This is our Valentine’s story about two special young people who enjoy the art of woodworking together. Kevin and Lauren met in 2011, and were engaged at Disneyland on January 6th, 2014. He is a woodworker, and she is not your traditional “bling-type” bride!
It’s an extra special situation that Kevin Richards not only went to Woodcraft of Salt Lake City, UT to personally plan and design her wooden engagement ring, but that he also enjoys being an employee there. Why a wooden engagement ring, you ask? Here is the answer in their unique story.
Since I have met Lauren, I have grown to think the world of this girl, and I put a lot of thought behind my gifts for her to make sure they are meaningful, clever, and of high quality. After college I decided not to use my degree, but rather pursue a career in woodworking and Lauren has been so encouraging of me in this choice. I really lucked out with finding something to do that I love, and someone who supports me in those endeavors.
We have dated seriously for the past year and have talked quite a bit about getting married during the past few months. She does not wear any jewelry because she hates the feel of metal against her skin. She’s had this idea for a wooden engagement ring long before I ever showed up on the scene. During this time she showed me a dozen wooden ring ideas from different small artisan shops online. A bit later she told me how much she really wanted a ring that I had put a lot of time and thought into. (no pressure right?)
She asked me for a wooden ring and my first concern was how stable and durable a wood ring would be. But the point that I completely missed was that she did not care about that. If her ring becomes damaged or breaks, no problem, I will make her another one! It may take me a full day in the shop and with each new effort, the rings will have their own aesthetic difference, have better quality, and together, we will have a great experience along our woodworking journey. I enjoy doing this for her and she is completely worth it! There’s a bit of an old fashioned tradition that the guy should spend a certain amount of his salary on an engagement ring to represent sacrifice and dedication. I think her idea for a wooden ring allows me to spread that sacrifice over the course of our marriage and not in a lump sum beforehand. After all, what is your time really worth when it comes to putting a price on hand craftsmanship from the heart for someone that you love?
I have always bent over backwards to make any gifts a surprise for her, so I did not ask for a lot of direction. She said she liked darker woods, but with some character as in the different Rosewoods I’ve used in past projects of mine. Made from Redwood burl (from a woodcraft knife scale blank kit), and Cocobolo from turning stock I’ve saved, I stabilized it with Stick Fast wood stabilizing resin. I came up with a lamination of two woods in three sections and worked on it during late nights. I told her I was doing finishing work on furniture for my boss so she would not suspect anything. I also had some help with the Stick Fast Stabilizing Resin Infusion product at Woodcraft from a co-worker of mine. I cut a slice from a 2×2 turning stock where it is dense, hard, and has a preferred interesting grain pattern.
Then I use a walnut dowel with a close diameter for my mandrel, locking it into the Nova Chuck. I take the tip out of the center to use the cup for the other side of the dowel. Then I shim up the ring on the mandrel with electrical tape until it’s straight and firm on there.
The finish is comprised of Stick Fast CA Glue and Boiled Linseed Oil (for a finish before buffing and polishing). My full-sized Easy Wood Tools, Easy Rougher Carbide Cutter was a big help in making clean cuts into the Redwood Burl and Cocobolo. I bought the Cocobolo from the turning stock shelf at my Salt Lake City Woodcraft and the Redwood Burl in a knife scale package was about the most beautiful wood I could find in the store.
As long as I can remember I’ve had a weird aversion to jewelry. I don’t like touching it, I don’t like it touching me, and I don’t even like looking at it. Wearing jewelry as part of a costume or choir outfit is torture. I have no idea where this repulsion comes from, perhaps something about metal feeling cold and lifeless, or little tiny pieces of plastic or stone getting tangled, it always felt dirty or gross. I’ve always worried about what I’d do when I got married because I didn’t think I could ever bring myself to wear a ring. I didn’t want to so actively hate something that was supposed to be a symbol of love and commitment. A few years ago I saw a picture of someone wearing a wood ring and started considering that as an option. Wood is a warm and living essence. It feels clean and natural, rather than cold and foreign. What better symbolism to wear as I consider the many continuous age rings from the tree it was cut from.
How lucky I am to be in love with a talented woodworker who accepts and fits into this weird quirk of mine and is willing to work with it. I know he’d prefer to give me a ring that is more traditional and probably more permanent, but as soon as I knew I wanted to marry him, I knew I wanted him to make my ring. I’ve spent hours in his shop watching him shape beautiful things out of wood. I’ve seen the care he puts into everything he makes. The ring he offered me when he proposed at Disneyland is exactly what I wanted. It feels warm and clean and comfortable on my hand. I like that it is unique, that it reflects his care for me in making sure I’m comfortable and happy. The ring may not last forever, but there will be other handcrafted wedding rings, and I’m okay with that. Just as we are sure to change and grow throughout the rest of our lives, we will have chances to create new symbols of our relationship and our love, in our woodshop… together!
Since the engagement, Kevin has made Lauren an additional ring which is thinner, made from Burmese Rosewood. Lauren commented that the new ring felt more comfortable and less bulky between her fingers.
Currently Kevin also works as an apprentice in a furniture shop with craftsman/owner, Chad Parkinson in addition to working at Salt Lake City Woodcraft. Kevin enjoys the knowledge he is attaining at Woodcraft, especially in learning all about the different types of woods. Kevin stated, “I want to be the “go-to” guy for all the wood questions that arise everyday at Woodcraft.”
Lauren joins Kevin in the woodshop, making cutting boards and doing some turning too. Kevin said, “Sometimes I’ll go straight from the woodshop to her place for a date, and she’ll reach in my pockets for the sawdust and say, “Ok, this looks like walnut, or this is probably Osage Orange, or this is Padauk, right?” Conversation always leads to what Kevin made that day, his events at Woodcraft and also talking about her day at work too!
Kevin told the Woodworking Adventures Blog that his future along side his future bride will consist of exploring his own woodworking business, mainly as a Luthier. But first comes the main event…the wedding, which is dated for May 27th, 2014! We wish them the very best in their future together and a marriage as strong as a hickory tree!
Who says woodworking can’t be romantic!
Happy Woodworking Valentines Day Everyone!
May 28th, 2014 UPDATE:
Kevin and Lauren were married on May 27th, 2014 at the Chase Mill at Tracy Aviary, Utah’s oldest standing industrial building. The Chase Mill stands as a symbol of the past and a beautiful venue to celebrate the future. What a perfect setting for Kevin and Lauren’s wedding!