Al Miotke

I have been playing in sawdust as long as I can remember.  My dad had a basement shop when I was a toddler before he started his own custom cabinet business which was located next to our home in Wisconsin.  As such, I was always in his company shop and had weekly chores to help him out.   Being a typical kid, I usually did not enjoy the work, but I did learn quite a bit about woodworking thru osmosis and without realizing it, woodworking was in my blood.  I eventually decided to take my career in a direction different from cabinet making and got degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and eventually became a Director of Program Management.  During my career I had the opportunity to work on the design of telecommunications equipment, fitness equipment like treadmills, retail computer systems, and lastly, garage door openers.  When I moved into my home, the first piece of furniture I purchased was a table saw so I could make my own furniture.   After working at it for 20 years I could say that most of the furniture and cabinets in my home were built with that table saw in the basement shop that I still have today.  I am also fortunate to have a wonderful family including my wife Brenda, daughters Dawn and Amy, and five grandchildren that all live in the area.

After being focused on flatwork for over 40 years, I was looking for something different to work on, so I decided to try my hand at woodturning.  After scraping out a number of bowls, I learned about a local club, the Chicago Woodturners, that had some talented artists including Binh Pho, Dick Sing, and Steve Sinner to name a few.  Learning from them and seeing their work got me hooked, and my woodworking focus turned to lathe work.  After a club member did a demo on this thing called segmenting in 2006, I immediately became obsessed and purchased all the learning materials I could get my hands on.  Malcolm Tibbetts book, Curt Theobalds videos, and the Book on Ray Allen’s work were my primary learning tools for a few years. Then in 2008 I heard about the 1st segmenting symposium being held at Marc Adams School of woodworking and learned more in that weekend than I did in the previous years.  I have now been to all seven segmenting symposiums and became active as a board member for our chapter in 2014.   I still do some chunk turning and teach a class each year for beginning turners as well as a segmenting class at the Chicago School of Woodworking.  Although I enjoy all forms of turning and try every new technique I can at least once, I always gravitate back to segmenting.

The attached photos show my shop which is a continual work in process.  Every time I see somebody’s shop I think of a way that I can improve my jigs, workflow, safety,  and most important, new toys that I realize “I need to have”.


April 2023