Ruskin, Florida: Michael Sadler – Wood Artist
Former Navy Nuclear Weapons Specialist Turns Wood Artist
Michael Sadler is glad he didn’t find woodworking earlier. He wouldn’t have had the time.
Michael, 75 and now retired, spent much of his life pursuing two careers. His first career as a Navy Nuclear Weapons Specialist lasted from 1963-1981, when he was honorably discharged. His second career, with the Overhead Door company selling and installing industrial doors, ran from 1993 to 2013.
By the time retirement came, Michael had done and achieved a lot. He was looking forward to having time for himself, but it wasn’t long before he found another occupation to fill his days.
“I was sitting around and my wife basically said I had to go do something,” Michael says.
The Wood Shop
Michael headed to the wood shop in the Riverside Golf Club and Marina Community in Ruskin where he and his wife Cheryl have lived since 2004. As an electrician by training the wood shop had a familiar feel.
“Once I walked in I thought ‘I can do that’,” Michael says.
And, it wasn’t long before Michael was hooked. “I built a small wooden trivet,” he explains, “and it looked good.” Michael kept building new projects and continued to learn the craft.
Today, he’s an avid woodworking enthusiast, easily spending 20-30 hours per week creating, usually three full days. He’s also become the President of the Eager Beaver Wood Club, which includes 45 men and two women, in the Riverside community. He’s also the artist at Sadler Woodworking.
Michael’s learned by doing and by watching fellow wood workers in the shop. He also subscribes to two magazines, Wood Craft Magazine and Wood Magazine, to learn the craft and get ideas for projects. Wood Craft Magazine publishes project patterns in each edition. Michael often tackles the smaller projects, although he admits to creating as he goes patterns, too. This knife holder is an example.
His wife Cheryl, also an artist, comes up with designs for Michael, too. “She’ll sketch something out on paper and I make it,” he says.
“I like to do the smaller pieces,” Michael says. “I’ve done a few larger pieces, but I find the smaller projects more gratifying.”
After finishing his first trivet Michael’s created all sorts of products. He’s built everything from wood knife holders, serving trays, stunning inlay jewelry boxes, coasters, Lazy Susan’s, and decorative vases—the possibilities are endless.
A Woodworker’s Dream Shop
The wood shop in the Riverside Golf Club and Marina Community is a wood worker’s dream. All the equipment was purchased by the community’s original owners and it’s top of the line.
If new equipment is needed (or wanted) the Eager Beaver Wood Club will fund-raise and ask the community’s association for funds. The club’s dues pay for equipment maintenance.
Michael spends most of his time working with the table saw. “I just love it,” he says. “I can do anything with this machine.”
It’s safe, too, with a special computer that detects if anything non-wood touches the blade. It immediately stops. Yes, technology’s in the wood shop, too.
Each piece of equipment is hooked to a massive vacuum system, keeping the sawdust to a minimum.
When somebody joins the Eager Beaver Wood Club they must go through safety training. Michael does this himself and you can’t get your own key to the wood shop until he’s sure your ready and safe.
Made for Somebody to Enjoy
Michael really couldn’t pinpoint what he loves most about woodworking, only that he does. “I just love the idea of creating something from a piece of wood, making something that somebody will enjoy and love that it’s handmade,” Michael says.
He was clear on the most difficult part of the process. Getting the piece ready for the polyurethane protective coats. Michael spends a lot of time sanding and planing the wood, so it’s just right.
A Love Affair with Exotic Woods
Michael’s also madly in love with wood itself, especially exotic varieties including paduk, tiger, zebra, wenge, and purple heart (seen below)– mostly from South Africa, which he’s able to source from Intercity Lumber in Tampa. He also uses more familiar varieties such as oak, red oak, mahogany, walnut and cherry.
For many of his inlay pieces, Michael likes to mix and match woods. Here you see him holding a part of a project. The inlay includes purple heart wood from South Africa, cedar, and Georgia pine.
The inlay boxes he makes are particularly extraordinary. Each tiny piece of wood must be precisely cut, angled and glued to other pieces to create the inlay. Then the box must be assembled.
My Time Is My Time
Michael has made well over 100 projects to date and he sells them at local markets. He recently exhibited his wood art at the Riverside Golf Club and Marina Community Arts and Craft Festival (held twice each year) and he hopes to try the MiraBay Market next year.
His prices? Well, they’re reasonable and I asked him why. “My time is my time now that I am retired. I love to do this so there’s no real need to charge crazy prices.”
Some of Michael’s more ornate pieces take 30-40 hours to complete. That’s true love!
Losing Track of Time
If you’ve ever had a passion for something you know how easy it is to lose track of time. This is a regular occurrence for Michael. It’s not uncommon for him to go to the wood shop at 8:30 in the morning only to have Cheryl call him to see if he’s coming home for lunch. Often, it’s a ‘no’.
“I’ll be home later,” is his typical reply. And, he’ll walk in his front door around 4:00PM.