Friday, February 03, 2012

The Woodshop Makes the News

Palm Creek residents create pieces in topnotch wood shop

News Editor
Published: Thursday, February 2, 2012 10:26 AM MST
Don Quigan admires one of his pieces in the wood shop.
It doesn’t look like anything special from the outside. A mid-sized metal building toward the northwest corner of Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort. It could be a maintenance building, a large storage shed or some other nondescript structure.

But walk through the doors and you quickly realize that the projects being completed inside the park’s wood shop are anything but nondescript. A number of skilled woodworkers pursue a hobby there that, for some, was also an occupation before they started living at least part of the year in the sprawling park on Casa Grande’s east side.

One such man is Don Quigan, who spent most of his life in the Lake George area of upstate New York, nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, before moving to Palm Creek in 2004 with his wife, Dorothy.

“I was a maintenance man at a resort and built a few houses,” Quigan said. “I’ve always done work with wood. I had a cabinet shop for a number of years.”

The Quigans spent about a dozen years as RVers after retiring in 1993, concentrating on staying at national parks. Wanting a more permanent home, they bought at Palm Creek and spend up to 11 months of the year here. Now they seldom fill their car’s gas tank more than once a month.

“When I first came here, Dick Long was doing these,” Quigan said, gesturing toward a table covered with 25 or 30 segmented wooden bowls he’s made at Palm Creek’s wood shop. “He was running the shop here. I asked him to show me how.

“We’ve got some really nice furniture workers over there. We have eight lathes, four table saws, three band saws and a couple of drum sanders.”

Quigan estimates he’s made about 100 of the segmented wooden bowls since he started six years ago. Most have been given to family members. He has five children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

“Most of these bowls have 12 segments in each ring,” he explained. His most complex project, and one of his first, was a 16-segment-per-ring bowl with 1,150 pieces. Some of those pieces have carved insets with other materials in the insets, forming a variety of colors and patterns.

The different-colored rings result from using different types of wood, though he said it’s important to use compatible wood varieties to avoid splitting, cracking or separating as the humidity changes. And the wood must be completely dry as it is worked and the bowl is assembled.

“I know in my mind the shape I want to create,” Quigan said of how he starts a bowl. He uses a computer program that calculates the many delicate cuts that need to be made in the wood for the hundreds of pieces that go into most of the segmented bowls. “The computer tells you the length and the angle of the cut,” he said.

Then the pieces are glued together, smoothed and polished. Quigan said he doesn’t keep track of the time he spends on any of his projects, so he isn’t sure how many hours have gone into some of his more elaborate bowls.

The wood shop is a busy place, with as many as 40 people working there at some time during the day most weekdays. Quigan is one of 30 to 40 people who volunteer as monitors, dispensing advice and instruction to residents using the facility.

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