About Me and The Studio

"Your reason and your judgement wage war against your passion and your appetite. Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody. But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements.

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. For reason ruling alone is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.

Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing. And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes."

- Kahlil Gibran from "The Prophet"

Ratione et Passionis (Latin for Reason and Passion) are the words I use in my logo and at the end of every post I write here. They sum up perfectly my life, packed full of passions and ideally guided to success by reason. 

In the workshop


My name is Derek Olson and I make things. 

Often what I make is furniture pieces from solid wood. I use mostly traditional hand tool woodworking techniques to do this, not so much because of the romance of it, but because I believe a hand saw, a chisel, a hand plane and more, give me the best control over the process and the outcome. The work that comes from my hands is wrought from hard won skill. 

This doesn't mean I eschew machines, I have several normal woodworking machines in my shop and make use of them. What I get in my work is the luxury of choice. The chance to pick the best tool and process to carry out whatever task necessary. 

But woodworking doesn't sum up all that happens around the studio. 

At the drafting table

I'm also an artist/illustrator. I spend time at the drafting table often working with graphite, watercolors, and ink. Some of my work has been used in the displays of the Castlerock Museum of Arms and Armor in Alma WI. 

I also have a background in printmaking and where I used to work in the intaglio process in recent years I have been leaning into woodcut prints. creating papers to line some of the boxes and cabinets of my woodwork, but also, recently working into Japanese style woodcut prints (Mokuhanga) as accompanying illustrations for a book. 

I sell prints of my work and sometimes the original pieces too. If you're interested you can visit my Etsy store front to see what's available today. Check back often.  

My first published article in Pop Wood

I am also a published author. Above writing here on this blog I have written for various online sources and traditionally published articles in both Popular Woodworking Magazine and Mortise & Tenon Magazine

I am also working on a few books of my own. A long running project focuses on recreating the furniture documented in a fantastic medieval manuscript and is tentatively titled "Correspondence with Kings: Medieval Furniture in the Morgan Bible." Another that has recently stepped to the front of the line focuses on the Viking center boss shields; their construction and use. 

Lecturing on Medieval Furniture at Castlerock Museum

I'm an independent scholar. I give at least one lecture a year at the Castlerock Museum of Arms and Armor focusing on some aspect of Medieval history. I consider myself an experimental archaeologist because just reading about it in a book often isn't enough for me. I have to get dirty and sweat with it. The experience of something historical is as important as the dates, numbers, and facts. 

I wanted to know how viking and crusader era armor worked. Not just how it was worn for a few minutes, but how to wear it for the day. How to walk, run, and work in the armor. How to fight in the armor. I will tell you that fighting in armor is functionally different from walking in a parade, but how would I have ever found that out without investing in a suit and discovering the tricks by trial and error because no one who knew ever thought it would be something they needed to record. I take this same approach with many of my explorations, dig in deep and figure things out first hand if possible.

Dressed for War: Demonstrating to the public during Viking Day at
Castlerock Museum

I'm also a photographer. I shoot my own work for this blog and my publications. I'm working with the Castlerock Museum to photo-document their entire collection, and I'll also be collaborating with Bad Axe Tool Works Mark Harrell to do the photography for his upcoming book on saws and saw sharpening. 

I'm an avid book collector, with over 300 volumes on woodworking alone. I'm an art collector and pop culture collector. I build models and replica movie props. All of these things you will see written about from time to time here. 

I also teach and demonstrate woodworking a couple times a year (though I'd like to do it more!) Keep an eye on the events page to see where I'm gonna be and decide if you can come meet me in person. 

Life is full of labels . . .

Most importantly: 

I have more friends in life than I deserve. 

I am married to a wonderful woman who puts up with all my obsessions and ideas. 

I am also the proud father of three children who show all the signs of becoming well intentioned and functional adults. Watch out world, all three are smarter than me . . .

Well now you've met me. For better or worse this is who I am if I sum it all up into a brag page. All in all I am a lucky man who hopes he has just enough time on this planet to finish climbing a few of the mountains I've set in my path. I know I won't make them all. I just want a few. 

Ratione et Passionis

Standing as a Docent for the H.O. Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench exhibition
held in Cedar Rapids Iowa in 2015.
The honor of a lifetime!

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