By Aldona Bird
At craft and artisan shows I meander slowly from booth to booth, chatting up artisans with questions and compliments on their work.
Earlier this spring, the creations of one artisan made me stop in my tracks. The artisan was Larry Lutsie, of Double L Woodworking. On his table he displayed wooden cutting boards.
These were no ordinary cutting boards. They were like nothing I’d seen before — created from a patchwork of mismatching odd sizes and shapes of wood. They looked like an interpretation in wood of Cubism and Expressionism combined.
When I sat down with Larry to learn more about his art, he told me he made his first cutting board in April of last year.
“It all started when a friend left a saw at my house after some construction work,” Larry said. First, he refurbished all the wood trim in his house. Then he did some other projects, until, “I just discovered a knack for fitting wood together precisely,” he said.
His work is a combination of “chaos” boards, geometric patterns and more traditional design. Chaos boards consist of many odd small shapes perfectly fit together. How he fits them so perfectly, without any gaps or perceivable glue lines (a compliment also given to him by a juror at Tamarack, when he sold 11 boards to the gallery recently) absolutely blows my mind.
Some boards incorporate both chaos and symmetry. Larry showed me a photo of one he’d made with a brick and mortar pattern — the bricks were made of chaos pieces, with straight mortar lines between. He said he plans to try making an inverse board — solid bricks with chaos mortar.
Even the solid sections of this, and other boards, were not simple. To get the grain of the board going in the correct direction, Larry made the solid lines out of many small pieces of the same wood, which if laid out in a straight line would have stretched out to 37 feet.
He finds inspiration in other woodworkers’ creations and in quilt patterns, although Larry said often he just starts with no end in sight. His pieces range from smaller herb or cheese boards up to butcher block size — his limitation is the capacity of his equipment.
Larry furnished his basement workshop with a fridge and TV, and said he often drinks his morning coffee while starting to tinker with his woodworking projects.
“I cut and glue until I have a cutting board,” Larry said, adding, “most of your time is glue drying.”
He said he works when he feels like it, between naps.
“What started as a hobby turned into an addiction,” Larry said. “I just don’t want it to turn into a job.”
In addition to showing at a few craft shows, Larry has his cutting boards for sale at Tamarack in Beckley, and at Eloquence Antiques & Artisans on the Mileground in Morgantown.
Larry sources his domestic wood from a business in Fairmont, and mail orders some exotic woods — which he uses occasionally as accents. Once he dry-fits, glues, rounds the edges and sands the cutting boards, Larry treats them with mineral oil — non-toxic and won’t sour — before sealing them with bees wax.
I highly recommend checking out Larry’s unique creations on Facebook (Double L Woodworking), or even better, seeing them in person at a craft show or local shop. If your craft browsing mode is anything like mine, you won’t pass by these meticulous wooden works of art.