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Posted: July 17, 2011 12:30 a.m.

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Woodworkers turn creative

Gabriel Khouli/

Don Russell made every piece of wood furniture in his Oxford home, and there's a lot of it. Tables, chairs, chests, cabinets and two tall grandfather clocks.

The one in the living room is his crown jewel, a combination of king wood, so named for its purplish hue, and Ceylon satin, with its yellow tint.

That's Russell's signature touch, actually - multi-colored wood creations, particularly polychromatic wooden bowls. He picked up on the practice because he used to get unused scrap pieces from W.P. Stevens Lumber, which came in all shapes, sizes and colors.

"I love the creative part," Russell said. "Making assemblies out of multiple woods, it's a little more creative, more extreme than using a single grain."

He's been working with wood for the last 45 years, and gets the greatest enjoyment these days from passing on the trade to others. He founded the Peach State Woodturners, a group of wood enthusiasts, who meet monthly to share tips and learn more about their craft.

Woodturning involves placing a block of wood on a lathe, a machine tool that rotates, while the woodturner uses various tools to carve and shape the block into a bowl, cup or other circular ware.

John Rudert is one of Russell's disciples, though he first worked in his dad's woodshop as a young boy. Later in life, Russell helped Rudert develop his skills, and since then Rudert has branched out into marquetry, the craft of applying veneer (thin slices of dyed wood), to form decorative patterns and pictures on wood.

Some of his more complex designs will take up to a month, like the lighthouse pattern he created for a table for the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation,

"It's an accomplishment not too many other get to do. There aren't that many marquetrians in today's society," said Rudert, who paralleled the fine detail required for marquetry with the detail he uses in computer programming.

Russell, Rudert and dozens of other craftsman from Georgia and the southeast gathered at Russell's home on Gum Creek Road Saturday. The land goes back generations in his wife's, Patsy, family, and the couple has hosted several woodturning gatherings previously, though this is the first one in about four years.

One of the attendees was Conyers resident Turk Alliston who gave a demonstration on how to carve a 16-inch wide wooden platter.

"It's a great stress reliever - the best therapist I've had," Alliston said and laughed. "When I'm having a bad day, I set up a piece of wood and make something out of it. I love just taking a piece of somebody's firewood and being able to turn into a bowl, urn, vase or something else for them."

Russell said wood carvers and woodturners are a friendly crowd that are happy to teach and welcome new members to the family. The Peach State Woodturners meet at 7 p.m., the first Thursday of every month at Russell's home, 2025 Gum Creek Road, Oxford.

Membership is $30 a year. For more information visit

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