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Panther Ridge woodworker carves out his niche

Rick Schuknecht said a sander from the 1930s actually works better than the new brands.
Rick Schuknecht said a sander from the 1930s actually works better than the new brands.
Photo by Jay Heater
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The story, at least most of time, for woodworker Rick Schuknecht, is not so much how he made something.

It's where he found his materials.

If you walk around his tool-filled, 600-square-foot workshop behind his Panther Ridge home, you will see piles of boards and logs tucked under the work benches. He will stop and look down, and then will explain the wood used in a cabinet, or a lamp, or one of his craft favorites, a reindeer.

Over time, he comes up with new ideas for projects, and then goes sifting through his wood.

"That came from a cord of walnut in Bellaire, Michigan," Schuknecht said, pointing down. "Twenty years ago, my father got it from a neighbor, who got it in the 1950s. It probably was cut down in the 1940s. I took 20 of those, and I have six left."

So when Schuknecht crafts something for one of his 22 family members, they get a gift, and a story.

It was the same Nov. 9 when the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund held its Soirée at the Ranch at Lakewood Ranch Country Club. The event featured live and silent auctions.

Rick Schuknecht has a story behind most of the wood he finds for his projects.
Photo by Jay Heater

Schuknecht is a member of the Creative Arts Association of Lakewood Ranch, which supported the Community Fund by donating approximately 15 items by its artists for the fundraiser.

Among the items were two lamps, with wooden bases, made by Schuknecht. Attached to the lamps was the story.

The wooden base was cedar, taken from a beam in a Lakeland home that was crushed by Hurricane Irma in 2017 when a tree fell on one corner of the house. He said the owner of the home told him that when you plane the beams down, the wood is gorgeous.

Schuknecht said he cut off the jagged ends and put them on the planer. He then had the idea to make lamps.

He made the bases, added tile accents, and then used finials in the shape of hummingbirds. The two lamps brought over $100 for the Community Fund.

That kind of thing makes Schuknecht smile, as woodworking, even though it is a lifelong endeavor, is a hobby for him and not a profession.

"This is not a money-making job," he said. "For all this stuff, to make money you would have to take whatever I have in materials times three. But you never get that."

On Nov. 18, the Creative Arts Association of Lakewood Ranch is hosting its 21st annual Arts Show and Sale at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall. The show runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Rick Schuknecht has been making his reindeer for 37 years.
Photo by Jay Heater

Schuknecht will participate for the first time.

It was November 2021 when Schuknecht held an arts and crafts show in Panther Ridge, hoping the neighborhood residents would participate by either selling their own crafts or buying from the crafters. However, it simply didn't draw enough interest to keep going.

Schuknecht moved to Panther Ridge in 2017 from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Arts and crafts were big there and the items made by his wife, Ann, and himself, brought impressive prices.

"Sante Fe loved this stuff," he said, pointing to the many craft items in his shop.

While that isn't quite the case here, he is looking forward to trying out the Lakewood Ranch market at the Nov. 18 show. His wife participated in the show last year, selling quilts and other items.

For this show, Schuknecht said he will bring smaller, less expensive craft items to test demand. He will bring his pumpkin turkeys, the reindeer, small cutting boards and toy solders.

The wooden reindeer have been a hit since he bought the original pattern in 1986. He noted that he sold the first ones he made in 1986 for $20, and he sells them now for $20. Not much inflation in 37 years.

Schuknecht began his hobby in Michigan in 1986, "putzing around in the workshop" of his grandfather, Art Brackett.

His woodworking now is a hobby for the late afternoons and evenings. During the day, Schuknecht is the vice president, director, of Data Centers Solutions for Corgan. His five decades of experience include 28 years as a career officer in the U.S. Navy in data center operations and management.

In his biography for Corgan, it says, "As a leader and former Naval officer, Rick is motivated by the desire to see things get done efficiently and correctly.

Perhaps that he loves woodworking, because it offers him a change of pace. It's more of a "rough craft" and he said "there will always be a mistake in something."

The fun for him can be finding that mistake, and fixing it.

He fixes it with tools that have been around as long as he has, or longer. 

He picks up a National Air Sander, make in Rockford, Illinois, in the 1930s.

"For some reason, this thing does a better job of sanding (than the new tools)," he said. 

While Rick Schuknecht calls his woodworking "rough," a dresser he made certainly looks fine.
Photo by Jay Heater

His favorite tool, and most dangerous, is his Delta Midi Lathe that it is 35 years old.

"I have replaced one belt in all these years," he said. "I am thinking about replacing it, but I can take a piece of wood, and turn it into something."

And it is likely that piece of wood has a story.

"A lot of times I just find it, stop along the side of the road, and find something, like barn wood siding. 

"My niece is a veterinarian in Ludington, Michigan. She has these oak boards, all thrown in a pile. I go and pick off the pile. It's a lot of fun doing it. … You see deer and fox.

"It is a great day."



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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