I was in law school, and I woke up in a
cold sweat one morning early on and realized that that was the last thing in
the world I really wanted to do. But in order to make some money one time I joined a carpentry crew, and things just clicked immediately. I just
understood everything they asked me to do and could do it. So before very long at all I was doing the trim carpentry. I was building bookcases and built-in
cabinet work. And at that point I took a look at furniture again and said oh man that’s made out of wood too. How in the world did they do that? And decided that I wanted to be a furniture maker. So for several years I made my living as
a kitchen cabinet maker. I was making a living and looking for
every opportunity trying fishing for every opportunity to make a piece of
fine hardwood furniture whenever I got the chance And before long I found myself with a
15,000 square foot factory and 25 employees, to make the long story
short. I found myself behind a desk all day long again on the phone all the time
putting out fires, handling labor problems, handling supplier problems. The only time I touched a piece of wood was when I had to go out to the wood storage
shed with a with a representative from the sawmill to show him how the wood
that they sent us wasn’t wasn’t adequate. That was very frustrating for me because
I had gotten out of the white-collar world because I wanted to work with my
hands and build beautiful things and I was not working with my hands and I
wasn’t building anything that was particularly beautiful. I was building
pretty pretty mundane stuff. As the business was growing into an enterprise I was starting to I was starting to get commissions for really fine custom pieces. I did several commissions of 18th century work that started to get noticed and started to bring about commissions that were good enough and big enough and
valuable enough where I realized I could actually make a living for my family off
of just custom commissions. So I sold that business the first chance I got and determined never to have more than two assistants again,
and built this shop that we’re in. In many ways I wish I had it to do over
again because I would lay out the shop quite differently. But I’ve managed
to get everything done that I needed to do in this building. My parents had a book on 18th century
English furniture and in it was a double-page spread picture of an English
desk on bookcase or one might say a secretary. And the workmanship of it was
just incredible. I just I specifically remember that piece of furniture,
obviously many pieces of furniture affected me but but that particular one
just just knocked me out. And it was fancy veneer and fancy carved. It was
just beyond my wildest imagination to actually be able to accomplish. I think
at this point I could accomplish it, and I’ve done things of that level.
But at the time it was it was just like looking at magic. The first commission I
got for a piece of real furniture was a sheet music cabinet for a lady
that my family knew. She wanted a sheet music cabinet and I
made it out of cherry. And I look back at it now and given my
level of skill and knowledge, it was a really a creditable piece of furniture
and I’m very proud of having done it. And actually I look back at it I’m kind
of amazed that I was able to do it when I did. I classify myself as self-taught
but a self-taught person finds all kinds of mentors. People to teach them
this or …. I had one set of mentors that taught me skills and techniques and another set of mentors that taught me styles and design.
And in my particular case the two didn’t cross over very much. My style
mentors didn’t really know a whole lot about technique or skill, they weren’t
makers. And my maker mentors really didn’t know as much about style as I
wanted to know. So I needed both groups to pull it together. Not long after I started, Fine Woodworking came on the scene and I just started devouring that
every word on every page. And a couple of other magazines came on the scene and then they started publishing books and I devoured all of them. So I learned a whole lot from reading as well. So did anybody ever want to barter you
like a ’72 Chevy for a piece of work. I did, I did actually. I traded a
chair once for a Triumph TR3, which was which was fun. And I ended up
selling the TR3 for quite a nice profit. So I’ve done something like that. When
you asked about funny stories the the funniest story that comes to mind is the client from hell. They blandished me with the offer of
tens of thousands of dollars worth of commissions. I should have known better
when the when the lady said that she wanted the underside of everything to be
just as pretty as the show surfaces so that her cats would be able to enjoy it. Looking back on it the the humor of of having to work with someone who was as
concerned with with what her cats saw as what as what she saw, I can laugh at that. I’ve just got the packrat mentality. I
just can’t stand to see something potentially useful be thrown away. Every time I throw away a pattern that I
worked so hard to to develop When realized I’m not ever gonna make that
piece of furniture again Still I worked so hard to develop a good pattern that,
that they all, they all have a history here sitting in the shop and I can
remember every piece of furniture I made when I look at that pattern. And it’s hard it’s hard to throw them away. A lot of the people that I teach,
nowadays when I teach, are people who have worked in industry or at a
profession that they didn’t really love and what they love is their woodworking
that they do as a hobby. Well I’ve been able to,
I’ve been able to make a halfway decent living, doing it full-time. That’s, it’s an incredible blessing to have stumbled into it. I did just sort of stumble
backwards into it. How I discovered myself as someone who can do this stuff is, was just circumstance, but it sure was a happy thing

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