MiVT: K Bowley Woodcraft

Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 2:00 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GRAND ISLE, Vt. (WCAX) - K Bowley Woodcraft products are works of art, but the guy making them doesn’t think of himself as an artist.

“I certainly don’t think I’m creative artistically. I’m creative technically,” he said.

Kyle Bowley has been woodworking for eight years, with most of his tools inherited from his grandfather. He’s never taken a woodworking class in his life.

“Totally self-taught. YouTube University is what I like to say,” he laughed.

Despite that, his products are extremely unique, which he says allows him to stand out from others in the field. Bowley typically makes cutting boards with Lichtenberg figures and geographical maps of Vermont-- both of which call upon his background in engineering.

“I like to say if it’s not incredibly complicated or incredibly dangerous, I don’t do it,” Bowley said.

The cutting boards are made using an electric current to carve a pattern into the wood.

“Online I saw this video using electricity that created a lot of flame and a lot of smoke and a very beautiful pattern. And I said, ‘I’ve got to figure out what that is and learn how to do that,’” he said, noting that if done incorrectly, the process can be fatal.

Once the wood has been burned, he inlays crushed stone for a colorful and sometimes sparkly effect.

But, his engineering abilities really shine with his maps.

“Being in Vermont, many of them are very Vermont-focused and Vermont-centric, but I have done other states. You give me a GPS coordinate and I can pull a map off of it,” he explained.

Bowley built a machine to etch the elevations into the wood, using nearly 1.2 million lines of code and seven computer programs. It uses four motors to carve maps built by data from the U.S. Geological Survey. The accuracy, he says, is within 1/1000th of an inch.

“These [maps] actually have a 12x exaggeration on the elevation. So the mountains here at 12x taller. That puts Mount Mansfield as twice as tall as Everest,” he laughed. “Doing them perfectly to scale basically looks like an unsanded piece of wood for Vermont.”

Making these products is primarily a hobby for Bowley, who sells mostly via Instagram and at farmers markets. And while he may not be an artist, this creative engineer is certainly making art out of his craft.

“I like to say really I’m getting fed art through nature, all I’m doing is bringing it out.”