A man of many talents, Corey Valichnac’s love of nature expresses itself in beautiful sculptural bowls. He works with many kinds of wood, and says “walnut and mesquite are my favorites and I acquire most of my wood myself.”
Bowls are not his only output. “I make lidded boxes and I have done some work with resin and wood. I’m starting to make some knives and hatchets, I refinish furniture and I have also made tables and picture frames.”
Born and raised in Pinetop-Lakeside, he went to Blue Ridge schools. “I learned to work hard at the young age of 12 when I was stocking lumber for my dad who was a general contractor building houses. That’s where I found my love of wood,” he continued. “There are many homes up here I have helped build over the years.”
He began a career in fire in 1997 with the U.S. Forest Service, Lakeside Ranger District, working during the fire season and then went full time with the Lakeside Fire Department in 2000. He continued there until 2016 when he was forced to retire after experiencing two serious back injuries.
“Everybody told me when one door closes another door opens.” That was certainly true. He was able to equip a wood shop for just over $1,000 through estate auctions and friends. “I started learning how to make bowls from the school of hard knocks. I blew up a few pieces,” he explained, “before I learned what to not do, and watched a few tutorials and lots of trial and error and patience.”
With his equipment, a Woodfast lathe made in Australia, he can turn a 22” diameter bowl about 16” deep. Many of his bowls include a turquoise inlay which Corey explains is “chrysocolla. It’s a copper stone ranging from light green to deep blue and is often found in association with Malachite and Azurite.”
Explaining the beautiful glossy finish on his bowls, he says “it’s because of all the time I put in to sanding/finishing process. I do two to three coats of tung oil, then six to 12 coats of gloss lacquer from a spray can. I wet sand by hand. It’s six sets of wet sanding and five sets of dry sanding before polishing.”
He and his wife live in Show Low with their three children. His youngest son has shown an interest in making a few things on the lathe and scroll saw. “Perhaps he will follow in his daddy’s footstep.”