By AUSTIN MONTGOMERY
Beloit Daily News
BELOIT, Wis. (AP) — Tom Schroeder fell in love with woodworking when he was a boy, and now he wants to share his interest with people throughout the Stateline Area and beyond.
Schroeder is known by many as The Wood Wizard, and for good reason. He started refinishing furniture for friends and then branched out into making intricate pens, wine stoppers, chain pulls and wooden art pieces. He’ll even do custom pieces, if asked, he says.
“It’s really something that you can put yourself into,” Schroeder told the Beloit Daily News. “There’s a lot of myself that goes into my work. It’s special to me. Each piece is different and has its own story.”
His love of woodworking started with a Redwood bowl he made when he was 12. To this day, he still uses exotic woods from around the world.
“I fell in love with it. You feel a really personal connection to what you are working on,” Schroeder said. “It’s just amazing what you can learn about the types of wood and the trees it comes from. Each tree has a story and they all have strengths and weaknesses for working with them.”
In 2015, Schroeder found himself down on his luck and out of work when a friend offered him a job involving woodworking and his interest was rekindled.
“I was down to my last four dollars in my pocket and I started going through everything, cleaning everything up,” Schroeder said.
As he added more and more people to his stable of regular customers, his shop became better stocked with equipment and devices. It’s now fitted out with seemingly all the tools a hobbyist would need, including an office space that holds his stash of exotic woods.
And he has a presence on social media. 1660 Wood Works’ Facebook page is filled with pictures of elaborate wooden artworks , custom-built pens and more. Schroeder’s work is also now on sale at the Villager in downtown Beloit.
“I don’t consider what I do a small business, per se, but I really love what I can do and it’s a passion for me,” Schroeder said. “I have learned a lot to be where I am today. I get to thinking about everything I can do as I am working on stuff. I didn’t want to depend on having to always buy what I needed.”
After buying pieces of stabilized wood from online vendors, Schroeder decided he needed to take matters into his own hands and teach himself every step involved in woodworking.
Through stabilization, wood is infused with resin to provide additional hardness, and sometimes colors.
Each piece of wood has a tale to tell, Schroeder says.
“You bring something back to life that someone might think is junk. It’s something that needs a little tender love and care,” he said.
Through social media, Schroeder said he’s made connections that he never expected, finding sellers and fellow woodworkers alike online.
“I have met friends there and stuff,” Schroeder said. “You get to find people you would never have been in contact with before all because of social media.”