Friday, October 15, 2021
Oct. 15, 2021

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Working in Clark County: Dave Smith, woodsmith

By , Columbian News Assistant
Published:
6 Photos
Woodworker Dave Smith is at home in his woodshop in Vancouver.
Woodworker Dave Smith is at home in his woodshop in Vancouver. Photo Gallery

Working in Clark County, a brief profile of interesting Clark County business owners or a worker in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Send ideas to Mary Ricks: mary.ricks@columbian.com; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.

For 42 years, Dave Smith built computers and had a woodworking hobby. Five years ago, he switched the two around. He now makes game boards that he sells, while building computers as a hobby. “There has always been the smell of sawdust in the air around me,” Smith said. “When my clients are wowed by the items I have created, I am thrilled.”


Name:
Dave Smith.

Job/employer: Owns Vancouver Woodsmith.

Contact: www.vancouverwoodsmith.com


Age:
70

Education/professional background: My first career was in the computer industry. I designed and built computers and computer-based systems and marketed them for 42 years. I loved my job. After work in the evenings, I would go in my shop and work on wood projects.


How did you get into this line of work:
There has always been the smell of sawdust in the air around me. My dad had a Shopsmith (a multi function woodworking tool) and I was fascinated by it. He died early and didn’t get to teach me the art of woodworking, so I am self-taught. Many things were trial and error and I learned many techniques from YouTube. I began buying tools and started making things.

After retiring from the computer industry in 2010, we moved to Clark County from southern California because we had two adult children living in the area.

Working in Clark County, a brief profile of interesting Clark County business owners or a worker in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Send ideas to Mary Ricks: mary.ricks@columbian.com; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.

I made a website and offered my services to make wooden furniture. I thought I would use any money I made to buy more tools. The first year was OK, the second year it was better and by the third year I was swamped. I started by building mostly custom furniture. I was busy enough that I could choose projects that would be challenging or fun, something unique.

People were asking me to make them a game board and I made a couple. I decided that I liked making the boards and they were the right size for the space I have. I didn’t have to build big items anymore. I started focusing on game boards, and this year I am not taking any furniture orders.

Usually, I get many requests before Christmas. This year, the orders haven’t stopped after Christmas.

Most rewarding part of job: When my clients are wowed by the items I have created, I am thrilled. They say it looks better than they thought it would. Many are giving the boards as gifts. Even though my dialog with a customer is sometimes only on the Internet, I get close to some of the people.

People have found me through word of mouth or from my website, and I have sold them in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, France and United Arab Emirates.


Most challenging part of job:
Because of the number of boards I am making, the transition from doing one board at a time to doing multiples is the challenging part of the job. There is value in making more than one board at a time, but there is something slightly different from one board to the next. There is the record-keeping. I have to remember what goes where and when I need to have the board completed.


Prices:
I have an all-inclusive price, which means choice of materials and design for the engraving, all accessories. Of course, some clients find additional things to add on that changes the cost. Game board prices: cribbage, $235; standard Scrabble, $445; large scrabble, $565; backgammon, $370; chess, $200; and Monopoly, $460.

Something you would like to do over: I absolutely love working in my shop. Although I enjoyed my first career, I would have retired 10 years earlier and done this sooner if I was going to do something over. Also, I think I would have enjoyed attending a furniture-making school and learning the correct or best way to do things instead of having to learn on my own.


Residence:
Sherwood.

Best feature of my Vancouver community: The pace in Vancouver is so much more relaxed than in Southern California. And the proximity to Portland, which has affinity for the arts, is good.

What would make your community a better place: I think downtown Vancouver has the potential to be a world-class downtown. Main Street could be nicer if it had more unique businesses.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: La Bottega Cafe Deli Wine Shop and Provecho.


Hobbies:
I now build computers and websites for a hobby.

Volunteer activities: I satisfy my desire to volunteer by donating some of my projects to charity auctions.


Favorite travel destination:
I love Italy and always wanted to live there for at least six months at a time. I also like South Africa and Wengen, Switzerland.


Most interesting book in last 12 months:
I am currently reading “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking. My all-time favorite book is “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone.

Most interesting play/movie/arts event: I attend the Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Ore., yearly and liked the movie “The Imitation Game.”

One thing you want to do this year: I want to finish reorganizing my shop and make it more efficient.

One word to describe yourself: Whimsical.

Person you’d most like to meet: I got to meet President John Kennedy when I was in high school and that was thrilling. I would like to meet Stephen Hawking and Deepak Chopra.

Unique scrabble boards: My boards are customized for each client. I have made a board with a pelican inlaid on a cribbage board for a bed and breakfast on the coast. One customer wanted a large scrabble board that could be mounted on the wall. The customer wanted the tiles magnetized so you could play the game while the board was hanging on the wall. I am still working on this one.

A woman ordered a scrabble board to donate to a fundraiser for a private school in California. She had a child in the class and wanted photos of all 28 students plus two teachers on the board. I put the photos around the edge of the board. Everyone at the auction loved it. The board was sold at the auction for $3,800 — to the woman.

Columbian News Assistant
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