size, offsets them to create a pattern, and glues the bowl together.
"It takes the better part of a week," says Miller.
Although he didn't go into woodworking with the intention of selling his work, he did so for the sake of space.
"You reach a point where you only have room for so much stuff," he laughs.
Now Miller sells his wooden goods at craft shows around Lake Tahoe and in the valley, including the upcoming Genoa Candy Dance on Sept. 23-24.
In the meantime, you can find him in his shop, doors wide-open with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance, chiseling away at his "full-time hobby."
To see more of Miller's work, visit http://www.customsbysteveandterry.com.