Louisville Medical Professionals Are Also Artists with Wood
Louisville Medical Professionals Are Also Artists with Wood- December 19th, 2011
By Marc Jennings - Valeo Magazine
Morton Kasdan, M.D., a plastic surgeon, is one with his work, his concentration complete, controlling the instrument in his hands. The result will be beautiful.
Dr. Kasdan is turning a piece of wood on a lathe, shaping it with a sharp tool, deliberately, but also learning what visual surprises the wood holds. He is one of a number of local physicians who make things from wood. It’s natural enough – that healers are also artists.
“You use your hands and your brain,” Dr. Kasdan says.
On this Saturday, he is joined by three others who have come to work in his shop: Sharon Bohannon, a high school college counselor; Laura Carter, a surgical nurse; and Neal Garrison, M.D., a vascular surgeon. All are at lathes, machines that spin lumber so the turner can bring a cutting edge to it, coaxing objects from rough chunks of wood.
Fun and Games
Dr. Garrison started turning about six years ago, when Dr. Kasdan invited him over. He “kind of caught the bug,” he says.
So did Ms. Bohannon and Ms. Carter. “When I retire, I would do this every day,” Ms. Bohannon says. “I love this.”
Ms. Carter says she likes working on bowls best. The woods she prefers are cherry and some varieties of maple. Dr. Kasdan favors maple, walnut, ash and osage orange for turnings.
Not everything is a bowl. Other types of turnings include platters, Christmas ornaments, and Dr. Kasdan’s signature shoehorns.
Turning is one of several types of woodworking local doctors enjoy. But Roy Foster, D.M.D. goes in another direction. He has built furniture items. One is a changing table. The plans called for medium density fiberboard, but he decided it would look great in oak.
Going With the Grain
The piece has a large top surface, drawers, and open shelving. Dr. Foster selected the boards individually, looking for the most attractive grain patterns. “I just love oak,” he says. “It’s very solid, very sturdy.”
He used oak also in a simple desk he built. It has subtly tapered legs and an organizer on top that he designed. He has also made sanding blocks – tools that hold sandpaper – in walnut and maple. His next project: built-in shelving. “I like larger things,” Dr. Foster says, “things that get used.”
Barton Reutlinger, M.D., makes things that get used, too. He also makes things on the whimsical side. As an example of the functional, there is his oak kitchen table. The base, a set of arched supports that meet at a central point, is constructed so weight on the tabletop transfers to these components, pressing them together and adding strength.
Imagination in Wood
At the other end of the spectrum is his miniature fairy house. Made mostly from a hollow maple log, it also incorporates a piece of dogwood, and its conical top, which opens, is lichen-covered, creating a shingled effect.
Dr. Reutlinger, an orthopedic surgeon with Louisville Bone and Joint Specialists, further expanded the inside and used chiseled-out chips to accent the roof’s edge. Inside are furniture pieces and a tiny guitar whose tiny strings are surgical thread.
But his grandchildren couldn’t really play with the fairy house, so Dr. Reutlinger built a dollhouse. “I do this for myself and for my grandchildren.”
He has entered projects at the Kentucky State Fair. There is a butcher block table; it took a blue ribbon. A backgammon game in walnut, maple, mahogany, and yellowheart; another blue ribbon. And the dollhouse: It won a blue ribbon and was named Best in Show this year.
“I can spend hours out in my workshop,” Dr. Reutlinger says. “I have great fun.”
See pictures of the doctor’s artwork at