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Familiar Faces: Sutters turns woodworking hobby into business

By: Menka Belgal, Telegraph Correspondent
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A passion begins somewhere and for Glenn Sutter it began when his wife Julie bought him a lathe five years ago to make the smoke stacks for the trains that are on his wooden advent calendar.

His garage, which he uses for his workshop, is now outfitted with the lathe, a table saw, a scroll saw, a band saw and a full dust collection system-all which turn out much more than smoke stacks.

What items do you make?

On my website (gipettowoodworking.com) I sell wooden pens and pencils, cigar punches, advent trees, acrylic pens, honey spoons, ice cream scoops, wooden bowls and plates, bottle stoppers, coffee and tea scoops and stools for kids which double as name puzzle. Prices for the pens range from $15 to $45 with the advent tree being the most expensive at $70.

Where did you come up with the name “gipetto” for your website?

When I come home from work and I’m stressed, my wife tells me to go to the garage and play “Geppetto” who is the toymaker in Pinocchio. I spell the name for the website a little differently.

What are your pens made from?

Some pens are acrylic and others wood. I get the materials from a wholesaler and even from friends that cut down trees; anything that can turn into a pen. A friend of mine has an apple orchard and I get a lot of the wood from her. I use 20 different varieties of wood including African Blackwood, chestnut, teak, and cocobolo from South America which is my favorite wood to work with. However, I’m allergic to it.   

Have you taken any classes to learn the craft?

I did take wood crafting and bowl making class, and have read lots of woodworking magazines but most of what I do I learned on my own.

Is there anything unique about your products?

Every stool I make, I put a penny in it. A grandfather of a friend of mine who used to make furniture put pennies in what he made and suggested that I do the same. All of my puzzle stools have a penny in them. I also personalize each advent tree I make. One of the ornaments on the advent tree is a little package with a tag that says: To: Childs name, From: Santa. I get requests years after I give the tree as a gift for new ornaments to cover new children or new animals that have joined the family!

Which item is the most labor intensive?

Definitely the advent calendar; it takes at least 15 hours (compared to a pen that only takes 30 minutes). The advent tree requires lots of drilling of holes which fortunately my son the dentist helps with now using a dentist drill. The 15 hours per tree doesn’t include the painting of the ornaments which my wife does.

What other projects do you do?

I have helped lots of neighbor children and friends with projects. From Pinewood Derby cars, a Parthenon for a kid’s school project, fraternity paddles, Halloween tombstones, bearded dragon lizard cages. Friends come up with what they need and I make it. I recently helped a neighbor make new legs for his couch to raise the couch so when he came home from surgery his recovery would be easier. I have also taught numerous neighbors how to make pens. I love helping out my friends.

Tell us about your family.

I have two boys: Scott is a dentist and Craig is a senior in college. Julie, my wife of 30 years is a CPA.

What do you do when you’re not playing “Geppetto?”

I’m a Vice President of America’s Tire Company. I spend a lot of time in my car traveling between stores so woodworking is a great release when I get home.

I also enjoy gardening and the whole composting process.

I enjoy wine. When we moved here, I was a (beer) guy but love wine now. I volunteer at a local winery in Placerville a couple of times a year bottling. I find the whole process of wine making very interesting.

What volunteer work do you do?

Every year I volunteer at the Track and Field event for Special Olympics. We have a dear friend who participates in the event and it is truly one of my favorite days of the year.

A lot of my volunteer work involves my wood working. I did lots of volunteering for Oak Ridge High School when my children were involved in the band program. I made carts to haul the instruments, hats, and shoes to band reviews and football games, I made trophy shelves, I rebuilt a xylophone, and made cases to transport the drum sets to band functions.

When they were at Silva Valley I made a bridge for a play my son was in and it ended up being used in a future ceremony.

The company I work for has a great charity that helps families within the company in a time of need. I am always looking for ways to help collect money for that charity so one year I made a bunch of advent trees and told the managers that any money they paid to buy the tree I would donate to this assistance fund. I sold 20.