Give It A Try

During the time of my life when I was a minister and then a general contractor, I wanted to build furniture. Somehow I never found the time and resources. There was always another job calling for my attention or a lack of resources I could not overcome.

One Thanksgiving, Sharon and I made a plan with my daughter and her wife to meet in Asheville, NC. They were living in Steamboat Springs, CO, but Lori’s mother-in-law lived in Asheville. The Friday after Thanksgiving, we all went to see a huge mansion in their vicinity (The Biltmore). Afterward, we walked through a little village filled with craft shops. I was interested in the wood products, and we eventually found an oak library table (four legs, a top, and a band to hold the legs together). It had a six hundred dollar price tag. I said to Sharon, “I can make that.” She said, “Let’s see you do it.” I came home and bought some walnut (I liked it better in our house). I had a small contractor’s table saw, a skill saw, some hand tools, a square hand sander, and odds and ends. What you see in the picture is what came out. Sharon used the dickens out of it. It went up and down stairs several times as she found one place and then another for it. You can see that one side of the drawer sank a little.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was useful. It also got me going in furniture. When my contracting partner and I parted (amicably), I went into building cabinets and furniture with an eventual focus on the latter and small objets d’art. He was right. There was very little business in the beginning. Whenever I hit a rough spot, I’d learn something else. I read everything I could get into my hands about furniture. One summer, I took a month to learn the basics of inlay and a process that I could grow with. Over the years, my inlay has continued to be a work in progress. I learned chairs by taking a desk chair in my shop and figuring out the angles. I combined this information with some I got from our dining room chairs. I took the chairs around to various festivals and got people to sit in them and tell me what they thought. I stopped when I got something that felt comfortable to over 60% of the people who helped. That gave me the basics.

This is why I say, “Give it a try.” There are only a few Sam Maloofs out there. He was one of the best furniture builders I’ve ever seen.

Who knows, maybe you have a table in you.