From the Bench: The cabinetmaker
Sometimes, life has a way of taking us back to our beginnings by going full circle.
One of my earliest childhood memories was getting up before daylight in the rural community of Macedonia, S.C., and crossing the road to sit with my grandfather on his porch while drinking coffee. I was around 4 years old at the time, but I still have vivid memories of this daily occurrence. My grandfather and I would sit and sip until daybreak. Then he would say, “Son, I’ve got to get started.” My grandfather was a well-known cabinetmaker, who had the reputation of being the best of the best in our area. Often times, I would tag along and watch him pull his tablesaw out of his tiny shop and start his day building cabinets.
Before the days of carbide sawblades, he would sharpen his own blades using a small red blade vise, adjusting the set of each tooth with a saw set. It was during this time I first realized I wanted to be a cabinetmaker when I grew up. Cabinetmaking was my first love, and my grandfather was unknowingly influential in this early decision. After my grandfather passed away in 1972, the inherited gift for building things flourished within my dad, and he became known as the next generation cabinetmaker in our family. I remember so well the hope chests, gun cabinets, tables, and cabinetry my dad built during these years.
By the time high school graduation came, I was determined to go my own way, so I enrolled in a welding school. I soon found myself working all over the southeastern United States as a pipe welder. From time to time, my cabinetmaker roots would resurface, such as when I needed a small shelf or cabinet. As the years passed, I broadened my mechanical background with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and then a master’s degree in Business. Because I was working full time while attending school, cabinetmaking slowly diminished from my life.
At 48 years old, I came home from work to find an old painted cradle on the porch of our home, which I did not recognize. When I asked about the cradle, my wife explained that it was the cradle her grandmother gave her when she was expecting our oldest daughter. Now our daughter was expecting, and my wife wanted me to strip the paint and return the cradle to its original condition so we could give it to our daughter to use. I disassembled the cradle on the back porch, removed the paint, gave the hardware a facelift, reassembled it, and installed several coats of urethane. My wife was pleased with the final product. But this cradle was for our daughter and we needed one for our home, too.
There was only one solution to this problem; I had to build our granddaughter’s cradle for our home. At this point in my life, my cabinetmaking roots of years ago resurfaced. Then, four years later, our youngest daughter announced she would give birth to our grandson. At her discretion, I built a Scott Morrison inspired cradle for our grandson in my 1,440-square-foot shop. This cradle proved to be my most challenging and rewarding build to date.
Sometimes, life has a way of taking us back to our beginnings by going full circle. Now that I am retired, I plan to fully submerge myself in my first love, and carry on the family heritage as a third-generation cabinetmaker.
Steve Gaskins is a Professional Mechanical Engineer who makes custom furniture in Macedonia, S.C.