Janesville30.4°

Beloit woodworker carving out niche for herself, businesses

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
April 2, 2011
— Softly smoothing out the lumps and bumps, Cindy Stewart meticulously sands a table leg made from rich Honduran mahogany.

She started out with 120-grit sandpaper, then gradually worked her way up to 1,000-grit to get only the finest sand.


When finished, the leg will be reattached to an ornate bumper pool table. The slate table also features rounded corners with intricate leaf-wood carvings and routed, 24-karat gold-gilded legs.


It’s a project Stewart, 40, is working on to help hone her woodworking skills. Once it’s completed, it will find a permanent spot in her rural Beloit home.


Along with her title as CEO of Wildwood Acquisitions, Stewart, is co-owner of Wildwood Designs and Cherry Tree Toys with partner Roger Liefke.


Stewart claims Wildwood is the No. 1 scroll saw and fretwork pattern company in the world.


“We sell scroll saw plans/patterns, clocks, clock parts and everything a hobbyist would need to put those plans together,’’ she said. “Cherry Tree (Toys) is another Wildwood company with an emphasis in woodworking patterns and toys.”


Carved niche


Since Stewart first got involved in woodworking projects through 4-H and FFA, she has carved out a niche for herself in the art of creating things from wood.


She bought a scroll saw after graduating high school, and she enjoyed using it so much she started attending craft shows to show off her work.


That’s where she met the owner of Wildwood Designs, who was looking for somebody to help build prototypes.


“I started doing that in March of 1992,’’ she said.


Self-taught, Stewart has been designing woodworking plans for 20 years. She first draws ideas on a computer, and then builds from that. She gains inspiration sitting in the front office of her rural woodworking shop as the smells of fresh cut wood and sawdust waft through the air.


Woodworking accolades


Among her accolades, Stewart is quite proud of being a three-time recipient of the National Excellence in Woodworking Award, an honor sponsored by major tool manufacturers.


“They pick the best of the best,’’ she said.


Stewart also has earned a master’s degree from the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, Ind., touted as the premiere woodworking school in North America.


“They have their own programs and apprenticeships and focus on all aspects of woodworking,’’ Stewart said.


Aside from being invited back to teach at the school, Stewart also has lectured and taught woodworking nationwide, including a tour with woodworking shows.


“There is a national string of shows around the country and I was selected from the U.S. to tour,’’ she said.


Among Stewart’s contributions is a book, “Marquetry Magic: Basics of Marquetry and Veneering,’’ a how-to-shop guide she wrote in 2003.


“It’s my style of teaching and getting somebody to be able to do something,” she said.


Though Stewart has been involved in many facets of woodworking, she said her favorite thing remains actually working with wood.


“That’s what is really neat about woodworking,” she said. “There are about 100 different ways to accomplish the same goal.”


Classroom planned


Stewart will most likely never tire of woodworking, where the appeal is getting a project done and trying new techniques.


“That’s why I do all facets of woodworking and learning,’’ she said.


In fulfilling one of her lifelong dreams, Stewart this fall will expand the Cherry Tree Toys facility on Highway 81 outside Beloit to house a classroom for hobbyists.


“There are a lot of people who do woodworking in the area who want to learn more (about woodworking),” she said.


Stewart also would like to write another book, but for now her focus is on the Wildwood Designs website.



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