The long, winding road to Fine Woodworking
I have to say that the job opening at Fine Woodworking did not describe the job qualifications as “classical singer specializing in early music with a passion for hurdy-gurdies and other obscure instruments, with knowledge of lutherie, who can read, edit, and write articles on woodworking.”
But that’s a good description of who I am, and fortunately for both Fine Woodworking and for me, the match was made. I can add to this mix that I am also a hand tool apasionado (a few steps up from ‘aficionado’), though I’ve never shied away from power tools, and my woodworker’s heart is in a happily-shifting love affair between Japanese and European tools and techniques.
Although I originally hail from central New Jersey, I recently moved with my partner (also a professional musician) and three children to Connecticut from León, Spain, where I had been freelancing in music for a short time. Before that, I’d been living in Bloomington, Indiana. It’s a wonderful town with a great university, great music of all kinds, and amazing craftspeople. (Also known on the silver screen for bicycling and basketball–remember “Breaking Away” and “Hoosiers?”)
As a youngster I often looked fondly over my Spanish grandfather’s shoulder while he worked in his amazingly compact workshop in Galicia, Spain, but my hands-on experience with carpentry and home improvement happened at the hands of my father, who is a whiz at home projects. He’s created an immense amount of built-ins, made beds, and repaired countless things in the course of our growing up (being the oldest of four brothers meant lots of things around the house were prone to breakage). My musical interests gave a twist to my woodworking ones: in the last decade, I became more and more involved in lutherie. From 2003-2004 I enrolled at the violinmaking program at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, under master violinmaker Thomas Sparks. My interests lay in very early string instruments, and in the photos above you can see my first instrument, a reconstruction of a Germanic lyre based on archeological digs from Oberflacht, Germany. Also pictured is an organistrum, the medieval model of an instrument known as the hurdy-gurdy. It was designed by me based on stone carvings on the cathedrals of León and Burgos, Spain. It was principally constructed by my brother, Eugene Smishkewych, a luthier also trained at Indiana, with metalwork, finish and final details by Melvin Dorries of Hurdy Gurdy Crafters in Metamora, MI.
As a new associate editor at Fine Woodworking, I’m incredibly excited to be a part of crafting the premier woodworking magazine that has been my own constant woodworking companion for years. Although I’ll be sure to touch on numerous topics in my contributions to the magazine and the website, I’ll be especially prone to waxing poetic about vintage goodies, amazing new hand tools, my favorite Japanese or Western doodad du jour, or the delight of finding and working with reclaimed wood. Luckily, I’m in the best company for those kids of pursuits here at Fine Woodworking.
I’m looking forward to our future conversations on this blog. I’m also looking forward to pumpkin pie this weekend. Happy Thanksgiving holiday to all those of you celebrating it!
Organistrum (medieval hurdy-gurdy), based on stone sculptures from Leon and Burgos (Spain). Designed and built by Wolodymyr Smishkewych and Eugene Smishkewych; hardware, final adjustments, and finish by Melvin Dorries. 2010.
Germanic lyre, after archeological finds in Oberflacht, Germany. Designed and built by Wolodymyr Smishkewych. 2004.