LJ Interviews #13: TopamaxSurvivor

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Blog entry by MsDebbieP posted 03-16-2011 03:08 PM 2436 reads 0 times favorited 27 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: GaryK Part 13 of LJ Interviews series Part 14: WistysWoodworkingWonders - Shop Tour »

(This interview is from the March 2011 issue of our LumberJocks’ eMag)
Thank you to TopamaxSurvivor for taking the time to share his story with us)


1. How did you first get started working with wood?

I started when I was about 8 or 10 whittling toys with a pocket knife my grandparents gave me for Christmas. I helped my dad and uncles building and fixing things on their farms as I grew up. I had lots of early exposure and responsibilities to not waste too much precious material on silly mistakes. One time, my uncle had me making boards to slide in to close the door of a grainery as it filled. After a few, I decided to cut them all since they were nearly the same length. The structure was probably close to 50 years old at that point. The door widened towards the top. Fortunately, the short ones fit in the one next to it.

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2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?

Initially, I was fascinated by a bulldozer, a canoe and a hydroplane an older cousin had made. That is probably why I started whittling my own toys and for my little brother and sister. Other things took my attention away for many years, but I am now hoping to get to a higher level than most of my utility projects. I have done some rifle stocks and a full length Kentucky rifle from scratch. I have collected quite a bit of wood and tools to make some nice projects. I have always had high ambitions as a craftsman and been accused of being the standard for my peers. It only seems natural to transfer that ambition to woodworking even though I will never reach an elite level in this craft.

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3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today

The previous question tells most of it. I am in the process of converting my 2 car warehouse to a shop. I have a business’ tools and a little bit of inventory in there to along with the normal personal stuff. Stuff, stuff, stuff, we are all anchored to too much stuff! What happens when we do a project? We have just created another item of stuff for the accumulation.

4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?

Making toys for my grandkids and building historical flintlocks such as a Lehigh Valley and a German Jaeger. Many of the awesome projects posted on LJ inspire me to try some of them eventually. I have always had the interest, but had higher priorities.

I see lots of statues and figures I would like to try carving, but I’ll never get them done because I doubt if I live to be 200 years old. If I did I would probably get side tracked on other interests before I got them all done.

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5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way?

I guess time would be the greatest challenge. Getting older and having other things out of the way is probably the greatest advance toward doing more woodworking. The Topamax overdose causing confusion seems to be a slight, permanent disability exacerbated recently by a migraine prevention medication I tried. Migraines and side effects are always a concern around power equipment. I have found my greatest relief discovering triggers while doctors have only made them worse.

6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking?

Seeing my grandkids playing with my creations, making my wife happy with whatever she ordered and shooting target rifles I have made, especially when I win with them!! I’ll never forget getting my 10 pin on NRA Rams with a rifle I stocked myself. That ranks right up there with my 1,000 yard black powder bullseye patch from the Ottawa Arms Collectors.

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7. What is your favourite tool that you use for woodworking?

Probably a chisel or gouge with a slight curve. A few simple chisel marks were used to mark flintlocks in front of the trigger guard with the sign of the Sons of Liberty. I do not know if my g-g-g-g-g-g-grandpas had it on their arms, but they certainly served in our first war.

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8. What is your favourite creation in/for your woodworking?

Probably, my first full stock Kentucky rifle built from scratch. It was quite an accomplishment at the time. I didn’t have any power tools. I sawed the barrel channel with my daddy-in-law’s bench top table saw. The rest was done by hand except for drilling a few holes with ¼” power drill. A friend had to have it after I let him shoot it. I traded it off to him. I could always make another.

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9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?

Ask Lumber Jocks, they are here, ready and willing to help you out. Don’t worry about mistakes. The only time you learn is from them. When you see a master at any trade, you are looking at someone who has made a million of them. The trick is not repeating them and knowing how to blend them into the project without them being visually detracting. If it’s not distracting or really noticeable, it isn’t there.

10. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?

I found Lumber Jocks searching the web for toy ideas. I signed up for the e-magazine. I was busy with family and business that summer and fall. Occasionally, I would look in from links when the e-mag arrived. When I had a little more time I realized what a great site it was, what I had been missing, so I signed up for real.

I keep coming back almost daily to check the projects and look through the forums. I have looked at at least the thumbnail of every project posted. Once I got through the 17,000 or so, I have made it a point to not fall behind. Sometimes it is almost overwhelming if I have missed a few days. It used to be a couple pages of projects a day. Now it seems there are always 5, sometimes 7 or 8.

This is one of the friendliest safe havens on the web with lots of knowledgeable people with expert answers for any question. I have found answers to questions I didn’t even know I had or would be having if I got that far into woodworking. I just try to answer electrical questions to try to contribute something in return for what I have gained here.

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Thanks again TopamaxSurvivor for sharing your story.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

27 comments so far

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3496 days

#1 posted 03-16-2011 04:09 PM

Thanks Topamax for sharing an interesting interview.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4812 days

#2 posted 03-16-2011 04:50 PM


A great interview.

Especially sharing your Grand kids toys they designed for you.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51458 posts in 3993 days

#3 posted 03-16-2011 05:22 PM

Great interview….very interesting getting to know more about you.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Alexander's profile


194 posts in 3624 days

#4 posted 03-16-2011 05:31 PM

Thanks Bob, for letting us get to know you better.

-- John at Sugarloft Mountain........Don't argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to tell the difference.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3783 days

#5 posted 03-16-2011 05:45 PM

Great job Topa and Debbie….I enjoy these interviews as it gives us more insight into our friends on LJ’s. Great questions and answers.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4335 days

#6 posted 03-16-2011 07:21 PM

Thanks for the interview. This was an interesting read that I particularly enjoyed reading.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Allison's profile


819 posts in 4311 days

#7 posted 03-16-2011 07:56 PM

I am sooo glad I found this and read it. Great interview. I find it so interesting how fellow LJers got into wood working, what their story is etc. I am glad you were picked to do a interview with. Thanks for sharing.

-- Allison, Northeastern Ca. Remember, Amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic!

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3619 days

#8 posted 03-16-2011 09:53 PM

Debbie could not have found a better LJer to interview. It is always great to get to know or fellow woodworkers better. Best wishes, Rand

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 3453 days

#9 posted 03-16-2011 10:02 PM

Enjoyed reading about the real person behind an avatar! Thanks Debbie and Topa!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View ellen35's profile


2742 posts in 3945 days

#10 posted 03-16-2011 10:42 PM

You are such a cool man, Bob!
This is such a joy to read… we all get started with toys… and end up buying those expensive ones that allow us to continue to make toys!
Thanks for sharing your story in one of Debbie’s great interviews!

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View matt garcia's profile

matt garcia

1910 posts in 4184 days

#11 posted 03-17-2011 01:34 AM

Great story!!

-- Matt Garcia Wannabe Period Furniture Maker, Houston TX

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4274 days

#12 posted 03-17-2011 01:34 AM

Great interview, you have a lot to be proud of.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View lew's profile


12863 posts in 4268 days

#13 posted 03-17-2011 01:40 AM

Another Great Interview!! Thanks MsDebbie and Topa!


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View stefang's profile


16752 posts in 3847 days

#14 posted 03-17-2011 01:45 AM

I enjoyed the interview too Bob. It is always interesting to learn more folks on the site, what brought them to woodworking and what they are up to other than LJ projects.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 3351 days

#15 posted 03-17-2011 01:54 AM

You are such an interesting guy Topa! Interesting interview my friend!

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

showing 1 through 15 of 27 comments

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