The Charlotte Woodworkers Association, is a non-profit organization. It was formed in 1985 for the purpose of promoting excellence in woodworking through teaching, development of individual skills and fostering interest in our craft.
The winner of the 2018 McAlister award is Mike Smith. When Mike joined CWA in the early 2000s, he became an active contributor to the club and activities. He has continued this level of involvement throughout his membership.
Mike served 2 terms as CWA president, where he guided the club into being operated as a business, with regular board meetings and official activities. Under Mike’s guidance and encouragement, CWA became Incorporated as a tax-exempt non-profit, and achieved 501(c)(3) status.
Mike has performed in major club activities, doing demonstrations and talking with the public. His presence at Matthews Alive and Festival In The Park makes CWA’s displays and demos come to life.
Mike makes himself available at short-notice to put on programs at regular club meetings. His demonstrations and talks are always informative and enjoyed by everyone.
Mike, with his personal efforts to liquidate shops, has helped new members obtain tools and machines members may not have been able to have or afford.
Mike has hosted many CWA members in his own home shop, teaching and coaching on their projects.
Mike is the one who answers all the inquiries about the club that come via our website and Facebook page. He does a great job promoting the club and is always a fine example of the people involved in the club. He also does a great job at the club Christmas party which involves a lot of time making the items he gives out.
With Mike’s involvement, CWA has become a better organization, and many members have become better woodworkers.
Mike is a giver, in the truest sense, and is highly deserving of the McAlister Award.
When our club treasurer, Bob McElfresh, was visiting the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta this year, he was enamored with the presentation and finishing products from The CrystaLac Company. While talking with their representative, Dave Sheppard, Dave offered to come to our club and give us the same presentation. Dave also enlisted his professional woodworking friend, Lyn R. Walker to present the product to our organization.
The CrystaLac Company was formed in 1989 in Mountain City, Tennessee. Mountain City is about as far North and East as you can go in Tennessee before you cross into Virginia or North Carolina. It’s a small town nestled in the hills along the Appalachian Mountains and an unexpected place to find a high tech company with a great finishing product.
Dave, originally from West Jefferson / Lancing, NC, loved the company so much he put a ring on the owner’s daughter and made it official. He’s now traveling the country pitching the product and the business. Dave’s father-in-law, Derek Becker, now 85 and “semi”-retired started the business by making a boat finish after having worked for a number of different finishing product companies including Dupont. He grew the family business with a focus on a high quality product and great customer service. This past year, Dave’s wife and Derek’s youngest daughter, Dorinda, purchased the company from her father and is now leading the company forward.
This is a family business through and through, but this small family owned and operated company from a small town competes well above its weight class on the world-wide stage. They have customers, big name customers, and are working with some large distributors, but maintain a low profile.
Luthiers and wood turners love their products because of the high gloss high sheen finish. Even the Smithsonian uses their products in restorations. It’s put on everything from fingernails to Dinosaurs. Martin Guitars has used the grain fillers for years. Woodcraft, StewMac, McFeely’s and Amazon sell their products, but the best place to buy it is direct from The CrystaLac Company on their website: The CrystaLac Store (https://thecrystalacstore.com).
The CrystaLac Company focuses on water based finishes. You won’t find oil in their mix. The product line is meant to be a finish that can be used together and applied, in some cases with all of the coats from sanding sealer to the final finish in one day. One can even change the order of the applications if needed to achieve the desired final finish.
Their products are self leveling and can be applied with a simple foam brush or sprayer. According to Dave, the key to a great finish is to apply several thin coats of the product with a 2 hour dry time between coats. If it’s done properly, you’ll be able to eliminate several steps in the typical finishing process and shorten the time invested.
All CrystaLac Top Coats and even the Clear Grain Filler or Wood Putty can be tinted. Any aniline, alcohol or water based dyes will work fine. Universal tints will also work. It is recommended to dilute dyes with a little bit of water before adding them to the CrystaLac products. (Source: http://www.crystalac.info/faq.html)
The best finishes are stirred, not shaken. As a water based product, we don’t want air bubbles invading the finish. CrystaLac products use only the best quality resins. They also are some of the most environmentally friendly products. They have no or low odor and less than 1 gram per liter of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in their products. By comparison, California has some of the toughest VOC regulation in the country and requires less than 100 grams per liter.
All of CrystaLac’s finishing compounds are self leveling. To demonstrate this, Dave applied his finish to a self leveling strip that’s used in the industry to measure the self leveling quality. The room was pretty dusty, but in spite of that the test demonstrated a consistent layer of the finish.
Before beginning any application it’s very important to start with a clean and dry surface with no oils. If an oil based product (or wax) is already on the wood, it must be completely dry before applying any of the water based CrystaLac products. You can apply the product over oil based products, but you may need to rough up the surface first. CrystaLac forms a bond with the wood and it needs something other than wax or oil to bond.
Sanding sealer may be applied directly to the wood. Because it is a water based product depending on the type of wood, there may be some sanding required afterwards due to the grain raising. Typically this is minor sanding, but it’s important to clean the surface of dust prior to subsequent applications.
CrystaLac also makes a wood grain filling product. Wood grain filler typically after the sanding sealer. It’s easy to use and can be applied with fingers to rub into the grain and then squeegeed off or rubbed off with a damp paper towel. Typical applications of grain filler require 2 or three coats, but given the ease of application, clean-up, and quick drying time (2 hours), and the ability to apply finishing products directly on top of the wood grain filler, the process to a final product is very fast.
Some of the CrystaLac products have an amber tint added so be sure to test your finish before using it on your final piece. The amber tint adds an aged look to some woods and looks great on floors such as Teak.
TopCoat Super Premium is where it all started for Crystalac. This is a polyurethane acrylic blend. None of their products will water spot or have issues from having a hot pizza box sitting on them. You can apply as many coats as you want. Layers do make a difference. It’s recommended to apply a minimum of three coats with 3 hours between coats using thin light coats. It’s important to keep fingers and dust out of the finish and no sanding is required between coats to achieve a superior result.
The products are food & child safe and is commonly used for bowls.
Dave recommended starting from the beginning and testing the finish it all the way through all of the products. If it doesn’t look right, then call the company. They will address any questions you have with the product.
The Extreme Protection Polyurethane is made for high traffic areas such as restaurant tables, brass kick plates, etc. It is UV protected. Application is simple as it is water thin and can be sprayed or brushed right out of the can.
All products have 5 year shelf life guarantee as long as you don’t let it freeze… even if it’s opened. All products will typically take three hard freezes, but it’s recommended to store them above freezing.
Typically the product needs one day cure time per coat.
According to Lyn, the bowl (pictured below) has only 5 coats of finish with no buffing or polishing required. This was applied while still on the lathe using a foam brush.
When using any sandpaper on the wood, DO NOT USE STEARATED sandpaper. It contains wax which will transfer onto the wood and prevent the finish from bonding properly. Use only non-stearated sandpaper!
The Crabcoat Marine Finish contains a UV stabilizer and fungicide making it ideal for outdoor applications. A four coat finish gets a minimum of 2 years of wear outside. For maintenance, pressure wash and clean every 2 to 3 years and apply a fresh coat of the finish. This product is used on boats and kayaks, etc. It is important to let this cure for 30 days prior to immersing in water (for all CrystaLac products).
Brite Tone Top Coat is primarily an Instrument finish. It’s used all over the world by luthiers. It’s nearly 100% resin, UV protected, and can set in window without discoloring the wood. Typically it’s applied with 4 or more coats.
To clean a finish, simply use a damp cloth and dry towel to repair.
The flooring finishes are Polyoxide, UV protected, and contain Aluminum Oxide. It is extremely durable and resilient.
This month’s presentation was delivered by Bill Maloney.
Bill has been making white cedar birds for most of his life. This craft has been passed down through many generations and is believed to have originated in Russia or one of the scandinavian countries, but Bill is not sure where his father, being Irish, learned it and passed it down to him and his brothers.
As a boy he was delegated one specific task in the process. When he and his brothers were still young, his father passed away, but they continued the craft. As his brothers reach High School age, they lost interest and taught Bill the rest of the process. When Bill reached High School, like his brothers, his interest changed and he stopped making these birds until he got out of the Service. At 85, Bill has continued to make these birds every since. He demonstrates a unique and special love for his craft and is willing and eager to share it with anyone who is interested. Bill doesn’t compromise on quality, but he does recognize there is a balance between quality, time and artistic expression.
Bill’s White Cedar Birds are all made from one single piece of wood and have no glue. They are finished only with a coat of shellac and some wood burning to accent the piece. Sometimes he will mount them on a stand, but prefers to hang them up. Because “it’s difficult to get a bird to balance”, Bill will mount the ones that won’t balance on the string.
The whole process of making the birds begins with selecting the right trees. Every few years, Bill drives to Vermont and hand selects the right trees. Though, it’s possible to make them from all kinds of wood, they are best made from straight-grained White Cedar.
If the bark is straight, the grain of the wood is straight. The first three feet of the tree is not used because it contains imperfections in the grain. However, the next 14-18 feet of the wood above the 3 foot base is used. These are cut into 38 inch lengths for the trip home. All of the bark is removed and only the sapwood is used.
Once the wood arrives, it’s put into a 55 gallon barrels filled with water where it remains until it’s used. Often his stock will remains here for a few years. Storing the wood this way stops checking and insures the highest quality piece. White cedar is very easy to carve when wet.
A regular bird takes Bill about 30 minutes to make. Hummingbirds take about 15 minutes each. Bill teaches some class on how to make a bird and generally it takes a new student about 2 hours to learn the entire process and make their first bird.
It is very hard to make a mistake. He has taught classes on how to do this in about 2 hours for an new student.
Once it’s carved, the piece is dried overnight. The next day, the piece is shaved and sanded. The carving process is done with a sharp swiss army knife with a thin blade.
Next, Bill uses a Swiss Army Knife with a thin blade to slice the wings. This knife is ideal for this part of the process and technique is key to getting clean slices. The grain of the wood help, but also the very thin blade prevents the need for a sawing movement. Bill learned that simply moving the piece a little further from his body during cutting enables him to produce pieces much faster and with better consistency.
Once the wing slices are made the bird wings are interlocked and set to dry. The next day, Bill will add the details and finish with one coat of shellac.
Common Name(s): American Chestnut Scientific Name: Castaea dentata Distribution: Eastern United States Tree Size: 100-120 ft (30-37 m) tall, 5-7 ft (1.5-2.0m) trunk diameter (Because of the chestnut blight of the early 1900s, very few trees of this size currently exist) Average Dried Weight: 30 lbs/ft3 Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .40, .48 Janka Hardness: 540
Natural Range of the American Chestnut Tree
The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. An estimated 4 billion American chestuts, up to 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range.
The blight was caused by an accidentally introduced Asian bark fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica). It was responsible for killing over 3 billion chestnut trees. The wood in these standing trees was subsequently damaged by insects, leaving holes and discoloration. The trees were thenharvested and converted to lumber which is now known as Wormy Chestnut. Wormy Chestnut is preferred when a rustic or unpolished appearance is desired due to nail holes, discoloration, work and insect damage.
Before the early 1900s one in every four hardwood trees in North America’s eastern forests was an American Chestnut. Together, chestnuts and oaks predominated the 200 million acre forest. Every Spring so many chestnut trees erupted in white blossoms that from a distance, the hills appeared to be draped in quilts of snow.
The American Chestnut once provided food and shelter for animals and people alike. Bears, deer and all kinds of mammals and birds feasted on the fallen chestnuts. There were so many piled high that people would scoop them up with shovels from the forest floor. Reaching heights of 130 feed and growing over 6 feet in diameter, American Chestnuts were home to squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays and scores of benign burrowing insects. Because the wood was lightweight, rot-resistant, straight grained and easy to work with, it was used to build houses, barns, telegraph poles, railroad ties, furniture and musical instruments.
In the late 1876 a New York City nurseryman named S.B. Parsons imported Japanese chestnut trees, which he raised and sold to customers who wanted something exotic in their gardens. One or perhaps all of these shipments concealed the pathogenic fungus Cryphonectria parasitica which chokes chestnut trees to death by wedging itself into their trunks and obstructing conduits for nutrients. Asian chestnut trees had a resistance to Cryphonectria parasitica, but the American chestnut trees were extremely susceptible to the fungal disease which came to be known as the chestnut blight.
The chestnut blight was first discovered in New York in 1904. Within 50 years, it killed nearly four billion chestnut trees. Now few large trees remain in the chestnut’s native range. Because the species has a resilient root system, the American chestnut survives here and there in the form of living stumps, which sometimes send up young skinny treelings. Such saplings almost always succumb to blight by their teens or 20s, never getting old enough to flower and reproduce.
Working with Chestnut
American Chestnut is easy to work with both hand and machine tools. It’s straight grain, light weight and highly rot resistance make ideal fence posts, railroad ties, barn beams, home construction, as well as fine furniture and musical instruments. Chestnut splits easily, so care must be taken in nailing and screwing the wood. Due to it’s course texture, turning is mediocre.
Although no adverse health effects have been specifically reported for the American Chestnut, other types of Chestnut in the the Castanea genus (C. sativa and C. mollissima) have been reported to cause skin irritation.
The May 2018 presentation was delivered by Bill Sutton. Bill has delivered a number of presentations to our association in the past and today brings his experience to bear on the topic of precision and accuracy in woodworking.
Precision and accuracy
Precision and accuracy are both important, but it’s important first to understand the differences. Accuracy refers to the closeness of a value to a known value. Precision refers the closeness of two or more measures to each other. This is where we want to focus our woodworking – High accuracy AND high precision. The bullseye chart shows what can happen if we lack one of these characteristics.
Some tools show up to 1/64th measures on their gages. This doesn’t really matter. What is important is that the parts are the same in the right dimensions. Rulers and tape measures make it easy to read the wrong measurement and/or mark a piece incorrectly. Once its cut you can’t stretch it. Rulers have a place, but typically we’re not building things that require extreme close tolerances.
In manufacturing, parts have to be done precisely so that the parts are interchangeable. This is not as important for custom work where each piece is custom fit to another.
However, we don’t want to be sloppy either. We don’t want visible gaps, or noticeable inconsistencies, etc. The level of precision is different depending on the scale of the piece as well.
Tape measures are important. There are certain dimensions that are critical. For instance, a chair seat should typically be 17 inches. Dining table height needs to be set so that the legs can go under it.
Old timers built pieces from proportions. One of the tools they used was a “story stick”. A stick is chosen that is long enough to make a tick mark on the stick for each of the measurements. Then use use the stick as your measurement instead of trying to record and remember numbers from a tape measure or measures. The stick can be saved and used again and again if you need to produce another piece.
In addition, other tools can also make the measurements precise and accurate. If you use a marking gage, use the thickness of the piece to size the scribe line. Use a compass to find center.
Wood is constantly moving so it doesn’t need to measure in 1/1000ths of an inch. However, it is important to understand the wood and its nature when picking joints, etc.
World’s smallest Table
If you want a table to be square and rectangular, but the pieces are different, you don’t end up with a rectangle, you get a trapezoid instead. By properly measuring each piece from the same reference point, we can cut all the same size pieces with the same settings. Then they mate up and fit the same.
Matching Marking & Reference Surfaces
When milling, pick a reference surface. All layout should start from that surface. Use a pencil to mark the reference edge (squiggle), then mark the top. For dark woods use chalk. The markings need to be clearly visible.
Legs are marked with a triangle pointing to the front. This way we never mix up the legs or their orientation.
The last thing we want to do is cut a mortise in the wrong place and this will help prevent you from making that mistake. The way to do this is to lay them on the table and open them up. Put them back together, then open them up the other way. Then, mark the mortises.
Do the same thing with the sides and front/back. Set the triangle.
Another area where it’s easy to make a mistake is when taper the legs. Just remember that the taper is always on the side with the mortise for most shaker and period style furniture and you should be fine.
This month’s meeting presentation was a collaborative session with member participation and a competition for the best voted on Gadget, Tip or Trick. Congratulations to Phil DeBerry for winning the $25 gift certificate to Woodcraft and to runner up Mark Willingham. Entrants and their entries included:
Bob McElfresh – Treasurer
Bruce Bogust – Use masking tape on ends to cut pins for dovetails. It’s much easier to cut with the tape than to try to see the lines and it helps to easily identify where to remove material.
Stan Howell – Digital Protractor – Set on the table, zero it out, then you can get the exact angle relative to your work surface. It works great on the drill press too!
Charlotte Bortmas– Charlotte is all the time looking for her pencil so she made a pencil holder with a retractable string clip to keep it close to her at all times.
Peter Stoffel – Sometimes it’s difficult to get a miter fence set exactly right. Peter uses an index card to move the fence an eact.— F-clamp to lock down the
Phillip DeBerry (winner) – pack of playing cards – use for shims. Make room for glue – perfect fit using a deck of cards when done play some poker.
Mitre Aid –
MacoyTools.com – Crown Moulding – measuring device for angles.
Cheaper Mitre Aid
Mark Willingham (runner up)- Dealing with Glue squeeze out. Use a straw to clean-up glue squeeze out.
Bob McElfresh – lining up hinges on a box.
Taper Jig for Legs
Randy Young – Ebony Plane
White Pencil for marking walnut
Fake credit cards from mailings – saved and used for glue spreaders
James Garrett—Coat hanger bent to check drill press level
All of our entrants demonstrated tools, tricks and tips that are helpful for the craft. Well done woodworkers!
In this month’s presentation Bruce Bogust talked about building a 1750’s period Newport Grandfather Clock. This is the same clock design, with some modifications, that is offered in the November/December 1985 edition of Fine Woodworking Magazine. The plans are available online at Fine Woodworking Magazine.
Before discussing the clock build, Bruce brought in a Tea Table that has some of the same period production characteristics as the clock to demonstrate some of the skills that are useful to know in building the clock and period pieces.
The Tea Table shown here is from the same period and is unique in that it has a space under the talons on the legs. This is often referred to as an open claw. Also, there is no webbing over the claw. Similar to the Newport style, there is also a Philadelphia style from the same period. In making a claw, it’s generally a good idea to practice on some inexpensive woods before using up your good stock. Once you’ve figured out the pattern, you should be able to readily duplicate it.
The Tea Table pictured here is made from African Mahogany. It’s unique in that it has carvings on the knees of the legs. There is also the same pattern on each side of the leg. There are several ways you can do this. One way is to use carbon paper, but it doesn’t show up well. Another way is to use a ponce pad, i.e. a cheese cloth with chalk in it. You begin by cutting out your pattern and tap the pattern over the wood. The chalk comes through the pattern and sticks to the wood and provides the lines needed to do the carving. You may also use shim brass (2 thousandths thick) to transfer the pattern onto the legs.
The table top shown here is made from one single piece of wood including the trim on the edges. It is not a glue up. To do this, you start with a roughly 1” think piece of wood, make a pattern and screw it to the top of the wood. Then use a router to cut it out using this special jig . You can screw the jig to the bottom of the router. There are multiple stages of this process so when you get to the end, you just route the bottom and level it out in the center.
The clock design was developed by the same people who developed the designs for this table.
Once you figure out what clock you want to make, the first thing you should do is buy the mechanism, or at least have a detailed set of dimensions including clearances, etc. As Bruce did, you will probably have to change the dimensions of your clock to fit the mechanism. The length of the pendulum swing, size of the mechanism, clock face, weights and chimes can change the entire plan.
Bruce didn’t like the face that was included in his plan so he went to Colonial Williamsburg and took some pictures of the faces on some of the clocks and had a custom face painted with the image that he wanted.
One crucial step in the build is to create a mockup of the clock to get the swing length and size the movements.
In this clock design, there are four columns on the top of the clock. They are turned first into round stock. You will need an index wheel on the lathe so you know where to place the columns. The flutes are hand cut with a gouge. Keeping them straight is very difficult and even small fluctuations are readily noticeable in the final product so this part of the build will require an extra steady hand and careful precision if you want to produce something that’s aesthetically pleasing.
Similar to the table, the moulding on the top of clock is cut upside down if you’re using a router. This is not something where you can just draw the pattern.
After routing, there are some places you simply can’t get into. Bruce used an old hand saw blade and file scribed and snapped the metal to form the shape. Then dremel/hand filed to get the exact pattern, essentially making a scraping tool with the perfect profile to make these mouldings.
As seen in the picture below, this clock design has several quarter columns. These can be difficult to make. These columns are ¼ of the actual column inserted into a recess. These were turned by using some paper to glue four pieces together. This larger piece was then turned as a single unit on the lathe. It’s important not to over pressure the lathe at this point because it will split the wood. Turn it round. Then flute it.
The jig above was used to index the column and act as a guide to route the flutes. Once the column was mounted and indexed, simply side it on the router, turn and repeat.
Then use chisels to separate the 4 pieces where they were glued to the paper. This method was taken from Fine Furniture for the Cabinet Maker – by Marlow. You could also create a box and use a scratch stock to do the same thing.
The shells are made by design using the steps outlined in the same book.
This particular clock has a pine backing and old “aged” cherry was used everywhere else except the top moulding which was newer cherry. This explains some of the coloring differences in the pictures above.
Bruce’s clock mechanism is about 14 inches deep and came with a plan for mounting points. Once that’s built, you’ll have to identify the mounting points for the assembly.
The basic body of the clock, base, center, and top is show above. There are some half blind dovetails used to assemble the base. The legs/feet are cut on the bandsaw. The top box of the clock have hand cut dovetails on all sides.
The rosettes on this clock are not the original ones from the plan. Those were a simple daisy style. Instead, Bruce used a Philadelphia style which was more to his liking. The finials were built by turning the shape and then hand gouged to get the curved flutes.
This clock was started in early 2015 and finished in early 2017 working on different parts off and on in the workshop. Bruce’s next planned project is the Amateur’s Masterpiece desk.
November’s presentation was delivered by Eddie Hamrick. Eddie, currently a Hickory resident has crafted gifts for seven presidents, four North Carolina governors, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Phillip DeBerry introduced Eddie to the club members and we learned about many of Eddie accomplishments as a woodworker. In his own words, Eddie described his God-given passion for woodworking almost as an obsession. He has shared his work with the world and in doing so has received 3 gold medals from the National Endowment for the Arts. His work is displayed in history museums all over the state and nationally. He is an accomplished woodworker and this article from the Hickory Museum of Art details many of them. He’s been designated a “National Treasure”.
Eddie was a very early presenter at the Charlotte Woodworkers nearly 30 years ago and today our infamous Bob Fields who was around during his early years has a nutcracker that was donated by Eddie as a gift for the One Special Christmas Auction and purchased by Bob. Bob holds onto it as a special treasure. (Bob and Eddie are shown together in the feature image.)
Among Eddie’s accomplishments, he boast musical instruments, many pieces in Williamsburg, 19 churches of many denominations, governor’s desks, puppets, the Catawba County seal, awards trophies, and bats for All-Star Baseball games.
Although Eddie has many works to be proud of, he says, “I’m just faking it”, implying that although by some standards he produces some wonderful pieces of art, he has a long way to go. He says that “Someday I’ll wake up and be a real woodworker”. But that’s not what he thinks about when he’s woodworking. He focuses on the art and what he is trying to produce. People seldom consider woodworking an art, but Eddie is quick to point out that it deserves it’s merit along with other forms of art.
Eddie has a special gift for taking an idea from concept to a piece of artwork. He researches and spends time studying the nature of the item and how to make it durable then picking items around a theme. He uses no measuring tools in his work, but prefers to work the craft using his eyes and carefully honed skills as a woodworker. He looks at the detail of the concept he is going after and pulls it out of the piece of wood using a repeatable process for identifying the details and achieving the look he is after.
His craft has gained him an audience with the Queen of England in London when he was invited to the Phantom of the Opera where he provided the masks and several props used in the performance (the mask is show below).
Eddie is trying to teach others what he has learned and has taught at the John Campbell Folk School across from Newton Courthouse. He enjoys telling stories about life and woodworking and he shared some of his life with the club members. In his words, life wasn’t always rosy, but he’s been given a gift and loves using in a variety of ways.
There was a point in his life when he spent 9 months in a coma. Eddie, a man with faith in God, shared that during this time the plans for a new chapel were revealed to him.
Eddie uses no paint on his projects. He prefers to use the natural characteristics of the wood to bring out the colors he needs. The last thing he remembers actually painting was Bob’s nutcracker so many years ago.
In his work, Eddie will often develop a concept piece before making the actual piece. Sometimes it takes many repetitions before he lands on a final product.
In closing, Eddie shared many of his pieces and encouraged us to “never stop learning and trying to grow”.