Who Are You? Thumbnail Biographies of Forum Members

Ever wonder who you're interacting with on WOODWEB? In this thread, forum posters give a brief history of their lives in the woodworking trade. June 16, 2014

I have been reading WOODWEB for quite a while now. I will occasionally comment on a post if I think I have a valid point. I wonder about where some of you are located and the amount of experience and background that you have. Let's give a little background info on ourselves and see who everybody is. I will start.

Located in Washington GA.
56 yrs. old.
Been in business fulltime for 28 years.
BSED in Industrial Arts Education. Taught high school vocational construction for six years before going into business.
Shop size: 2800 square feet for building. 4000 square foot for office, showroom, finishing.
Working alone now. Part time help for installs. Had five employees when the boom was going on.
No CNC machines. Basic table saws, shapers, woodworking machines.
Residential cabinets only. Face frame only.
Outsource doors. Make everything else.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)

From contributor J:
I'm in Los Angeles. I'm 47 and have been in woodworking for 18 years. I got into the woodworking business doing drafting and office work. Over the years I've learned it all. We do primarily residential cabinets and furniture. One full time employee and a part time installation helper, besides the two of us. Our shop is 5,000 square feet, which is bigger than what we need since the recession hit. Itís less expensive to stay here than to move and it's a really cozy building.

From contributor X:
I am 40 years old and live in Wapakoneta, Ohio. I got into the trade when I was 23-24.I worked for a shop for a few years then built a 30x80' shop to do side jobs. In 1999 I decided to start my own business. I have added another 900 square feet since then and still continue to upgrade equipment and try to keep on top of things as far as staying current with cabinet trends and products.

From Contributor K:
I'm in Winslow, Maine. I'm 35, and have been at this ten years or so. I taught physics and earth science at a local high school for a large chunk of that time. Getting tired of working 90 hours a week I resigned three years ago. I have a 4300 square foot shop, one full time employee, a part time finisher (paint), office manager/accountant (wife), and two part time floor sweepers (my boys). We are primarily a faceframe shop, particularly beaded inset shaker style. We build everything in house, but have outsourced in the past.

From Contributor W:
Iím 57 years old and I just kept falling down uphill until I got here and it is much more comfortable than when I started! Never stop growing just do not force it!

From contributor N:
I am 53 years old and live two hours east of Pittsburgh, PA. I have been a remodeling contractor and wood worker for 35 years. I had a partner for about twenty years but have been a one man show for the past fifteen. My shop is 1500 square feet. I do not build kitchen cabinets, mostly furniture and case work. I really learned a lot from this site, especially finishing and spraying CV.

From contributor Y:
I'm 70 I've been working at the trade since I was 17. I started in a small shop in Dobbs Ferry, New York . I now live in Kansas and have 3700 square foot shop behind my house. We do primarily residential kitchens, bars and entertainment centers. We do primarily face frame but on occasion have done some European-style cabinets. I've had my own business for 30 years.

From Contributor U:
I was once a wild eyed romantic that dreamed of living in the woods making stuff. I found the first issue of Fine Woodworking and it gave me encouragement to carry on. I worked for others for 15 years - mostly quality custom architectural stuff, running shops, growing shops, then quit one day to start my own thing. I had to become a Capitalist of sorts - pay taxes, hire, fire. The business grew and grew, taking me with it, a bit reluctantly. I ended up buying a building (2004) as a retirement plan - build equity. When the world changed, I lost it all - 1.2M investment was worth about 200k. Paid my bills as best I could and avoided bankruptcy, but back where I started 23 years ago. What motivates me today is what motivated me 40 years ago - making very nice things out of everyone's favorite material.

From Contributor W:
I liked the idea of "building things people do not throw away."

From contributor D:
I'm just outside of Boston in a snug 1700 square foot shop, though in process of expanding out to get closer to 2k square feet. Have a full complement of tradition WW equipment as well as a CNC drill. Learned a lot about working with my hands early on and it carried through to high school shop class, and then a couple years of architectural engineering. I turned 41 this past summer. I worked for a larger millwork shop and learned a lot, but never really liked the atmosphere, felt it was more like a small factory than a wood shop. I started my own shop roughly 12 years ago and Iíve been at it ever since. I build mostly custom cabinetry and interior doors, though occasionally dabble in small furniture pieces. I also like the idea of "building things people don't throw away", but have already seen some of my work torn out for new owners. A good percentage of my work goes into the city where new owners have to add their touch to their unit and often gut and start from scratch.

From contributor S:
Mine has been a trip of twists and turns. A fantasy of being a skilled traditional woodworker fell as I found myself cutting the dreaded laminate and particle board but switching jobs for a .25 or .50 an hour increase does that when making $4.00 and all focus shifted. It became a production game and I decided since I was there to be as good as I could. I have been a manager for years, fired a few times, walked off a few times and re-hired time after time. You probably have used stuff that I had a hand in. Forty years later I am not a woodworker, if anything a guy that works with wood, and steel and composites and plastic and glass and fabric, itís endless.

For years I have not really been on the machines except to teach, trying to instill the fundamentals I was taught long ago, those lessons never left and its fun to bring them out for someone to hopefully pick up. So itís 100,000 square feet plants, fabricating mostly ubiquitous commercial use furniture and interior stuff up to half-million dollar store fixtures for exclusive designer fashions. It all gets used and thrown out after its life is over. We recently bought a closed down steel chair fabricating plant and I was put in place to run it and try to bring back its once vibrant life, I am the fix it guy. Now itís 100,000 feet of stamping machines, swagers, overhead conveyers, benders, powder lines, welders and employees hoping for another chance at staying employed. If I can make that happen a few years from now maybe the wood tools at home will want to play again.

From contributor L:
Older than dirt, 71. Started making wooden toys and traveling the art fair circuit, fun (not profitable enough to raise a couple of kids on.) I operated as a two-three man shop for several years. Furniture, moldings, a few kitchens, replacement parts for Victorian houses, then started making parts for a store fixture manufacturer. When they went bust I hired three of their best employees and started making fixtures. Over the years the shop has expanded to 25,000 square feet, 17 employees. Do most any kind of commercial interior work. Lots of CNC/computer stuff in the shop. I ship nationwide and do not install.

From contributor M:
I'm 45 and live in Southeast Kansas. I've been woodworking in some form or another since I was about 14. For the last 21 years, I've taught Cabinetmaking. I currently teach Advanced Cabinetmaking/Furniture Design and Residential Carpentry. My day job is teaching teenagers how to design and build cabinets and houses. My evening and weekend job is building cabinets, mantels, entertainment centers and furniture at home in my 2,400 square foot shop. In general, I work about 70-80 hours per week between teaching and cabinetmaking.

From Contributor E:
I am 60 years old and my shop is in Pontiac, MI. I began seriously when I was 22 building sofa and chair frames for the family business back when they were made out of 5/4 maple rather them plywood. Then I moved on to passage doors, cabinetry, hit the craft show circuit for a while, built some furniture, and became proficient at doing many things along the way. In 2007 bought a Dodds manual dovetail machine to make my own drawers and thought I could also sell these to the local shops. Best business move I made. I'm on my second CNC dovetailer and I now have pretty much tied up the market for the area around me, producing a little over 100 drawer boxes a day with five employees. I'm still locating new customers. I've moved and acquired a lot of new machinery along the way.

From contributor F:
I'm in southeastern Kentucky and 41 years old. When I was a kid I liked to build chicken cages, then when I got in high school got into the shop classes. I mounted a circular saw upside down in an old desk at home and made a table saw and I guess my dad saw potential and went and bought me a craftsman contractor saw. I have worked for other businesses building living room furniture, mobile homes, and have run some heavy equipment. I have now been in business for about 15 years, building primarily kitchen cabinets but not limited to it. I'm always looking to try new things to improve my business and to set my work apart from the rest. To be honest, having satisfied customers and the friends that I have made through this profession means more to me than the money that I have made. Money gets spent and doesn't go very far but the friends are always there. By the way, I'm also a Baptist minister and have pastored for the last 11 years. I have a full time life, but a blessed one.

From contributor C:
I am 44 years old. I live near Jerusalem in Israel but I am originally from Englewood N.J. I have been working in the carpentry field professionally for about 12 years and was always fascinated with wood. I started out by doing cabinets for clients after work and progressed to finally opening my own shop. I make and install all sorts of projects from cabinets to doors and everything in between. I realize that I will never become a millionaire by being a one man shop but I have found a modicum of solace by being honest and good at what I do. I worked professionally as a chef and kitchen manager for almost 20 years and have also worked doing renovations and construction. I hope to expand my business by purchasing better tools and by adding space and employees to my shop but plan to take it slow. So far I have seen many shops expand to quickly only to find that they can't cope with the costs involved.

From Contributor W:
I did not know that, I came real close to staying in Israel in the late 70's during my ten year romp around the world. I met a girl and gave serious consideration to becoming a member in a kibbutz. It had a small furniture factory along with farming and the other trades in Kibbutz life. In my heart I could not settle to stay and know I made the right decision for both of them and I yet I have always admired the life and ways of Israel.

From contributor C:
I started as a tourist on a kibbutz - that was in high school 1980's. The country certainly has changed over the years. Now the napkins no longer have a plastic coating and you can get most anything your heart desires (if you have the money) and the standard of living has improved to European standards. I live in a smallish gated community and commute to work in Jerusalem although my shop is in the local industrial zone (I started out in an out building next to my home). I try to provide clients (mostly English speakers) with the level of craftsmanship and quality they are accustomed to.

From Contributor O:
After a youth of building anything I could - slot cars, forts, model cars - I went to the Big State University, where they were amused by my desire to make furniture. Then I spent a year and a half on the road (Road Scholar), before finding work rebuilding antiques and framing pictures. Once I realized that wood was what I needed, I went to the best shop I knew of and begged to get hired. I did, at minimum wage, but they built curved stairs, shutters, doors, mantels, etc. all custom, and all solid wood. The stair parts retailing paid for everything, so we had all the time in the world to make or do anything we wanted in the shop - all solid wood, all traditional joinery. I left there as the owner developed Alzheimer's, and went off to build cabinets in a commercial shop. I learned (to hate) plastic laminate, and was promoted to running the shop and estimating, then I left for a start up with three people. That shop did residential architectural work - pre-hung doors, moldings, assembled parts, etc. I expanded the skills and grew it to 14 employees in five years. I did all the buildings, the equipment, hiring and firing, and tracked the costs on everything we did. The cost tracking was the most important, in hindsight.

I left when I realized the owners were shifting to just milking it for cash. They canceled the health insurance, became self-insured, and directed me to fire anyone with any sort of health problem. I quit one day when I was supposed to fire a guy whose newborn needed a heart operation. I went to work in my just completed home hobby shop in 1990, and the phone started to ring. I tried to concentrate on furniture, but the architectural paid the bills. I eventually settled on special doors as a good niche and began to produce the best doors I could. Hired an employee, grew the business, leased space, then later bought a shop, then went bust with the economy, laid off everyone, and moved back to the little shop. I now have one fine employee, a well-equipped shop 80' out the back door, and we still do the same odd mix of work, with all of it being high quality and good design. We manage to stay busy, at our price. The tracking of every job I have made has paid off in my ability to know exactly what it will take to produce anything - even things we never did before.

From Contributor G:
I live in Southern Saskatchewan, turning 50 in a week. Small shop, 1000 square feet, wife and I and the kids do the cleaning after school. Mostly residential but some commercial millwork. Laminates, solid surface, and just about anything that people can think up. Started woodworking with my dad in his hobby shop when I was 12 growing up in Quebec. Went to University and got a chemistry degree, built houses each summer to pay the tuition, then got hired to set up a millwork shop upon graduation. Went to a big 40 man commercial shop and became one of the top bench guys - big projects, the full gamut. Then I moved to another big shop in Montreal for a few years and same deal. Real old world craftsmen there and learned whatever I could from them. Then went back to University at 30 and became an Architect, worked in Japan and Russia for two years, got married to my Russian wife, then back to Canada to work for Architecture firms on hospitals, airports, schools - you name it. All the while had a small shop in the garage. I retired from big city architecture and went back to cabinetmaking full time in my own shop ten years ago. Moved to Weyburn Saskatchewan five years ago and things have never been better for us.

From Contributor A:
I'm 28, located in Lincoln, NE and started my shop eight years ago in a one stall garage and a Bosch table saw from Home Depot. We build residential and commercial cabinets. My shop is now 5,000 square feet we have a CNC saw and are currently in the market for a router. It's been a very difficult but fun ride. I currently only have one full time employee, one part time shop helper, three part time installers and an office manager in addition to myself.

From Contributor I:

I'm 59 years old with over 40 years in the trade. I live and work on our family farm in St Clair County Michigan 50 miles north of Detroit. I started in residential roughing and progressed to finish carpenter contracting. I have operated Williamson Lumber and Mill Work for the last 28 years. I started by building a 4000 BF dry kiln and selling kiln dried Lumber to supply my own Carpentry Contracting Business. Seven years ago just as the economy took a dive we purchased a new Thermwood CS45. Today I operate a CNC cutting and shaping service and can count Boeing Aircraft, Paramount Picture Studios, Warner Brothers and The Arch Dioceses of Detroit as my top clients. I would like to thank WOODWEB for bringing us all together.

From Contributor V:
I started out at a big cabinet company, near my home in NE Ohio in 1995 as a hand sander. After 1.5 years I was helping run the sanding department. I turned that humble start into a career traveling the country teaching people about sanding. I have physically worked on over 1,000 wide belt sanders of every configuration and brand. I was the first abrasives expert in the world to actually calibrate wide belt sanders to get the results I wanted. Now I work as a technician for a company in California. I teach every aspect of sanding from the rough mill to sealer sanding.

From contributor H:
Iím 61 years old, living in Peoria, IL. I started making furniture 41 years ago. First coffee table was made on the kitchen table in our first apartment. I spent 15 years as an engineer for Caterpillar, made furniture for other engineers part time at night. Quit Cat, ran custom woodworking business for eight years, then three years as designer/project builder for Woodworkers Journal Magazine. That was the best job, but the magazine was sold and moved. I returned to Caterpillar as an engineer for one year, then became the lead model maker for Caterpillar. I have done that for 14 plus years now. After my retirement from Caterpillar I will be making furniture again, and doing lots of turning.