Robert Howard – Woodworker, Teacher, Writer, Engineer and some Zen…

Robert Howard photo Linda Nathan

I first met Robert Howard at the Brisbane Timber & Working with Wood Show in May 2004. It was my very first show as importer of Lie-Nielsen tools, I was apprehensive, I had no idea what to expect that weekend. I was aware of Bob’s position in the woodworking world from what I had read in Australian Wood Review.
On the last day of the show Bob came up to our booth and announced ” this display of Lie-Nielsen tools is the best thing that has happened at this show, and, I want to buy a plane.” It had nothing to do with me, seeing the whole LN range in the flesh for the first time, on display in all their glory, just got him.
Bob is a qualified Mechanical Engineer but has spent most of his life carving wood, making furniture  and teaching his students basic and advanced woodwork. I visit to his house reveals an amazing array of woodwork art that is simply breathtaking. The vision for his pieces is exceptional. Here are three of my  favourite Robert Howard carvings.

Some may say $30,000 is a lot for a US collector to pay for one of Bob’s bowls. When you see them, you’ll think it is under priced. An amazing amount of time of skilled focused work is required to produce these pieces. Nearly all are hollowed & carved from a solid block of wood.

I have to admit, I have leaned on Bob quite a few times to glean information and more importantly, get his opinion. He is a thinking woodworker, he likes new ideas, new tools, new techniques and new solutions to old problems. Hence the Howard Adjuster was born during some ‘Zen time’ in his shop.
As Contributing Editor for Australian Wood Review magazine Bob has written a multitude of articles. One that remains with me was written by Bob a while ago titled “Zen Rules For Woodwork”. It was about attitude in the workshop, not your usual AWR story, have a look at it here.

I’ve been to Bob’s workshop a few times, it is small, intimate, and perfect. It is all there although I suspect there are times when students need to take a deep breath to allow another to pass.

So if you live in Brisbane, or want to take a holiday there, contact Bob here and see if you are lucky enough to get a spot in his school, I can think of no better woodwork experience in this country. You never know, you may make something like Bob has below…

“It has been a constant surprise to me over the years, and a source of constant pleasure, that no matter how much I learn about woodwork, there is always more to find and to know.” – Robert Howard.
Main photo by Linda Nathan.

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