Steven Rich has been woodworking for about 15 years. While he’s gifted handmade items—like a custom bookshelf and a wooden robot bar—to friends and family over the years, he has a new opportunity for strangers to purchase his work.
Rich, database editor for investigative journalism at the Washington Post, is Shop Made in DC’s newest maker. He has four different products currently on sale at the company’s Georgetown location under the name Databae Woodshop: bowls and cutting boards, each available in medium or large sizes. They’re priced between $65 and $120.
“There’s this weird idea that I could walk into someone’s home that I’m meeting for the first time and see my product, and that would make me so happy,” Rich says. “I have no idea if that will ever happen. But I like the idea that people who actually don’t really know me are going to get some of the things that I’ve made. I think that’s really exciting.”
It’s a hobby he got hooked on between high school shop class and Boy Scouts. He hasn’t always had access to a woodshop and started building out his own shop a few years ago. Rich now has a full basement to hold his tools, including a table saw, lathe, and band saw. It’s an upgrade from his previous setup in a one-bedroom basement apartment where half of his living room served as the woodshop, occasionally covering his TV and couch in a layer of sawdust.
Even though he’s operating heavy machinery that could “chop off my fingers,” Rich finds woodworking therapeutic. “I get in this really zen headspace, and I have a lot of trouble doing that normally,” Rich says. “It makes me feel like my brain calms down, so I find it as a form of therapy.”
“I’m building things that I hope will outlast me. In some ways, I feel like I am leaving a mark, and I love them being conversation pieces, or people looking at them and feeling some sort of joy,” Rich says. “I really dig bringing people joy through this, and I get that secondary feeling whenever they do.”
Despite the wide range of products he’s made, the bowls and cutting boards for Shop Made in DC presented a new challenge: mass production. Instead of focusing on completing one item at a time, Rich had to “turn my normal thinking on its head” and come up with a repetitive process that made the items “as accurate and similar as possible.”
The kitchenware was suggested to him by Shop Made in DC. Rich had made cutting boards before, but bowls were new, and “circles are really hard.” But he’d written “I can make whatever you want” in his application, and he was up to the challenge, consulting his many woodworking books and YouTube when he needed help.
The first dropoff included 24 items. Rich wants to continue building for Shop Made in DC as long as they’ll keep him, and he’s open to building a variety of things.
“Part of the reason I started making for other people was because I ran out of room in my place. I’d build a table and let it sit because I don’t have room for it,” Rich says, adding that most of what he’s built has gone to fellow journalists he knows. “That’s why I started doing it. This gives me an opportunity to get it into more hands.”