Early Influence Hits Home

Article - December 11, 2011

The year was 2002. Nicole and I were engaged and saving up for our first house. My mom was kind enough to let us stay with her until we had enough cash for a down payment. Woodworking was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, it wasn’t even on my radar. I was “enjoying” over two hours of commuting time daily and advancing my biotech career was top priority.

Little did I know that one day, while channel surfing on my sweet self-installed DirecTV system, I would come across a half-hour woodworking program that would change the course of not only my career, but my life. That show was Woodworks with David Marks. Being a relatively handy guy in general, I would frequently stop to watch an episode of New Yankee Workshop in much the same way I might watch a cooking show. It’s just cool to watch someone craft something with their hands, be it food or wood. But there was something special about David’s work that resonated with me deeply. Part of the allure was that he didn’t look like your “typical” woodworker and his projects certainly didn’t look like “typical” furniture. I was immediately intrigued by his tools and techniques. And after years of watching Norm, I was amazed to learn that you can build furniture out of more than just pine or mahogany! To say Woodworks opened my eyes to a whole new world would be an understatement.

One of David’s pieces that really captured my imagination was his Bubinga Veneer Coffee Table. The design was fairly simple and the choice in materials was superb! The maple legs and aprons act as an unassuming canvas that frames the real showpiece: the figured bubinga veneer! I understood the procedures David demonstrated and even with no real furniture-making experience, I honestly felt like I could make the table if I had access to the proper tools. This table would serve as a deeply planted seed that wouldn’t germinate for another year or two.

Eventually, Nicole and I were able to buy our first home: a small fixer-upper in Temecula, CA. Project after project, my DIY skills, confidence, and interest level were growing rapidly. I even managed to accumulate a modest collection of tools, including a Craftsman tablesaw and miter saw. But before I knew it, pretty much everything was scratched off of the to-do list and our fixer-upper was fixed. By this time, my desire to fix old things was quickly morphing into an even stronger instinct to create something new. With several seasons of Woodworks under my belt, I felt confident enough to venture into building my very first project from a plan: a night stand. The rest is history and you can read more about my descent into woodworking madness here if you’re interested.

I have been fortunate in that I was able to eventually forge a friendship with my virtual mentor. During my most recent trip to Santa Rosa, David showed me where he keeps some of the old Woodworks projects. For a long-time fan like me, this was a surreal experience. We came across the coffee table from the show and I told him how much impact that little table had on my woodworking trajectory. Fortunately, we were able to work out a deal and I am now the proud owner of the Bubinga Coffee Table. The table arrived a few days ago carefully wrapped in a crate that was truly worthy of the prize nested inside. Anyone who spends even a small amount of time with David will experience his meticulous nature. Apparently that extends to his packaging too. You just can’t be too careful when shipping a finished piece of furniture and thankfully, the coffee table arrived without a scratch or dent. My step dad helped me unpack the many layers of padding and packing material and as you can see, he had way too much fun.

The table now resides in my bedroom, right next to my comic book reading chair. Yes, the table will be used to hold and display comic books. And some day, it will hold and display my son’s comic books. Truth is, I really don’t need another coffee table. But this table deserves a place of honor in my home and my “relaxation area” is perfect!

I know we all have different inspirations and reasons for getting into the craft and I’d love to hear yours. Have you ever had an opportunity to acquire a piece made by someone you admire? Or do you feel a little weird owning a piece of furniture built by another woodworker? I would bet that more than a few of you keep at least one piece of furniture that you really don’t need, just for sentimental value or because it was associated with an early influence. I’d love to hear your tale!


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