Former firefighter turns Pinellas County trees into art

Nick Reale has owned his own woodturning studio for a few years now.

He was once a firefighter for Pinellas Park Fire Rescue for 30 years before retiring.  One day his wife asked him to build a birdhouse, but he said he didn’t want to be the retired firefighter who sits around and makes birdhouses.

So, he decided to try his hand at woodturning. He made a pen -- and was hooked. The hobby became a passion. Nick now makes beautiful bowls, and gorgeous vases and other vessels as well as boxes, cutting boards, spoons, plates and lots of other items.

(FOX 13 News)

He only uses wood from Pinellas County, and is very specific on which trees he chooses.

“Each part of the country (and the world) have their own unique and beautiful species of trees. Living in Florida, I'm lucky to have access to a wide and differing range. Adverse to clear cutting, I try to select from those that have come down in storms, are removed because of age or health, or are removed due to urban development,” according to his website.

The process from there is a tedious one. Trunks weigh anywhere between 100 and 500 pounds. That is taken to his workshop where he cuts them into smaller pieces, making it easier to work with. Those pieces then placed on wood racks to dry -- and that process can take up to two years. Then, he can begin turning and crafting his creative piece.

Nick’s works will be on display at the Florida Craft Art Festival happening in downtown St. Pete, from November 23 to 24. 

LINK: Check out his work at