Michael Sharp, RazorSharpWood, Pea Ridge, became a member of the Arkansas Craft Guild Dec. 1-3, during the 45th Annual Christmas Showcase in Little Rock. Michael says, “Our tagline is Unique Designs in Wood. We strive to create more original designs similar to our folding silhouette Nativity and the Christmas puzzle, In His Name. I have several original Nativity designs and scroll saw items. Everything is handmade personally by me and my wife, Joyce.”
Michael describes how he got into the woodworking business. “Throughout the years, I’ve built and refinished furniture, copied antique pieces and completed various projects sometimes of necessity but often for fun or stress relief. In the late eighties I cut, carved and painted intarsia pieces of the Holy Family for everyone in my office. The universal comment from all: “You should do the craft fair!” The next fall found us doing just that. I took the proceeds and bought more tools, eventually forcing both cars into the driveway to make room for my crafting! We started with recycled exotic wood veneers to make puzzles and intarsia (the art of creating a mosaic-like picture from pieces of wood) and later expanded to include earrings and boxes. Ever the economist, my wife noticed all the small bits of scrap wood in the shop and suggested that I make earrings. At first, I ignored her but eventually carved two dozen pairs for a craft show in North Carolina. All sold out before the show was even half over.”
“I discovered women love earrings! I began experimenting with designs but also with processes to make them both more efficiently and sturdier, using beautiful wood grains. My goal was to create my own plywood by recycling scraps of veneer, then cut, sand and finish them. At that time, most wooden earrings were Baltic birch either left raw or painted. New designs may be rough sketched and then created using Corel Draw. The more complicated filigree earrings often require adjustments to make them sturdy enough for production. Prototypes are cut in veneer in order to ascertain whether the design is production-ready and capable of withstanding the sanding process with minimum breakage. Upon completing the wooden construction, a natural Danish Oil finish is applied and allowed to dry. Silver plated surgical steel findings are added along with natural stone beads. The result is a product with highly figured wood grains that make each pair look different. There are over 50 styles made from 15 different woods. Earrings are displayed on cards with the wood species listed on the back of the card. They are very popular with women and in 12 shows this year the earrings accounted for a third of RazorSharpWood’s sales. In addition I make pendants, bracelets, earring trees and crosses using the same processes.”
In addition to jewelry, puzzles and intarsia, fine boxes with insets and inlays out of exotic wood with unique magnetic lids accounted for 8% of sales this past year; their production is expected to grow as they add more inlay lid designs.
Growing up as an Army brat and later serving in the Navy provided international travel to the Orient and Australia and made him highly adaptable to circumstances. Upon returning to the United States, the G.I. Bill covered college education at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in marketing and computer programming. He worked for several of the largest retailers in the country over the years.