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The Woodworker Sessions #10 - 10 Questions with Ennis Venter of Cape Town

The Woodworker Sessions #10 - 10 Questions with Ennis Venter of Cape Town

This week in The Woodworker Sessions, it is my privilege to chat to Ennis Venter of Durbanville near Cape Town. Ennis is a wonderful gentleman, quietly spoken, extremely humble and a remarkably talented woodworker with an exceptionally keen design eye.

Question #1

Tobias: How, why and when did you become interested in woodworking?

Ennis: I first became interested out of necessity in 2003 when I had to build a staircase leading up to a mezzanine floor for an extension that we did for our house.

I got someone to deliver a piece of Yellow Bluegum,  four metres long and 250mm x 250mm. It was rough sawn with a chainsaw. I was 15 years younger and I hand planed the entire piece with a  #7 Stanley Jointer. The stair treads were then cantilevered from the solid beam.

No one told me how hard Bluegum was and that it would take ten years to dry! Hence, we now have a beautiful staircase with a “slight” bow in it.

Question #2

Tobias: What aspect of your craft do you find most enjoyable and least enjoyable?

Ennis: I love researching a project, planning and doing the drawings (I’m busy teaching myself Sketch-Up). Then, having a good reason to buy some more tools! The part of woodworking that I really don’t enjoy is sanding. 

Question #3

Tobias: What are your favourite hand tools?

Ennis: Any old hand planes - I have a small collection of Norris & Spiers smoothing and cabinet planes and of course, anything made by Veritas or Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.

Question #4

Tobias: What are your favourite power tools and stationary machines?

Ennis: I have a Felder combination machine. I really enjoy the long sliding bed for safety and accuracy. I also have an oscillating drum sander, Felder band saw, a Japanese drill press from the 70’s. I admit to having the "Green Fever" and own almost everything that Festool has made.

If I had to choose one tool, it would most probably be my band saw.

Question #5

Tobias: Do you use a dedicated space for your craft, what floor area do you have and how much time do you manage to spend on woodworking per week?

Ennis: I use our double garage and I have a tool room inside the house where I lock up my smaller hand and power tools. I had to build a car-port from re-claimed Bluegum trees. I completely underestimated the task at hand, otherwise I would never have started!

I try and spend at least an hour a day after work and I am in my workshop on most weekends.

Question #7

Tobias: What was the first piece you ever made, what is your favourite piece and what is the next piece you wish to build?

Ennis: My first real piece of furniture that I made was a large coffee table that was a mix of Maple and Wenge.

My favourite pieces are chairs, which I built from the design available on the Felder website, where they advertise their band saw.

My next piece is a Roubo work bench.

I have ordered the Bench Crafted Front and Tail Vise and cannot wait for the parcel to arrive.


Question #8

Tobias: What are your favourite timbers to work with, what timbers do you avoid, and why?

Ennis: My favourite timbers are American Black Walnut, American White Oak, American Black Cherry and Ash. I love the colour and density of Wenge, but it is probably the easiest way to lose a digit if you come close to a router table with it. Wenge is also very splintery.

Question #9

Tobias: What is your standard finishing process for you pieces?

Ennis: I prefer using Danish Oil for the ease of applying it and I also use Tung Oil, although it takes quite some time to dry.

For outdoor projects, I create a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine.

I have just finished 2 keep-sake boxes that I made from Wild Olive. On these pieces, I just used a small square of the same wild olive (after sanding to 220 grit) to burnish the wood. This gives a super gloss finish without any finishing products.


Question #10

Tobias: If you could add another discipline of woodworking to your arsenal, what would it be?

Ennis: To have enough space for a decent size CNC machine. There is a Russian woodworker on YouTube who has two five axis routers – now that will be the ultimate!

This is my nice to have list:

  • To build a four garage space workshop with solid ash flooring.
  • Dedicated Dust Extraction ducting to all separate machines (thicknesser, planer, table saw, double drum sander and CNC machine) with remote control of the dust extraction system.
  • Great workshop security – so that I don’t have to carry all my hand tools and portable power tools to my tool room in the house. 

Previous article The Woodworker Sessions #11 - 10 Questions with Anthony Berry of Cape Town
Next article The Woodworker Sessions #9 - Ten Questions with Felix Unite of Cape Town


Tobias Lochner - March 12, 2019

Hi Llewellyn . Thanks so much for reading the Woodworker Sessions. It is so heartening to see that our articles and the woodworkers that we feature are inspirational! You are most welcome to get in touch with me, maybe we can chat woodworking and get you going!

Llewellyn Simons - March 12, 2019

Fantastic. Inspirational. Soul satisfaction. imagine what this man can do if his wishlist is fulfilled.It Just spurs me on to learn more about woodworking.

Datus - December 4, 2018

Well done! I am working on a CNC machine for my shop. Well worth the effort.

Joel Harris - December 2, 2018

Ennis this is superb! Please do share more pics of your builds and your shop/setup, would love to see your layout etc. Have to say my favorite build here is the car port. Definite Greene and Greene/Japanese influence? Really top shelf work.

Christopher van Zyl - December 1, 2018


Bobby - December 1, 2018

Beautiful. 👏👏

Eugene Taljaard - December 1, 2018

Nice interview with a skilled craftsman!

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