Turning wood into things beautiful and useful | RecordCourier.com

Turning wood into things beautiful and useful

by Lisa Gavon
R-C Alpine Bureau
Dave Mills in his workshop in Alpine. He creates ultilitarian objects such as bowls, platters, plates, vases and more from wood.
Lisa Gavon |

He says he can’t judge his own work, but it is obvious Dave Mills possesses a remarkable artistic gift.

Mills’ life has always been lived close to the natural world, and his connection to the beauty of the physical landscape shows. He loves to leave the raw edge or the bark exposed in his woodturning pieces, acknowledging the perfection and uniqueness of the tree itself. Mills has made it his mission to draw out the distinctive qualities that each piece of wood holds, and use them to make utilitarian objects: Bowls, platters, plates, and vases. He likes to make things you can use everyday, and that become an integral part of your day-to-day life.

Mills and his wife Kathy bought their property in Alpine County in 1971, building their cabin on the land in 1988. The couple had always wanted to raise a tree farm,

and they had a broad vista filled with sage and bitter brush, so they set to work planting Jeffrey pine, tamarack, Austrian pine and aspen. Often Kathy would plant up to 200 trees in a single day.

They nurtured the young saplings themselves and have created their own miniature forest, dubbed “Zuni Pines.”

Mills was born in Marin County and moved to Tahoe when he was 7-years-old. He and Kathy were high school sweethearts and have been married 44 years. Together they ran the full-service Chevron Gas Station (just torn down in Minden next to the Bentley construction project on Main Street) for over 35 years. Living in Tahoe, they commuted over Kingsbury until moving to Woodfords.

When their business sold in 2004, Dave bought an old Montgomery Ward wood lathe that had gone through the Acorn Fire. He read all the books he could, and started taking classes. It was then that he saw an ad promoting a new club, the Carson Valley Woodturners.

Mills joined club members Al Mason, Dave Rich, Dave Colon and Wayne Allen in creating the club, which meets twice per month. Mills currently serves as president. Club members teach each other turning skills, how to sharpen tools and identify different types of wood, and exchange new ideas. There is a waiting list to join, but they encourage new members. Their website is carsonvalleywoodturners.com.

The group has also partnered with Silver Stage High School in Silver Springs, Nev. to instruct the students how to turn wood. The group trailers down all the equipment and supplies needed and create the curriculum.

In the end, it is what Dave finds inside the wood that excites him the most. It is always a surprise to discover the true characteristics of the raw material. He has been turning “spalted” wood (just beginning to decay) and finds it requires precise timing to know when the wood should be used. Often these works have sections of hardened sap that glow a magnificent amber in the light. Look for unique and beautiful new pieces by Dave at the Carson City Art Gallery at 110 South Curry Street. The Gallery can be reached at 775-313-8628 for hours and directions.