|A man with a 5-year plan|
|Inside the shop|
|The making of a woodworker|
|Making a profit|
McDunn’s work seems to trend toward tables. “Of all the furniture I could make, tables are probably my favorite,” he says. “When you think about it, a table is the most intimate, important piece of furniture in a home or business. It’s where you eat, do homework, conduct business matters. A lot of important activities go on at a table. It’s the place for families.”
McDunn’s gallery is always included in “First Fridays,” a monthly tour of some of Greenville’s art venues. The event gives patrons and art enthusiasts a chance to view a wide range of media along a four-mile corridor that spans Main Street.
Inside the shop
The genesis of McDunn’s own work is through a solid red door at the front of the gallery, where the mood switches to a more active gear. The 3,300-sq.-ft. shop is brimming with equipment. In fact, one gets the distinct impression that McDunn is a man who likes tools and has been in the business long enough to amass a shop full of them. The list includes three shapers, three table saws, four lathes, two joiners, two band saws, a spindle sander and JDS Multi-Router.
A noisy, dust-spewing 395 Husqvarna Alaskan two-man chain saw has been indispensable for tackling McDunn’s Cedar of Lebanon project. The rare tree, which grew not far from his shop, had seen its last days. McDunn gladly took most of the trunk when it was offered. It has a tantalizing aroma, which may be why ancient Egyptians burned it during ceremonies to induce tranquility. He has used some to make communion boxes for hospitalized church members, a cross, and a highly decorated ceremonial mace, or staff.
McDunn describes Cedar of Lebanon as “very resinous, medium-hard and fairly easy to work with. I’ve had a little trouble with it cracking when it’s kiln-dried.” He adds, “I revere wood and enjoy working with all kinds. Making useful objects from it is my way of preserving it and expanding its life as well as showcasing its versatility and extreme beauty.”
There is always a variety of projects on the schedule, amounting to a four-month backlog. About 70 percent of McDunn’s work is designing and crafting one-of-a-kind, custom pieces and the rest is antique restoration. Presently, he is working on a conference table for the Fine Arts Center’s new building for students gifted in the arts in Greenville. The top will feature veneers in a sunburst configuration, plus an intricate art inlay designed by McDunn’s part-time employee of eight years, Asher Parris, a former student of Bob Jones University’s art program. McDunn relies often on Parris for artistic renderings and lauds his innate talent.
A liquor cabinet for a private individual, perched on a workbench in the finishing stages, is a good example of McDunn’s timeless, non-conventional, functional style. It measures 6' wide, 3' tall, and 2' deep with some unique details. The convex front is of bendable plywood, formed in his 10x5 vacuum press, then veneered with curly maple. “Veneers and inlays are two of my favorite design features. The procedure for both takes longer, but they definitely add to the look and the value.”
For projects of this dimension, McDunn renders the plans the old-fashioned way at the drawing board, and then discusses them with his employees for a plan of execution. Matt Clubb, one of his full-time employees who has been with him for almost two years, is a graduate of James Krenov’s Fine Woodworking Program at the College of the Redwoods in California. He is well-trained to handle the challenging jobs with McDunn’s supervision.
A new full-time employee, Jamie Ray, a former construction worker, assists Clubb while he learns the woodworking trade. Ray met McDunn at a Greenville Woodworkers Guild meeting, one that featured a demonstration by Sam Maloof. He thought, “I want to work for [McDunn].” It was a fortuitous encounter, as McDunn was looking for another employee. “I have trouble finding and keeping good, reliable help. They stay with me a while and then go off and open their own businesses and become my competition. Only one has made it, though, and that was in antique restoration. I can’t function without good employees. I need to delegate some of the work so I can spend time on bringing in business and designing new projects. The older I get, the harder it is to go from working at my desk to doing the woodworking or ... switching between the right brain and the left brain.”