We’re interviewing makers from all 50 states. Today we’re featuring Nadia Dugger, a woodworker and small business owner from Oklahoma.
How did you get started woodworking? Who were your mentors?
A little background about me: I grew up in Kharkiv, Ukraine. At 10 (in 1999) my parents moved our family to Vancouver Canada, and in 2006 we made the journey to Oklahoma to follow my father’s University educator career. That’s where I went to college and received my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Environmental Science.
I grew up a tomboy and really connected with my Dad by working on projects together. At 12, we built a simple bench seat for my Dad to sit on while tying his shoes. In high school the woodshop rotation taught me the function and safety aspects of heavy woodworking tools and machinery – I felt right at home with hand-on learning. Ten years later my husband and I decided to build an arbor and an a-frame dessert stand for our wedding. They turned out great and we were able to sell them to another couple. We recently built a home, which required many custom elements that we took on making ourselves. I built an oversized modern barn door (50”x 100”), made white oak stair treads, and cut and installed our kitchen cabinet trim.
What do you think is your best or favorite work? What kind of work do you do the most?
My favorite work is the minimalist white Ash coffee table, or a simple counter stool wood topper. The Coffee table is scalable from 3’ to 6’ and is inspired by Restoration Hardware. It’s satisfying to deliver quality luxury pieces to clients for less. These pieces are so central in people’s homes and it’s neat to think about the life that happens around them. Every time I build one, I improve my tabletop glue-ups or hone in my seamless corner joinery on the base. As far as the counter stool toppers – although it’s only an element of the metal and wood furniture piece – I get to collaborate with my husband who does the metal fabrication. We work together on various designs and I get to showcase beautiful 2” thick slab cuts with unique grain, color variation, and sleek chamfered edges.
What advice would you give to someone that wants to start woodworking or pursue it as a profession?
I would recommend starting by mimicking an existing design or learning how to use various tools to cut and prep the parts for assembly. There are ways to modify an existing design to try out various joinery styles depending on the tools on hand. By starting here, you can start applying what you learned to original ideas.
I have to say, YouTube has been my best friend in learning new woodworking tips and tricks and feeling inspired and empowered. There are several women woodworkers who really hold their own and share not only the tips and instructions, but also share their mistakes and how they get past them.
It’s so important to not let a mistake stop your progress. You should expect to make mistakes at every step of your woodworking journey.
What’s your best hands-on tip or woodworking technique?
Using quality measuring and marking tools is a MUST! It’s important to be able to evaluate the accuracy of the cuts your tools make and tune them to get the desired result.
Hand saws and chisels are another tip for achieving clean cuts and seamless joinery. Once I got a couple of Japanese pull saws, I finally understood what all the hype was about! Correcting miter saw cuts or flush trimming a bow joint is so easy and satisfying.
Is there anyone you’d like to shout-out or recommend we follow? Who inspires you? (Doesn’t have to be woodworking related, either.)
I’d like to invite people to follow my journey on our shop account @Dugger_Steel_Co where we share our wood and steel projects.
Kelly Wearster (@Kellywearster) is an incredible interior designer whose vision blends decor with architecture.
This interview was lightly edited for clarity.
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