Creative, whimsical work captures #YoungWoodPro
Steep and Cauldron by Rebecca DeGroot

Rebecca DeGroot’s “Steep and Cauldron” won first prize in the Young Wood Pro 2023 competition.

Sculptural woodworking that looks like it could stand up and start walking marched away with the top honors in the 2023 Young Wood Pro competition.

Some 39 projects covering a wide range of woodworking, including furniture, a guitar, and ecclesiastical work, were submitted to the contest, which was sponsored by Grizzly Industrial. All the entries were posted on social media with public enthusiasm narrowing the field to 10 finalists.

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Those finalists were judged by members of the Woodworking Network editorial team and Matt Buell, who as the official professional woodworking host of the contest had been encouraging entries by posting videos and articles with tips for young woodworking professionals.

After voting and discussions, the judges chose “Steep and Cauldron” by Rebecca DeGroot as the winning project. The project consists of two wooden turned vessels made with maple burl, maple, black dye, and satin finish. They look like tea pots that have sprouted working legs.

“These were pieces I completed while trapped in my house in quarantine,” said the 33-year-old DeGroot. “The bodies are turned from maple burl, and the legs and other details were carved from maple and died black.”
Judges liked the fine craftsmanship and creative design displayed in the work.

“The design is original, and the finish looks great,” said Buell, who is known for contemporary furniture with a sculptural flair. “The use of dye was also a great idea. Also, the photos are well presented. The skill level is appropriate. These seem exceptionally done.”

The design was also popular on social media, earning more “likes” than any other project in the contest.
In addition to the $500 cash first prize, DeGroot will also receive her choice of one of four special 40th anniversary professional caliber woodworking machines from Grizzly Industrial. Look to next month in FDMC for a full feature on DeGroot and her work.

St. Thomas More Altar by Nathan Deal
Nathan Deal’s “St. Thomas More Altars” earned an Honorable Mention from the judges.

But DeGroot wasn’t the only winner in this year’s contest. Because of the diverse nature of all of the entries, judges struggled with their decision and decided an additional project deserved special recognition. 

Judges gave Honorable Mention to a project called “St. Thomas More Altars,” submitted by 32-year-old Nathan Deal, who operates a woodworking business called Fabri Filius. The project involved two church altars made out of red oak and done in a neo-gothic style to match the remainder of woodwork in the church. The project involved curved work, hand carving, and took 18 months to complete.

The Young Wood Pro contest competition recognizes outstanding projects and the young wood pros who create them. Entries are limited to one per person, and entrants must be between the ages of 18-35, (by year’s end 2023) and be a professional woodworker.

This year, thanks to the sponsorship from Grizzly, there is more to #YoungWoodPro than just the contest. Matt Buell will continue to offer tips and encouragement to young rising woodworking professionals throughout the year. He will be posting advice, discussions, and engaging videos on Woodworking Network and in a variety of social media channels. Learn more at the #YoungWoodPro home page.


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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.