It Started With a Coffee Table

Thirty-five years ago when Nancy and I got engaged, she pointed out that we didn’t have a coffee table.  When I asked her what kind she wanted, she said a country-style one.

At the time I was working show-to-show as a stage manager.  While I kept busy, I still had some down time.  Back then I was good friends with Bobby Bingham, a very good set designer who was the Resident Set Designer and Scenery Shop Manager for Herb Roger’s La Mirada Theatre.  Bobby also designed many of the sets for the Orange County area dinner theaters.  It never failed that on many a Sunday night when Bobby needed to load-out the scenery for a show and load-in the next show’s set, he would be short-handed with crew to do the work.  Since I usually wasn’t working late on Sunday nights, I would volunteer and give Bobby a hand.

Instead of paying me, I asked Bobby if I could have some of the wood in his scenery shop and work with the tools there.  That is how I built my first piece of furniture – a pine coffee table.  I learned how to make it with all wood joints: mortise & tendons and dowel pins.  Thanks, Bobby!  I know, I know, it’s thirty-five years old and now it really needs to be sanded and refinished. But most of the marks are from where our three kids pulled themselves up to learn to walk and left their teeth marks around the edge.  And there are now teeth marks from our two grand kids, so I just can’t bring myself to sand all of that out.  I guess one of our kids or grand kids will need to do that someday.

Ever since then I have built tons of furniture in my spare time, again using all wood joints and no nails.  Over the years I have inherited and purchased good wood working tools and equipment and now have a pretty respectable shop in my garage.  Beside us, a lot of our family and friends have pieces of furniture that I built.  To me it is more than a hobby, I consider it my therapy.  When I am building a piece of furniture, my pea-sized brain cannot handle thinking about anything else than the task at hand.  So worries about work or cancer all get put on hold.   It is also great that my kids have all worked with me on their own furniture projects.

I just finished building my most recent project, a “big boy” bed for my grandson, Porter.  I am really proud of this piece.  Luckily I have a friend who took the wood I gave him and the designs, then turned the bedposts on his lathe.  At my son and daughter-in-law’s request, I built it out of red oak, but again with all wood joints.  All it needs now are the slats for the mattress.  Oh yeah, and to stain and finish it.  I am going to stain it a darker brown to match the other furniture already in his room. 

The cool thing about this bed is that Porter will have it for the rest of his life and eventually pass it along to his family.  I really, really love that.

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