Steve Schlumpf is one of those mild mannered Clark Kent kind of guys who works hard behind the scenes and accomplishes a lot that benefits the turning community as a whole.  When I contacted him about writing about him for a profile in the Behind the Art series his responses were as you might expect from a modest man, “Since I work to publish the Behind the Art articles on WTU it might be seen as a little self-serving to have an article about myself.”

I told Steve that he was much beloved and that there are lots of woodturners out there that would like to know more about him.  He moderates on Sawmill Creek and serves as the Site Administrator/Co-Founder of Woodturners Unlimited.  I know everyone on both of those forums owes Steve a big thank you for the thankless job he does.  So I have the pleasure of profiling Steve Schlumpf and providing some details of his life and his development as an artist.  This was an easy task for me as about all I had to do was cut and paste the excellent answers Steve provided to my questions.

Steve was born in Champaign, Illinois in 1952 but says he was too young to remember anything about living there.  His father was in the Air Force and they moved to Alaska before it was a state.  After Alaska the family moved to Indiana while Steve’s dad worked at Notre Dame.  Then on to Wiesbaden, Germany and Great Falls, Montana where Steve graduated from high school.

Steve promptly joined the Air Force and served for 8 years performing close air support and forward air control duties while receiving extensive training in electronics.

When asked what he does for a living Steve responded, I’ve enjoyed a variety of careers.  By variety I mean, in addition to Air Force jobs, I was a commercial fisherman (shrimp, crab, and oysters) out of Heron Bay, Alabama until hurricane Frederic hit in September of ’79 and destroyed most everything my wife, son and I had.” 

 

We moved to Colorado Springs where I was hired as a systems tech for TRW. Got divorced shortly after and I moved to the Denver area and worked as a systems tech for Colorado Data Systems, which designed and manufactured automated test systems. Everything was going great until the shuttle blew up and the electronics industry came to a screeching halt. Wow, what a great chance to start over – meaning I was soon to be unemployed. I moved to the Silicon Valley area of California and once again found work, this time as a senior lab tech for ROLM – which designed and manufactured telephone switch equipment. IBM bought out ROLM a year later; and then Siemens bought the division from IBM a year after that. Went through the big Bay Area earthquake of 1989. I was lucky - many were not.”

Well, I had been in California for about 3 years at that point so figured I would move someplace new. Thought about Seattle but decided to move where my folks were living – Marquette, MI – just to be around family for once. Arrived here and found no electronics jobs available. Worked in a music store repairing audio equipment and signed on as a tech with a production company which put on major venue Rock & Roll shows throughout the Upper Peninsula. The music store eventually closed and I went to work for a local retail store for a couple of years, then a printing company for 2 more. A good friend of mine had a DJ business and also managed a number of Rock & Roll bands – offered me a job repairing all the amps, light systems, etc. It was fun but to pick up a little extra cash I served legal papers – another of my friend’s businesses was process serving. You meet some of the nicest folks that way!”

Eventually I started booking the bands and we did have a couple of them go national. About that time I helped my Dad build a screened-in porch on the back of his house. Had a blast working together and it was the first time either of us had built anything that complex. A couple of years later we built a front deck with a long terraced stairway and I decided that woodworking was something I enjoyed doing. Started working for a local construction company and learned about framing, roofing, siding, and windows. I eventually worked my way into finish work and managed to do some custom built-in bookcases, shelf units, vanity mirrors, etc. Picked up a DBA as SJSWoods and started doing commissions.

“At this point, I consider myself retired.”  (After all those jobs he should be tired and retired.) Steve is enjoying his retirement in Harvey, Michigan which is in the Upper Peninsula on the south shore of Lake Superior. (To the author it sounds like Steve has a Ph.D. in Jack of All Trades.)

Steve was very specific about when he began woodturning, The last week of October 2004.  I remember it as a life-changing time for me because all my woodworking experience up to that point dealt with flat boards and precision joinery.  Funny story on how I got started…”

“March of 2004 I was given an old lathe that some friends wanted to get rid of.  It was a 1954 mono-tube Craftsman that had sat for at least 30 years and was totally inoperative.  Good thing I like to repair things!” “Once the lathe was in operational condition (what the heck did I know) I decided to throw a chunk of birch on it and see how well it worked.  The birch was about 10” in diameter and 16” long - fresh from the yard, bark and all.  Turned the lathe on and the ‘log’ turned really, Really, REALLY fast – came off the lathe – smacked the wall behind the lathe leaving a big gash in the paneling!!! Hmmh… that doesn’t seem right!”  (What was your first clue, Steve?)

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Saturday the 18th. Thanks for visiting Woodturners Unlimited.