Physics Teacher Alec MacLean: Wood Sculpting

The Oracle

Written by Paulo Frank

Published in the November 6, 2015 issue

Physics teacher Alec MacLean is handy with wood and enjoys creating many pieces in his spare time. From furniture to carvings to gargoyles, MacLean embraces challenge, and is willing to try time and time again to create projects the way he likes. “I made a lot of bad stuff that ended up in the fireplace,” MacLean said. “But every time you carve you learn something.”

MacLean has been fascinated by the woodworking field from a young age, picking up interest without any family influence. “I’ve always been interested,” MacLean said. “When I started doing theatre I did a lot more set construction.”

As he discovered the many types of woodwork, MacLean noticed an advertisement in the back of a woodworking magazine that caught his eye. “[It read]: British Master Carver. Week-Long Workshops,” MacLean said. “I took three classes from him. I learned a lot from him.”

MacLean still has a piece that he carved when he was with his teacher. “That first piece you do when you go, ‘Hey, that’s not bad,’ and your teacher goes, ‘Hey, that’s not bad,’—that’s a huge moment,” MacLean said.

MacLean loves carving and spends countless hours in a makeshift shop in his garage. “I’ve got a whole carving bench set up,” MacLean said. “During the school year I get three to four hours in the shop per week. During summer I could spend 20 to 40 hours in there in a week.”

The carving doesn’t only happen in the shop; on annual weeklong church campouts, he brings his tools and enjoys creating signs for people. “Last summer there was a family of two moms and three adopted kids that wanted a sign,” MacLean said. “They wanted their new family name on a sign, so I carved it for them. I liked that because it’s not just a carving. That sign is one of the things I’m proudest of because of how much it meant to them.”

MacLean takes a lot of pride in his work, sometimes trying multiple times on a project until he is satisfied. “It’s like practicing a sport,” MacLean said. “You really have to just keep at it.” To remind himself of this mindset, across his workbench he has “don’t stop” written in big black letters.
MacLean is always looking to improve his woodworking and find aspects to improve upon, even in successful projects. “You can always look at something and say, ‘That could be better,’” MacLean said. “Your self-evaluation grows as your skill grows. If today’s is better than yesterday’s, I’m happy.” MacLean enjoys being able to look back at a piece of work he did and know that he can do even better the next time. “I’m satisfied with where I am now,” MacLean said. “But I want to

develop more for tomorrow.”