Artist Profile

Ted Heuer

Ted Heuer can’t recall the exact moment that solidified his passion for woodworking, but you could say it’s always been growing on him. Since he was a boy, he’s held a deeply rooted interest in this diverse material. “Wood is such an incredible resource. It’s natural, organic, totally renewable and beautiful,” he says. “We’ve been using it for thousands and thousands of years, and yes, it literally grows on trees.”

Helping his dad with woodworking projects as a kid would eventually inspire his own furniture crafting when he and his wife Beth bought their first home in Alaska in 1982. “I’ve always liked to make things and I’ve always liked to stay busy,” he explains. “At first, I got plans out of woodworking magazines, then I started making my own designs. (It) is more difficult, but it can also be more rewarding.”

After retiring in 2007, Ted and Beth moved from Fairbanks to Homer, where his woodworking shifted from a hobby into a business. Now opting to create items of a smaller scale than furniture, Ted turns wood on his own schedule at his workshop in Homer. What is wood turning? It’s when a wood-worker uses a wood lathe with hand-held tools to cut a shape that is symmetrical around the axis of rotation, similar to a potter's wheel.

“One of the really nice things about turning is that you can see the results from your efforts in a relatively short time,” Ted explains. “In a few spare hours you can finish a simple bowl or a pen, instead of the weeks or months it often takes to make a piece of furniture.”

Ted thrives on making items that people can actually use. “I guess it’s called functional art – things like kitchen utensils, bowls, pepper mills, pens, clocks, razor sets, urns, etc. But some of my favorite, and most time-consuming, items have been more art than functional.”

Finding inspiration comes naturally for Ted. “Sometimes a unique piece of wood will inspire me to make a certain piece,” he says. “And sometimes my customers inspire me. Someone will say ‘have you ever tried to make a thingamajig,’ or ‘would you be willing to make me a dealy-bob?’ I think it would be pretty boring to make the same things all the time.”

Branching out from just wood, Ted has also experimented with alternative materials like Corian, moose antler and Dall sheep horn for smaller items like pens and knobs for boxes. Looking at many of his pieces, it’s hard to believe that Ted almost never uses stains or forms of artificial coloring. The natural grain and color of the wood is enhanced simply by his turning process and applied finishes.

“(Wood) comes in an amazing variety of colors, grain patterns and physical properties like strength, weight, rot resistance, texture, workability, etc.,” he explains. “Sometimes different sections of the same board can look different. To me, that’s one of the interesting things about it. All species of wood turn and sand a little differently, and green (wet) wood turns differently than dried wood.”

Highly unique items also call for highly unique wood. Whether domestic, exotic or repurposed finds, Ted uses only high-quality boards for all projects – some of which cost more than $50 per board foot. A number of wood species that are native to Alaska are sourced locally, paired with the occasional “piece or two” making its way into his suitcase on vacation.

Although all woods can be turned, some prove more difficult to mold into the finished works of art you see displayed. “Some woods are denser and harder to turn than others, and some soft woods tend to tear more easily,” he says. “Then there are woods that dull up your turning tools very quickly, (but) I love bringing out the inner beauty of a gnarly piece of wood.”

View more of Ted Heuer's work at