When Will Salley creates one of his curious, wooden iPod docking stations, desk organizers or USB sticks, he begins by strolling into his woodland backyard, a cedar forest, seeking interesting pieces of wood.
Dual iPhone/iPod Docking Station. Photo: Woodtec, Etsy
Salley, a self-taught woodworker, launched his Etsy shop, Woodtec, nearly a year ago. "I love working with my hands and making something new out of almost nothing," he says.
Salley's foray into wood crafts began when he and his wife, Rachel, took a huge leap of faith two years ago. They left art-centric NYC with their son, Lundon, for New York's Hudson Valley. Both work in wood (she has two Etsy shops herself: Woodrootlings, where she makes cedar children's toys, and Woodroots, a shop filled with organic fabric totes and artwork) and wanted to live amidst calm of nature and surrounded -- naturally -- by trees.
Considering his medium, it may be surprising to discover that Salley brainstorms many of his designs not while exploring his woodsy surroundings, but while driving solo in his car. He spends these silent drives "thinking, dreaming and planning."
All-in-One Desk Organizer. Photo: Woodtec, Etsy
It's very important to Salley they his customers know the cedar he uses is sustainable, cut from pieces of dead trees on his land. A true outdoorsman, he can barely wait for warmer weather so he can work outside in the sunshine.
Once he's chosen a piece of wood, Salley brings it to his shop -- a cozy 8'x10' work space is in his backyard. He begins his process by selecting and cutting a section of wood that that has best combination of knots. Then, he planes one side of the log to give it a flat bottom that can serve as a stable surface. He then shapes the top slot for the iPod/iPhone docking station using a router, does a whole lot of hand sanding with different two grades of sand paper, and drills the holes in the wooden unit to accommodate electronic cables.
Then, the more complicated work begins: gluing the cable(s) inside the routed holes, gluing on a bottom panel (not in view in these pictures), and then clamping it so the glue dries evenly. Then, Salley uses wood putty on the seams, and then more hand sanding. Finally, he applies several coats of Howard Orange Oil with Beeswax finish to the whole piece.
Salley never paints his wooden works or attempts to alter their raw, organic looks. He remains constantly amazed at the uniqueness of each piece. "I hope that these natural designs serve as a daily reminder of our connection to nature. It is so easy to forget [this] in our busy lives, especially when we are surrounded by technology all day. Marrying that technology with raw nature helps us find balance within our lives," says Salley. In speaking with him, his love for his work becomes wholly obvious. And enviable.
Salley loves that each piece of wood is different and reveals its own magical beauty during the process. "It takes a lot of sanding to get through what remains of the bark and get to the spalted wood within." He makes about 20 pieces a week, with prices that average about $88, with the larger dual docks costing more.
His favorite design, hands down, is a docking station that was crafted from the "largest forked branch I have found," he says. "When I first finished the piece I kept it next to my computer for about a month admiring it before I put it up for sale."
And following his dream to live in the woods and produce art turned out to be fulfilling for Salley not just creatively, but also personally. He says, "It is a real gift to be able to work from home and spend more time with my family."
The Ultimate Log Cabin (ShelterPop)
Alyssa Ettinger is a ceramicist and freelance writer. Shop her handmade porcelain wares at her Etsy Store, alyssa ettinger design.