This week we sat down with Joseph Ruppa from Eastside Woodworks; we were excited to learn more about the craftsmanship of woodworking!
Joe, where are you from?
I was born and raised in southeast Portland, and I’m a product of our excellent public school system!
Do you have a favorite neighborhood or pocket in the city?
I love Ladd’s Addition. Cars tend to avoid its maze-like layout, giving it a quiet, almost lazy atmosphere, it is filled with big, beautiful houses, the rose gardens are lovely, and the giant elms are a pleasure to observe through the seasons.
Do you ride a bike? Go running? Climb at a rock climbing gym? What Pacific NW activity are you interested in trying?
I often ride a bike to work- I love mixing up my route and seeing new things, and the benefits of the exercise and the avoiding traffic are undeniable. For fun, I try to get to the climbing gym from time to time, I’m a lifelong skier, and I recently began riding my bicycle on long road rides with friends.
The Pacific NW activity I’d be most interested in trying is climbing Mount Hood! I’ve been up Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens, but I’m still looking for the right partners and the time to get up our majestic peak.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
The hardest part of my job is estimating the time it will take to do specific tasks, and also to complete whole projects. The goal is to provide myself with a consistent flow of work, to meet my clients’ and my expectations, but there are always unexpected delays or distractions, so accomplishing that goal a work in progress.
What are you optimistic about?
I’m optimistic about the population of Portland continuing to be appreciative of carefully considered, high quality custom cabinetry and furniture. I get the sense that compared to many other parts of the country, an unusually large portion of our population understands the value of, and are happy to pay for the kind of work that I do. I like building things that will last families through generations, and folks here seem to want that.
How long do projects usually take? How much do they cost? And what kind of wood do you like to work with?
It is very difficult to generalize about project duration (see “challenges” above), since each project brings with it a unique set of challenges, but folks thinking about a kitchen, a built-in or a piece of furniture would be wise to get in touch with me a few months in advance. In general, the bigger the project, and the more components (electrical, plumbing, etc), the longer it can be expected to take. It takes time to do things right!
As with the duration of a project, the nature of a custom business is such that I wind up using all sorts of wood. However, I find myself being drawn back again and again to Oregon white oak and Oregon black walnut for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, the wood is beautiful. Oregon white oak is set apart from the red oak we are all used to seeing in mass-produced furniture by its color, as well as the sinuous quality of its grain, and a rusticity that can take a simple kitchen or a piece of furniture to the next level. Oregon black walnut has a depth and range of browns to purples that is irresistible. It is not uncommon to find really beautiful figures in Oregon black walnut as well, which lends a fantastic three-dimensionality to its surfaces.
In addition to their unique look, many of these trees are harvested from old farms and ranches right here in the Willamette Valley! These trees grow to be enormous here. The milling operations tend to be family run, and on a small scale, so the lumber from an individual tree is often dried and sold together. This allows woodworkers such as myself to select sequential, matching boards to work with, and many times, the boards may even carry their specific history with them. I like that the story of a wood product can stretch back before my role in building it, as well as into the future. I find that this story and connection to place can add a real richness to my process, and to the final product.