Honoring Chris Ditlow
When Chris Ditlow joined the PA Chapter in 1997, it wasn’t long before he was donating his work to the chapter for auction at chapter events. Turns out that an organization full of American chestnut enthusiasts is a great match for a talented woodworker who enjoys working with their beloved wood. Chris has been incredibly generous in the donation of his work for sale or silent auction at our events, and in response our members have been incredibly generous in their contributions, which reflects both an enthusiastic appreciation of his abilities and a commitment to the mission of our organization. Chris’ work provides our members with a tangible reminder of what we are all working so hard to restore. We’d like to acknowledge his contributions by extending a heartfelt thanks and by sharing more of his story. You can read more about Chris in his own words below. Be sure to visit his website at www.laserleaf.com. You can also purchase his work on Etsy.
Chris has shared with us a brief background on his woodworking skills, as follows:
I first was introduced to cabinets through working with my father in an antique business. Although we would buy and sell anything to make a buck, I was drawn to repairing antique furniture. Much of the furniture that was available and in demand at the time was oak furniture. Popular around 1900, this was the first mass produced furniture that could be ordered through a Sears type catalog then picked up at the local Railway Express depot.
In the process of refinishing and repairing parts was where I first encountered the endless use of American chestnut, which was primarily used for the secondary parts of the casework. It was used as cores on the early plywoods, at the time faced with premium veneers that for the most part were quarter sawn white oak. Chestnut was used clear into the 1960’s as a secondary wood in typical household furniture. Today I still can tell what type of wood a cabinet is with a coat of paint on it by the style of the furniture.
Move forward 6 years and I had my first wood shop and did custom furniture to order. Through my work, I made contacts with people in the trade and found a building to buy that enabled me to expand my business. I joined with a partner and went full time into the kitchen cabinet business. Over 20 years I made hundreds of cabinets and millwork around Harrisburg and some commercial work into New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and around the Central Pa. area.
Today I’m on my own with a home shop doing laser engraved signs, awards, cabinets, and odd millwork. I still enjoy building in solid woods and chestnut is one of my favorites. I look forward to the Pa Farm Show and other events where PA-TACF helps to spread the word of restoring the chestnut back to its original domain. Chestnut was popular in early handmade furniture because of its great availability and ease of use with hand tools. This was mostly used for inexpensive utility furniture such as dry sinks and kitchen hutches.
In conclusion, I’d like to thank all the great people I’ve met through TACF and appreciate their selfless efforts. If anyone has a further interest in wood lore or what I do, please check ETSY.
Thanks so much, Chris