Wikipedia describes an artisan as a skilled craftsman who creates functional or decorative items by hand, such as furniture, household items, and decorative arts. We have found a skilled woodworking artisan in Weaverville – Phil Pratt of Silverhawk Woodworking.
Silverhawk Sawdust is a home-based studio in Weaverville, specializing in unique, custom-designed creations ranging from decorative bowls and kitchen items to built-in shelving, cabinetry, stair bannisters, pens, and even large point-of-purchase displays for retail stores. If your imagination can conceive it, chances are good Phil can create it for you.
Phil has been into woodworking nearly 50 years, since inheriting some power tools from an uncle. “Back in 1974, when my wife and I married and had little money, I built a set of unique shelves using wormy cedar,” he said. “My love of woodworking has grown from there.”
Phil’s love for woodworking evolved from hobby to business about ten years ago, when he purchased a high-end table saw. “One might say it was a cabinet-maker’s saw compared to a contractor’s table saw. This meant I could measure the tolerances down to 1/100” versus 1/16”, which makes a huge difference when mitering a corner,” Phil said.
Using the upgraded saw, Phil began making high quality furniture, but still not selling it. “A few years later, my wife gave me my first lathe and I began turning bowls, pens, candle sticks, salt & pepper mills, etc.,” Phil said. “People started wanting to buy them and I was on my way. I started getting orders from corporations for 25 and 50 pens at a time using the exotic woods I purchased locally at Cormark International and Klingspor Woodworking Shop.”
Soon customers began asking for more. “I started making larger things like benches, cabinets and special fixtures for retail stores. The Asheville Visitor Center has become almost a showroom for some of my point-of-purchase displays and pedestals,” Phil said.
Silverhawk Sawdust really stands out for its ability to combine functionality with creativity. “A set of shelves can also function as a banister while being aesthetically pleasing to the eye,” Phil said. “Or a decorative Volcano Dish© can serve as a candy or nuts servicing plate. My small, lidded boxes are not only beautiful pieces of wood but can function as a salt cellar or jewelry box.”
Often the character of the wood itself dictates its unique aesthetic. “I often will use exotic woods (all legal in the United States) such as amboyna, sapele, thuya, bubinga, cocobolo, padauk, and olivewood,” Phil said. “The unique grains and colorings make for high eye appeal and most polish up to be extremely smooth. Next, if I’m turning something on a lathe, I will often allow the wood to tell me what form it wants to take. Sometimes I start turning with one design in mind but by exposing a knot or a check (crack), or maybe unique grain colors appear, I take a whole different approach to the finished item.”
Talking about unique, no two of Phil’s in-store displays are alike. “A few years ago the manager from The Asheville Shop at the Asheville Chamber of Commerce said she wanted a point-of-purchase (P.O.P.) display to handle newspapers, maps, fudge, magazines, etc., and on the back, she needed an organizing system to hold paperwork. These are the projects I love because I must be both creative and functional, plus combine a little engineering for structure and safety. Prior to cutting wood, I provide my client with mechanical drawings showing perspective views so they can better see what my mind is envisioning. Making changes on paper is a lot cheaper than once I start cutting the wood,” Phil said.
Phil’s love of wood totally shapes his “philosophy” of woodworking and wood art creation. “Wood is a fun medium that allows for creativity, strength and beauty,” he said. “Regardless of whether I’m making a P.O.P. display, unique candlesticks, a violin stand, or whatever, wood permits a craftsperson to be imaginative, to generate straight lines or curves, to mix with other mediums, to let the mind reach new artistic levels. This is possible because wood has its own strength, whether it’s a carved table leg or a thinly turned bowl that allows light to shine through the skin. And lastly, it has inherent beauty. I think every woodworker would agree that the most rewarding process is when stain and/or oil is applied to a finished creation and the grain coloring pops! For me, it’s always a WOW moment.”
Among all this creativity and variety, Phil has some favorite products. “My Volcano Dish© comes to mind, as the name is the result of imagination,” Phil said. “I had purchased a chunk of mallee wood, which is from the eucalyptus tree family grown in Australia. I had no idea of what it would become when I started carving it. The outer surface was gnarly, pointed, sharp – almost ugly – and the coloring was non-descript. Suddenly as I dug deeper into the wood, reds and whites and some browns became exposed to where it appeared like a volcano spewing red hot magna from the center and ultimately drying to an outer lava field that was gnarly, pointed, sharp, and almost ugly.
“A second favorite is the Stuffed Animal Cave at the Asheville Shop. Once I asked why several stuffed animals were on the floor under a table and I was told that kids love crawling under there to play while Mom and Dad are shopping. And this often leads to them getting to take one home. I said, ‘Why don’t you make that into a cave?’ and the manager allowed me to go with the idea. Now there’s a sign on it saying, No Adults Allowed!”
There are more favorites. “I could go on and on talking about my Heathered Pens (made from the iconic shrub that grows in the British Isles), or my colorful bangle bracelets made from wood burls and colorful resins, or some unique wood bowls, or … or ... I think you get the idea,” Phil said.
Phil’s enthusiasm spills over into large product creations. “I enjoy listening to clients explain a need, and I’ll take a few notes,” he said. “Within a day or so while my memory is fresh, I’ll submit a perspective drawing of what I envisioned them wanting. More times than not, I’m very close to their wishes and with some minor tweaks here or there, I’m given the go-ahead. Nowadays it may be a few months before I can start their project, but the drawings are there from which to work.
“As examples, one lady asked whether a glass tabletop could be replaced with a wood surface accepting expansion leaves. She was delighted with the result. She then asked for Tao-style shelves that would also function as a bannister protecting a stairwell. To enhance the Asian influence, I turned a Pagoda to be a handhold before descending the stairs. Another person wanted a built-in cabinet using barn wood. Or the Grove Arcade needed a special rack card display that would be versatile to allow different size material to be inserted, which could change periodically.”
We would like to emphasize that although we see Phil as a true artisan in his field, he is far more humble. “One will note my title on my business card is Master Sawdust Creator,” he said. “Having lived in the Asheville area for 15 years, I recognize the phenomenal craftsmanship in the area, some by true master craftsmen. These are individuals who have worked all their lives in the trade, not just as a hobby. Having said that, while I don’t consider myself a master, my clients keep coming back for more of my work which suggests it’s of high quality and creativity. And I’m very good at making sawdust!”
So if you’re looking for some high quality sawdust, along with beautiful and functional wood creations, check out Silverhawk Woodworking.
Watch the Sawdust Master at work:
On the web: https://silverhawksawdust.com
Phone: (828) 450-0189
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