Etsy Artist Profile: Brian Wachs of Elegant Woodworking by Jessica Hodges
I was lucky enough to get in touch with Brian Wachs, an Oregon-based woodworker who crafts the most beautiful pens. I asked him a few questions about his craft, career and love of pens. His insights on nature & writing pose as a refreshing break from our digitally drenched world.
1) How did you get into woodworking? Are you self-taught or did you go to school for it?
I have always appreciated the beauty of wood. I grew up in the forests along the Columbia River in a logging town in a family with three generations of Nuclear Scientists and was bound to incorporate those ideas into my life. Woodworking provided the ideal outlet for me to appreciate natural beauty, engineering and design, application of natural resources management, and education.
I love to make new things. I am self-taught (well, no man is an island but I have never been to any schools for for my different “crafts”) as a woodworker, fly tyer, and horse tack maker. I have only gone to school for Rangeland Management and Teaching. I tied fishing flies as a production tyer during high school and college to fuel my flyfishing addiction and made all my own tack, except for my saddle, when I was a full-time Buckaroo for several eastern Oregon ranches between getting my Range degree working for the BLM and getting my Teaching MAT. I love to learn new things and woodworking has been the real constant throughout my life. It provides the infinite variety to keep me learning and discovering. Besides, it finances itself with some extra beer money on the side!
2) Are your pens eco-friendly?
Love this question! Absolutely and always; every pen I make is either saved from a firewood pile, a scrap bin, or “drops” from hardwood flooring and construction. I share a shop with Ross Eldridge of Green Tree Woodworks and am able to use pieces as small as 5 inches long. Ross’s winters have been cold lately because I use up his firewood piles!
Besides that, my pens are refillable and are built to last. Rarely in this “throw away” society do we have, let alone appreciate, products built to last beyond more than one use. I am combating that mentality one product at a time.
3) What are your most popular pens? Which ones do you like best?
Far and away, my most popular pens are my Twist Pens. They are the ones I make by the hundreds and the ones my wife most likes to “commandeer”. When she sees that many pens come through the house and she still grabs one of these, that is an unparalleled endorsement. They are affordable, last forever, are refillable, and show the beautiful character of any wood variety. They take laser engraving perfectly, also. My laser engraving is done by a local shop and I swear she is magic at engraving text or logos on any of my products. I can even make then from actual used wine barrels that keep the bouquet of the vine aged in them.
These are carried in stores from the Made in Oregon Store to the High Desert Museum and are a favorite as wedding favors.
4) Which kind of pen if your favorite to write with?
Although I always have a Twist Pen to use because I hate getting colds from pens at stores, restaurants, and hospitals, my personal favorite is my Apollo Fountain Pen that is amazingly smooth and comfortable to write with. My students regularly beg to write with it, of course defeating the purpose of having a personal pen. I have used my Apollo for the past four years and it is deeply loved.
5) Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any fun facts or stories about your business?
I want people to learn about and understand the natural beauty they have in their hands. I add cards, that I sign individually, which provide information about the wood type the product is made from. My favorite is Juniper (Juniperus occidentlis). Apart from being an amazingly beautiful and figured wood type, it is a weed species decimating the Northern Great Basin and I feel that providing an economic incentive to control them as a species, I can help our local ecosystem even more!
Some other products that I think every office needs are my Magnetic Bottle Openers with a leather capcatcher and a Lighted Display Base. The leather closes with a snap for easy cap removal and engraves beautifully. I offer some different leather colors and several wood varieties. These are well tested and highly prized by beer aficionados, brewers, and recreational bottle openers. Several of our local business owners have them attached to the safes in their offices.
The other suggestion are my Lighted Display Bases. These are wood bases in a variety of profiles with an integrated 12 LED light having 10 different colors and modes. These are bright enough to provide soft uplighting to semi-transparent awards and displays, all while presented on a piece of wooden art.