Loren Bien­venu Wood­worker & mu­si­cian

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In mid-De­cem­ber, Loren Bien­venu was busy work­ing on a tres­tle ta­ble in a Sec­ond Street wood­shop. Many Santa Feans may be more fa­mil­iar with this soft-spo­ken, good-na­tured guy as a mu­si­cian and free­lance writer, but he has also been cre­at­ing in wood for about six years. “I went to a year­long pro­gram in fine wood­work­ing at the Seat­tle Wood Con­struc­tion Cen­ter, but I started out ap­pren­tic­ing with a Span­ish colo­nial wood­worker, An­thony Martínez, for a year,” Loren, age thirty, said. “He has pieces at the Na­tional His­panic Cul­tural Cen­ter and the Mu­seum of Span­ish Colo­nial Art. He’s a mas­ter fin­isher.”

The shop in back of the Phil Space gallery was pre­vi­ously run by Paul Hart, the brother of Phil Space founder and pho­tog­ra­pher James Hart. Loren was Paul Hart’s as­sis­tant — in­clud­ing on many cus­tom wood­work­ing projects for Joel Muller of the con­struc­tion com­pany Tent Rock Inc. — un­til he branched out on his own a few months ago. “This ta­ble I’m work­ing on to­day is kind of a Franken­stein project,” Loren said. The parts of the ta­ble, which he’s making on com­mis­sion, come from dis­parate sources. The client’s fa­ther turned the pedestal bases. The top parts come from her neigh­bor’s horse fence. Loren cut both the base and the tres­tle us­ing a couple of large pieces he got at the tra­di­tional fam­ily busi­ness Rios Wood & Freight Ser­vice on Camino del Monte Sol. The boards for the top were all painted black, so he had to re­move all of the paint. “To­day I’m try­ing to faux in the fin­ish to dis­guise the ex­posed wood on some parts. I’m try­ing to match this gray tone, then I’ll rough in some of this paint.”

Part of the fin­ish­ing ef­fort on the ta­ble in­volved try­ing to achieve an an­tiqued look. Loren had brushed parts with wa­ter and vine­gar and steel wool, which dis­solves in the vine­gar af­ter a few days. “That kind of grays the wood,” he said. “Then I scraped it with some nails and wire brushes to try to raise the grain, to give it tex­ture.” There was a de­sire to match other parts of the ta­ble, but Loren was also ex­per­i­ment­ing, play­ing. He planned to fin­ish the ta­ble with “some­thing sim­ple like a wax fin­ish.” He said the piece would be fin­ished in a couple of days. Af­ter that, he had some doors, some shelv­ing projects, and a kitchen is­land to keep him busy.

Asked about fa­vorite hand tools, Loren showed a set of Lie-Nielsen chis­els; a Ja­panese pull saw; mark­ing knives made for him by a black­smith friend, Shehan Prull; and a Clifton bench plane. The shop’s power tools in­clude a ta­ble saw, a planer, a joiner, and an old drill press. He brought out an im­pres­sive small piece: a three-legged stool based on a fa­mous de­sign from Dan­ish wood­worker Tage Frid (1915-2004). The legs and stretch­ers are at­tached with rounded, wedgedtenon joints, and the back is joined to the seat with large, an­gled dove­tails. “I made two,” Loren said. “I was only go­ing to make one, but then I thought I’d bet­ter make ev­ery part twice in case I messed up. So I ended up making two stools out of one board of black wal­nut.” More ex­am­ples of Loren’s wood projects can be seen at his (half-con­structed) web­site, www.wood­sand­words.com.

Loren’s mu­si­cal per­sona is ex­er­cised in drum­ming. A re­cent group was The Shin­ers Club Jazz Band with singer and guitarist Westin McDow­ell and Tom Rheam on trum­pet. “I was making mu­sic for a few slow months to pay my rent, be­cause I didn’t have a lot of work here, but it seems to bal­ance out. Right now I have no gigs, but I have a back­log of wood­work. The best mu­si­cal thing I’m do­ing th­ese days is play­ing a lit­tle with Tootie Heath.”

Al­bert “Tootie” Heath is a vet­eran jazz drum­mer ( John Coltrane, Benny Gol­son, Her­bie Han­cock) who moved to Santa Fe two years ago. Among his projects is a ro­tat­ing-mem­ber, all-per­cus­sion combo called the Whole Drum Truth. Loren is hop­ing that the new­est version, with him­self and drum­mer John Trenta­costa, will play in the spring at El Museo Cul­tural de Santa Fe and Al­bu­querque’s Out­post Per­for­mance Space. “I’ve been spend­ing a ton of time with Tootie,” Loren said. “He wants me to work on writ­ing his bi­og­ra­phy.” Ex­cit­ing prospects! — Paul Wei­de­man


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