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Using technology to breathe new life into old wood

Esquimalt artists work is on display at local cafe
Rob Russell shows off his work. Russell finds old wood from around the Island and turns it into pieces of art, work of which is currently on display at the Spiral Cafe in Esquimalt. Contributed photo

Tim Collins


When Rob Russell sees a piece of old wood, his imagination sets to work.

He imagines what designs he might be able to draw from the shape, grain and texture of the wood and then moves to his computer and begins to create his designs.

Russell is a wood carver who never actually carves wood using knives or other manual tools. Instead the Esquimalt resident uses his background in construction and architecture to imagine intricate designs hidden in the raw wood and then uses a variety of computer programs to model his imagined designs digitally. The he sends those imagined pieces to a machine that carves the wood to his specifications.

Using this process, Russell has created everything from wall pieces to musical instruments, all with a one-of-a-kind appearance drawn from his imagination.

“I have some old spalted big leaf maple that I’ve used in some pieces and it’s tremendous,” said Russell. Spalted maple is any maple that has been allowed to begin the initial stages of decay and subsequently dried to halt the process.

“I’ve also got some old growth cedar, which is wonderful, but I’ve worked with just about every type of wood you can imagine.”

Russell’s work is on display at the Spiral Cafe where the public will have an opportunity to see about 30 of his creations. The display will continue until month’s end when a door prize draw will give one lucky person a piece of the artwork on display.

“I work from home right now,” he said. “But I want to set up a little shop where I could get into some larger pieces…some big carvings. I also play a little guitar so I started making some one-of-a-kind musical instruments including guitars, so that’s also something I’d love to do more of.”

The Spiral Cafe has made a reputation of supporting local artists and performers at its 418 Craigflower Rd. location. The walls are always bedecked with artwork while local musicians entertain diners with uniquely Victoria sounds.

Russell said the exposure he’s had at the cafe has been tremendous and now people have begun to call him, interested in his work.

For more information about his work visit