Acadiana artisan Nonku transforms Louisiana wood into handmade gifts and art

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SUNSET — Every piece of wood in Adam Doucet’s shop has a story. These include sport oak salvaged from the Arnaudville ditch, sinker cypress dug from along the Atchafalaya Basin, and New Orleans plane trees cut down by Hurricane Ida.

“Sycamore is a dream to turn around,” Doucet said. “You learn as you go. I always make sure I know exactly what species I’m working with.”

Identifying a species is like solving a riddle, matching the characteristics he knows with the new parts he finds.

Doucet, 36, has at least 20 types of wood on hand, about nine of which are native to Louisiana, his specialty.

He uses a lathe to turn blocks of wood into bowls, pens, tools, knife handles, and more, which he sells online through his Etsy store. Non-chan’s shop. His name is derived from his nickname, which is a Cajun French title used to refer to his uncle.

“I get absorbed in work.”

He does all his woodworking work on the weekends. During the week, he is a full-time French teacher at Paul Breaux Junior High School.

“As a teacher, at the end of the day, that’s a little bit too much,” Doucet said.

So on Saturdays and Sundays, he puts on some music, sometimes burns some incense, and goes to work at the store behind his home in Sunset.

“I treat it like a meditative state,” he said. “It’s definitely therapeutic. I get absorbed in my work. I pay close attention to it.”

Project length varies depending on complexity and type of wood, but items often take 45 minutes to an hour to complete, Doucet said.

All the money I make from my hobby on the side goes back into my hobby.

“A new chisel arrived in the mail today,” he said.

The chisel hangs on one of the store’s neat rows of utensils of all shapes and sizes, next to a sign that reads “merci pour tout” (thank you for everything) in French on the store’s wall. .

Doucet’s shop also stocks several types of saws, bevels, flutes, and microtools for fine work, as well as sanding mesh, mineral oil, and shellac for various finishes.

“I’ve been woodworking almost my entire life,” Doucet said. “I played a prank at the store with my father.”

“I had about 100 ideas.”

Over the years, I also learned how to operate various machines such as welding and lathes. Thanks to the internet, I learned from mentors I had never met. This is a lesson he passes on to his seventh graders and his eighth graders at school.

“I always tell kids who use YouTube a lot that they can use it for good or bad,” Doucet says. “I’ve never sat down with a woodturner. That’s how I learned. I’m an introvert, so I’m okay with that.”

The Port Barre native has been a teacher for seven years and is also a musician. He’s been playing accordion since he was 10 years old, and is clearly a hands-on guy who also plays fiddle, guitar, and bass.

Three years ago he acquired a lathe that had belonged to a friend’s father-in-law. He recently upgraded to a new machine in June. The new Laguna brand machine spins the wood and can spin between 50 and 3,500 rpm.

He started by making knives and soon made many knives and gave some away as gifts. Then he started making bowls.

“What am I going to do with these knives?” he said jokingly. “I love to make, but all my wife and I need is a few bowls. These aren’t things I really want, but I want to make them.”

more: Learning French changed my life.Now she’s sharing her gifts with an immersion charter school

So he started an Etsy shop in January 2020 and sold some at a market in Opelousas.

“We came up with about 100 ideas,” Doucet said. “But I try to keep my work light. I don’t want to overwhelm myself with too much work. I don’t want it to feel like work.”

“I know it could be something beautiful.”

His shop is full of lumber, some finished, some not yet finished. He rarely buys wood, instead relying on his friends and himself to find hidden treasures around him.

“When there’s a big storm, the parish comes and clears the roads. We drive around and pick up logs that are already cut to workable size,” Doucet said. “I see something in the groove, and I think it must be beautiful.”

He obtains a piece of sinker cypress from Eric Couvillion at Breaux Bridge. The master craftsmen at Live Edge Woodworks own nearly 5,000 acres of land in the Atchafalaya Basin where they dig ancient trees out of the ground.

At Doucet, the larger chunks are used to make bowls and platters, and the smaller chunks are used to make pens and wine bottle stoppers.

“The key is to get the most out of the wood,” Doucet said. “I have a deep connection to nature. I don’t want anything to go to waste.”

If I can’t find it locally, I look for it online. He purchased an old growth pine beam from someone on his Craigslist. This type of wood has been around since before the modern lumber industry and can only be recovered from homes and barns, Doucet said.

“It’s finite,” he said.

Contact children’s issues reporter Leigh Guidry at or on Twitter. @moon_tokyo.

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