In his third career as a woodturner, Steve Bistritz of Harrington Park is happy as can be.
He loves that his driveway is filled with wood.
It brings him joy to see 50 more pieces of wood drying in his basement – and 50 beyond that completely dried and ready for his lathe.
“I only use wood that is already down on the street or at the end of the woods,” Bistritz said.
“If I’m riding with my wife,” he added, “and I see some oak from a tree someone took down, I’ll stop and throw a few pieces in the car.”
Sure, Bistritz enjoyed running his own butcher shop – Olde Tyme Meats and Deli – in Ringwood, then Closter, for 20 years. The 62-year-old Elmwood Park native also likes his current day job as a computer tech.
But Sawdust Unlimited , his woodturning business? Now that's divine. He gets to transform pieces of oak, maple, poplar, and the occasional birch into artful bowls, plates, platters, vases and candle holders.
“Ornamental fruit tree woods turn like butter,” Bistritz said. “Cherry is my favorite because it smells like you cracked open a cherry soda when you’re turning it.”
The world of wood opened for Bistritz after he closed Olde Tyme in 2006 and became a computer tech. Suddenly, his weekends were free. When he went to a New Jersey Woodturners open house in Roseland and they put the tools in his hands, he fell in love.
Two weeks later, he had a lathe in his basement.
There was a learning curve, Bistritz explained, which is only natural. After all, a lathe spins at 3,000 revolutions per minute.
“You have to learn how to duck,” he said.
Sometimes Bistritz sits and stares at a piece of wood or a branch and ponders what he can do with it. To him, that’s usually the best part.
He feels satisfied when he turns something that would have disintegrated into a work of art.
Bistritz calls what he does “the ultimate form of recycling.”
The only person with whom Bistritz works is his wife, Ann, who is his artistic consultant, business partner and craft show companion. In the year the two have hit the show circuit, they’ve sold a lot.
“We have pieces in Japan, Dubai, Texas, Canada, Seattle and Australia,” Ann Bistritz said.