Woodworking with Ugly Men
My first attempts at furniture making were what you’d expect: Not that great. But then I had a student in two of my philosophy classes. She noticed that I often used woodworking as a metaphor and asked if I’d like to meet her dad, Joe Mazurek, a professional furniture maker in Camden, SC.
I made the 45 minute drive to Joe’s shop one day and within an hour of arriving he had me cock beading a drawer, from cutting the rabbet for the beading to making the beading to gluing it on with hide glue. And that drawer was for a client’s table. I was terrified and ecstatic. (By the way, Joe makes 18th century style furniture.)
Joe invited me back. Of course, I did go back. In fact, I became a regular at Joe’s shop. There were weeks when I was there everyday, and days when I stayed for 10 or 12 hours. How could I not go? Joe opened up his shop to me, taught me how to make furniture, and entertained me with stories. And asked for nothing in return. Well, I did help on the occasional delivery, and always brought homemade pastries.
The pastries were for the daily meetings of the Ugly Men’s Club, aka, the morning coffee break. Joe’s the president of the club. I always enjoyed having a nice chat with Joe and the other guys who hung out and worked in Joe’s shop.
The first piece I built at Joe’s was a tool cabinet. With encouragement from Joe, I ended up with a cabinet that is far nicer (and larger) than what I had intended to build. That tool cabinet taught me how to cut dovetails, make drawers, veneer, make doors, make molding, etc., etc. In other words, it taught me everything I needed to know to make furniture. After that, I built a few tables, some jewelery cabinets, a new workbench, and a bed for my son.
After two years of working in Joe’s shop I had become a good furniture maker. More importantly, I knew enough about woodworking to land a new job as an editor at Fine Woodworking. It’s amazing how a chance meeting has changed my life.