Rick Krasensky | Turning wood into art

Courtesy Rick Krasensky

Tucked in a piney neighborhood of Truckee is a large wooden house with an expansive two-story workshop adjacent to it. With its garage doors open and an earthy smell exuding from it, one can see various saws, sanders, tools and planks.

Inside, Rick Krasensky is working on a cabinet project for a local client. Although he loves making wooden bowls, it’s his cabinetry work that pays the bills. Krasensky is so good at interior furnishings that he has a lot of repeat customers — but it’s not easy.

Courtesy Rick Krasensky

Krasensky got into woodwork because his father was into it. He went into his school’s woodshop on weekends to help his shop teacher with projects. At one time, he thought about becoming a teacher himself, but realized that he would rather build than instruct.

In 1979, a friend in Truckee took on a construction job and asked Krasensky for help. Right before Christmas, Krasensky got on a Greyhound bus from Long Island, N.Y., for Truckee and arrived on New Year’s Eve. He helped his friend with the Tahoe Donner house development and never left.

“Wood is creative and with bowls I can make whatever I want. I don’t even know what it will look like until it’s done.”  –Rick Krasensky

After becoming licensed as a general contractor in 1983, Krasensky continued to build houses in the Truckee area and did everything from the foundations to the interiors with his specialty being in cabinetry work.

Krasensky says the he enjoys working with wood but it was getting hard to build houses in the winter, so in 2008 he started designing bowls and giving them to friends and family on special occasions. Gradually using his workshop to create more bowls — he has made 833 to date — he started selling them at special events.

“Wood is creative and with bowls I can make whatever I want. I don’t even know what it will look like until it’s done,” he says.

He uses hardwood sourced from all over the world that he purchases from a place in Sparks, Nev. Krasensky says he likes working with walnut the best because it’s not too hard, not too soft, has a nice grain and is rich in color. He has used at least eight kinds of wood to make his bowls.

Courtesy Rick Krasensky

It takes anywhere from 10 to 20 hours to create a bowl, depending on its size. Krasensky usually works on 10 at a time. First, he makes wooden rings by cutting angled pieces and then glues them together. Sometimes he’ll stagger them to create a different look. Then he binds all of the rings together. Krasensky uses a lathe turning tool and the thickness of the rings of the bowl allows him to make different shapes using a rounded cutter.

“Once I get it turned and sanded, I put on a solid bowl finish that’s food safe. Some people use it as art, some people eat out of it,” he says.

Bowls made of walnut, yellow heart and myrtle wood glisten in the sun outside of his workshop. All of the wood pieces have to be perfect because it makes it easier to turn. He points out a bowl that has a different design on the inside than on the exterior — even though it’s made out of the same block of wood.

“I’m having a lot of fun with this one,” he says.

Krasensky brings out a 37-inch-tall wooden vase that’s 8.5 inches in diameter and made of bubinga, walnut and maple woods. It took him 35 hours to make. He points out other one-of-a-kind furniture pieces including his dining room table, chairs, trim work, sleigh bed frame, armoire and dresser. Everything wooden in his house is handmade, dated and stamped by him. When people learn that he primarily makes these specialized pieces for his loved ones, they ask to be a part of his family.

“I never buy Christmas presents,” Krasensky says.

Traveling to various events in his free time to promote his wooden bowls has given him some exposure, but a lot of people usually buy one or two bowls and then come back for more.

“A day goes by pretty fast when I’m turning,” he says. “I’m kind of spoiled being my own boss and living here.”

For more information, visit rickswoodenbowls.com.