Shared from the 5/1/2018 Wenatchee Foothills eEdition


For this woodworker, home is where his art is


Steve Voorhies enjoys his wood shop that is attached to the garage at his Wenatchee home.

Steve Voorhies’ Wenatchee home is a functional gallery of wooden furniture — soft as velvet, and solid as the trees they came from.

Every room is adorned with pieces crafted by Voorhies. Just inside the front door, a coffee table converts into a four-seat dining room table. In the kitchen, a coopered door graces a Japanese-styled wall cabinet. In the living room, you’ll find a backgammon table with inlays of ebony and pear on a background of birds-eye maple.


Above: Steve Voorhies’ latest project sits in his home’s living room. The Federal-style sideboard took him more than 18 months to complete.


Left: End cuts of all of the different kinds of wood Voorhies uses are saved in his shop for future projects.

A retired physician, Voorhies developed his skills after 40 years of solitary evenings in his shop. Milling wood and fitting joints offered the quiet space he needed after long days in a busy family practice office.

“The whole process brings me joy, and looking at the completed projects,” Voorhies said.


Voorhies made the mirror, the table below it and the dining room set seen reflected in the mirror.

That joy was evident as he lovingly touched the smooth finish of his latest project, a Federal-style sideboard. With a strong poplar core, its drawers and doors seamlessly follow a serpentine curve. The crotch mahogany veneer that covers the drawers is 1/32nd of an inch thick, delicate as autumn leaves. The six legs are stringed with holly and inlaid with bellflowers.

The Federal sideboard was one of the few furniture pieces Voorhies didn’t design himself. He discovered the antique replica in a two-piece article by Steve Latta in Fine Woodworking magazine.

“When I retired, I wanted to make a challenging piece, and this was,” Voorhies said. The project took 600-800 hours over about 18 months.

Voorhies’ own designs are influenced by the Greene and Greene brothers, architects from California known for their Asian-inspired woodwork. Their style evolved from the Arts & Crafts movement of the early 1900s. He pointed out a six-foot tall framed mirror, accented with two columns angled outward, like sun rays above the clouds.


Top: Steve Voorhies works on a tool cabinet, the doors in the foreground, in the woodshop at his Wenatchee home. The retired family physician has worked with wood for 40 years.


Bottom: A dining table Voorhies made contains ebony splines and plugs.

He followed a similar decorative theme to make a horizontal framed mirror in dining room.

“That idea came from these doors,” Voorhies said, referring to a picture of French doors in the Gamble House (of Proctor and Gamble) on the cover of a coffee table book.

Another of his favorite pieces was inspired by a book — a wall cabinet made of mahogany, with inlays of ebony and padauk. On a coopered door, Voorhies cut Japanese calligraphy he found in a book about Japanese aesthetics.

“It means ‘absolute compassion’” Voorhies said. Since his retirement from family practice, Voorhies works part time in hospice care. “I was really attracted to it, and by what it meant,” he said.

Recently, he met a man who spoke Japanese and interpreted the calligraphy to mean “deep sadness,” which Voorhies found fascinating.

“But if you think about it, it’s the sadness that moves you to do something for that person for whom you’re sad. That’s the idea behind compassion,” he said.

Voorhies learned the basics in the shop of his father, a business man and hobbyist woodworker. Voorhies began making furniture out of necessity during medical school in the 1970s. He made a bed frame, a dining room table and a couch frame out of two-by-fours.

“We had no money, so we were pretty inventive,” his wife, Sal, said with a laugh. “That was the beginning, nowhere near the level he does now.”

Over the years, Voorhies picked up techniques and advice from other woodworkers, including Gary Rogowski, a nationally-known woodworker who taught a long-distance class at his Northwest Woodworking Studio in Portland, Oregon.

“Even the national guys, you get them on the phone and they love to talk about what they do,” Voorhies said.

The camaraderie between woodworkers is part of the reason why Voorhies helped found the NCW Woodworkers Guild last year. About 50 members strong, the guild meets monthly to feature local artists and the techniques they use. In December, the group hosted a woodworking exhibit at Pybus that featured more than a dozen works from professional and hobbyist artisans in the area.

“You’re so used to doing this all by yourself; a guild provides a way to get associated with other people who love it like you do,” he said. “It’s encouraging. You have a natural bond. You understand the frustrations and the joys of it.” F

About the NCW Woodworker’s Guild

Founded: January 2016

Members: About 50

Meetings: Monthly workshops on different skills and techniques, taught by local members

Resources: Check out the guild’s woodworking library at Lombard’s Hardwood Supply in Wenatchee.

Learn more:

See this article in the e-Edition Here