leonardduarteWhen I went into the 8th grade, the world of industrial arts was opened up to me and I was hooked. I grew up in Northern California in a town called Chico. The school was Bidwell Junior High School and the classes that hooked me were mechanical drawing, metal shop and wood shop.
The first year of wood shop we were only allowed to use hand tools. The instructors demonstrated the use of each and every tool, and we all made the same project. The following year power tools came into play and I made several small items and a coffee table out of black walnut for the house. At the end of the year my project was judged to be the best and I was awarded the Golden Hammer trophy.

Now on to high school and what an award winning program it was. I’ll never forget our teacher, Mr Holt. The man knew all the in’s and out’s of woodworking.

Also on campus was a club called the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America. VICA for short, now called Skills USA. I joined this club and competed in the field of carpentry. Three years going to state competition and three years coming home with the gold medal.

Now my senior year I had arrived. I was now the top dog in the wood shop building. But Mr Holt put me in my place. The only B grade I received for a grade throughout my whole senior year was in wood shop. I asked “Why?” “No one else can do what I’m doing.” Then he asked me, “But are you doing what your’e capable of?” I’ll never forget those words. From then on I never settled for good. My work will be the best! I didn’t send one project to the fair that year, I sent two. A reverse bow front black walnut china hutch and a grandmothers clock that my Uncle Dave and Aunt Linda still have.

The hutch not only came back with a first place ribbon but the grand award. Best in the fair of the industrial arts exhibits. Two months later we sent the hutch to the California State Fair, where the judges wrote that it was flawless as it appeared in the newspaper showing off it’s first place award and Best of Show. Wow another gold medal!

So where has my work been since then? Why haven’t you seen it at any fairs or exhibitions? Well let’s see. After 6 Golden Hammer awards and 4 gold medals the last one being from the California State Fair and Exposition, anything else would be like trading down. But now after many years of constructions and custom stair building. I’m Back! Now I bring my work to you with a twist. It’s all “Landfill friendly” Go Green!

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