Knotted electric cords aren’t a problem that woodworker Sean Archer deals with.
He only worries about the knots in the locally grown wood he shapes with hand tools.
“I think if more of us were making things by hand, then the world would be a better place,” he said. “Everyone would be happier.”
Archer, a 35-year-old Rochester resident, left his job as a mechanical engineer designing liquid submerged servers and cooling systems in 2019 to focus on his woodworking business, Knotty Woodpecker.
“A change was necessary,” he said. “Engineering these days is mostly computer work. All day at the computer is unhealthy for anyone.”
Working with power tools at first, Archer soon shifted away from them after discovering they caused him to spend more time dealing with problems than woodworking.
“Once I discovered hand tools, most of these problems went away,” he said. “I made the switch immediately and got right down into cutting the wood.”
With a background in engineering, Archer’s skills of adapting new fabrication methods helped him transition into woodworking. Now, he creates everything from chop sticks and bowls to chairs and work benches entirely by hand.
He said his pieces are influenced by 17th century woodworking and escape the trap of trying to meet a standard of perfection instilled by the internet age.
While working with hand tools is less common these days, Archer said that many of those using them spend their time teaching others. He’s been a willing student.
Archer enjoys being part of the entire process related to creating with wood. He not only shapes wood with hand tools, but can also cut the trees that produce the lumber for his finished works.
While he might create a hand-carved bowl in six to 12 hours, and a more complicated chair in about 18 hours, he said the whole process takes more like two months when the tie to properly dry the wood is taken into account.
The hand tools Archer uses all work similarly.
“Saw, plane or chisel -- they all have a cutting edge meant to work perpendicular to the grain,” he said.
While each tool functions similarly, Archer said that each holds the cutting edge differently and allows for different advantages. Saws can create deeper cuts while chisels do more detailed work.
Archer sees the hand tools he uses as having several important advantages. Except for the steel cutting edges, Archer said a carpenter can actually make all their own tools. They also are sustainable because they create little waste, use little energy, and never go out of date for a “new model.”
Archer sees safety as another benefit of hand tools.
“Most power tools don’t stop when someone gets hurt, but hand tools do,” he said.
Using hand tools helps Archer develop what he sees as important qualities like patience, concentration and mindfulness.
Recently, Archer, along with his partner Tiffany Alexandria, the founder of the Taiwanese-inspired and locally minded food enterprise CHOOCHOO-ca-CHEW, opened a shared store front in the Riverfront Building, north of the Civic Center on East Center Street.
Besides Archer’s handcrafted wood items, the store focuses on sharing local environmental-friendly items. Other featured local makers include Wenonah Body Lab, Keep Moving Clay, and Jeb Taylor Knives, along with Alexandria’s CHOOCHOO-ca-CHEW brand.
Archer’s wood creations are also available online at https://kwoodpecker.com , and he is excited to discuss custom projects with customers.
For Archer, his woodworking is all about creating personality, not perfection.
“There is purpose behind each cut,” he said. “They say wood tells us its history. It also tells us about its maker. In a disposable world, these things return a sense of humanity.”