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If you need a dose of optimism in these trying times, just take another look at what talented woodworkers are doing. I recently had the opportunity to participate as a judge in the Veneer Tech Craftsman's Challenge contest. This is the second year I've been invited to be a judge for this contest. This year I was honored to share those duties with Whitney Coombs, president of the architectural woodwork firm Ivan C. Dutterer Inc. of Hanover, Pa., and current president of the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI) and Paul Schurch, owner of Schurch Woodwork in Santa Barbara, Calif. Paul is a veneer and marquetry wizard in his own right and a past winner of the contest. We had to sift through nearly 100 entries that included furniture, architectural millwork, cabinetry, specialty items and student work. Pieces ranged from small sculptural items to an entire theater. Some of the student work was particularly impressive. I can't reveal the winners yet, but you can check out all the entries at Veneer Tech's website. In a world where too many people seem to be racing for the bottom, it's refreshing to participate in something that rewards those still looking upward.

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