Wilkes County

I have always enjoyed designing, creating, and building and from a young age my parents taught me about craftsmanship and the natural beauty of wood. I spent my Saturday mornings watching “This Old House” and “The New Yankee Workshop” on TV and these early lessons are constantly ringing in my memories.

John produces both guitars and lap dulcimers form native hardwoods, as well as open-backed banjos with a unique bell-brass pot. His dulcimers are in the traditional North Carolina, teardrop shape. All his instruments are one-of-a-kind and built to the playing preferences of their owner. The “off-cuts” from his instruments are made into a variety of woodenwares.

While working at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture I became interested in wood working. In 1994 I received a table saw from my co-workers as a retirement gift. The next week while traveling I purchased a small wood turned bowl in an artisan shop in Georgia. During that trip I also visited a store building that was a grocery store in a previous life and where I had conducted many inspections during my career at NCDOA. that grocery store now housed wood turned items for sale. After seeing wooden bowls and vases I was inspired to venture into the world of woodturning.

I was born and raised in Iredell County, North Carolina, the son of hardworking farmers. My grandparents owned the local general store selling reliable and useful products. My rural upbringing gave me an appreciation for an honest day’s work, traditional craftsmanship, and well-made everyday items. As a young boy, I felt the need to create something with my hands. Drawing and painting didn’t seem right – didn’t seem useful enough. I wanted to make something lasting … something both practical and beautiful. When I came across an article in the local newspaper about an old-time master chair maker, I knew I’d found my calling. I searched him out and talked him into teaching me the craft. After learning the basics I took that knowledge and began to create my own designs.

From the time that I was large enough to carry and use a hammer and hand saw, I have been fascinated with wood and building. Wood scraps obtained from hounding carpenters, were assembled in various fashions by this pre-teen using only hand tools and nails. The teenage years with odd jobs allowed me to purchase hand power tools and improve the quality of projects. College at NCSU, and slightly more funds, allowed me to frequent the Craftsman tool department of Sears in Raleigh. This was my first attempt at joining wood with clamps, glue, and other materials. Entering the career working world allowed me to obtain bench power tools and expand my projects and work quality.

Back in 2005 I purchased my first wood lathe and fell in love with the entire “turning process.” It starts with selecting the timber to be used, either salvaged wood that is destined for the landfill or responsibly harvested timber from other areas of the world. From beginning to end, the process involves working with the idiosyncrasies in the wood that are uncovered during the turning process.

Having lived in Wilkes or Watauga counties all my life I was that child that the other school kids persuaded to draw things for...

Lyle Wheeler is a chairmaker, blacksmith and all-around good ol' boy from Millers Creek, Wilkes County, NC.  He has been creating utilitarian objects of art and desire since before he can remember.  Working in the period of the late 1800s, his furniture is handcrafted, and bench made from native Appalachian hardwoods while his ironwork is forged from mild steel.  Lyle is a professional whimmy-didler and communicates by postcard, one stamp at a time.

Bob Kogut's search for a fiddle with the ultimate tone has moved him to begin making violins himself.