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A passion for woodturning

Dave Shombert creates unique artwork

December 14, 2013
By Beth Christian Broschart - Staff Writer , The Inter-Mountain

ELKINS - A local woodturner said he crafts his wonderful creations because it is his passion - not his job. Dave Shombert and his wife Ellen moved to Elkins nearly 20 years ago, after taking early retirement.

Shombert said as a child he took a class in his high school woodshop, and there fell in love with the feel of working on a lathe.

"I attended Avonworth High School in Pittsburgh and took a shop class where I learned to use all of the woodworking tools," Shombert said. "I am sure I made simple items such as rolling pins on the lathe, but I always thought it was something I wanted to do."

Article Photos

The Inter-Mountain photos by Beth Christian Broschart
Elkins resident and woodturner Dave Shombert is featured in the Winter 2013 issue of WV Living Magazine, the winner of the Made in West Virginia Arts and Designs winner.

Shombert said he remembers the feel of the wood in his hand.

"It's a shame more people don't learn to make things during school," Shombert said. "When you learn to make and fix items, it gives you confidence in your life. You learn to believe in yourself more and more."

After moving to Elkins, Shombert said he purchased a lathe, got work benches and tools and began to build his shop.

"I was trying to remember what I knew about woodturning," Shombert said. "I had an idea, kind of an out-of-focus photograph in my mind of the piece I wanted to create. I met an old fellow from Weston who helped me bring that picture into focus and become a reality."

Paul Weinberger of Weston helped Shombert learn with an apprenticeship program through the Folk Arts Apprentice Program through Augusta.

"We worked for a little more than a year, one day a week," Shombert said. "We worked on segmented wood turning, which incorporates small pieces fitted together and turned on the lathe."

Through the years, Shombert's work has evolved because he believes in learning all he can, gaining knowledge of woodturning.

"Each year I spend a week at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, located in Gatlinburg, Tenn.," Shombert said. "While there, I find lots of inspiration and help to try new things and learn new ways to do things."

Shombert said at first, most of the pieces he created were segmented wood pieces, and that continued for the first six to seven years of his craft.

"Then I became more aware of other people doing woodturning and I did not do as many segmented pieces," Shombert said. "A couple of years ago I began making platters and using inlay work. I also do texturing and carving - there are lots of possibilities. I even purchased an air brush unit."

More recently, Shombert said he finds himself creating turned boxes with a lid.

"The key is making the lid fit, but not so tight that one struggles to remove and replace the lid," Shombert said. "Another realization I had four years ago was I could use the lathe to make more decorative items - sculptured pieces that one would not be able to call a bowl or a vase."

Shombert said he uses both domestic and imported wood in his work.

"I use lots of cherry and maple hardwoods, which I get locally," Shombert said. "I purchase a fair amount of imported woods from domestic wood importers in North Carolina. One of my favorite woods is Amboyna - this wood is drop-dead gorgeous."

Shombert said his favorite piece is a segmented vase he created in 2005.

"It is the best piece I completed in terms of color and design," Shombert said. "I didn't overdo the woods in this piece - I like it because it is understated and I think that enhances its beauty."

Shombert's shop is located in his home and offers a beautiful panoramic view of trees and nature. He has a Robust American Beauty lathe, the third one he has owned. The shop is dotted with hundreds of woodworking tools and features a band saw, a drill press, a sander and a metal lathe. He said he does not use a table saw.

When inspired to create a piece, Shombert begins with a sketch.

"I then put the sketch on the wall and observe it for about a week, making changes where needed," Shombert said. "When I am happy with the sketch, I pull out the graph paper and work on the design, proportion and make templates. Then I use the templates to cut the wood and glue it together."

Shombert said there are two main reasons he does not total up the hours he puts into each piece.

"Waiting for glue to dry takes time," Shombert said jokingly. "And when I am turning a piece in my hand on the lathe, I enjoy the feel and working with the wood. Sometimes I take longer than needed just to savor the moments and enjoy what I am creating."

Each of Shombert's creations is a unique, one-of-a-kind piece. One of his pieces is featured in the Winter 2013 issue of WV Living Magazine, where he was named the winner of the Made in West Virginia Arts and Designs winner.

He said he enjoys woodturning and is fortunate to have the opportunity to do his craft by choice, not to make a living.

"Woodturning is a big part of my life - it is who I am," Shombert said.

Shombert said his pieces are available at the Main Street Gallery in Buckhannon through December. His work is also displayed in shops that are part of the Southern Highland Guild, at Tamarack and through direct sales on his website,



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