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.”