Reed Magazine February 2003
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On the arc from Dostoevsky to dadoes, Gary Rogowski ’72 has carved his niche in the fine art of woodworking

 
By Romel Hernandez

In an increasingly tech-obsessed world, Gary Rogowski ’72 prefers his chips to be made of wood rather than silicon.

Early on, Rogowski rejected a self-imposed trajectory towards a career in academia to become a fine furniture maker. Nearly three decades and countless rabbets, dadoes, and dovetails later, he’s says he’s never been happier with his choice of vocation. “We all have these opposable thumbs that have a funny connection to our brains,” he says. “We like to make things. . . . We don’t have these thumbs just to hit the space bar on a keyboard.”

Rogowski, 52, works and teaches joinery in a modest studio inside a sprawling warehouse complex in northeast Portland. His four-legged companions Buck and Jimmy stroll to the door to amiably sniff visitors before resuming their naps in a corner. The studio walls are lined with an array of hand tools— hundreds of planes, drills, chisels, files, presses, saws, each with its own purpose and idiosyncrasies.

A small hardcover titled Fundamentals of Solid Geometry lies on a desk scattered with wood shavings. A side room houses most of the heavy machinery. He admits a soft spot for old stuff, like a cast-iron green Yates-American band saw, one of the first pieces he bought when he started out.

“ I tell students if there’s a fire they’re on their own, because I’m not leaving this saw.”

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Reed Magazine February
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2003