It has been cold, dark, and rainy all day, but I’ve been working in my shop on a cabinet for one of my long-term customers. The splatter of rain in the open doorway is no distraction when work is going well. The challenge of creating something new and developing new skills is the most satisfying work I can imagine.
I am fortunate to have arrived at a point in my life where I have finally realized the importance of working on things that really matter. It is a personal viewpoint, of course, but doing satisfying work is far more important than merely making money.
This corner cabinet project pushes the envelope for me and for the customer. I am asking her to make design decisions for something that exists partly in sketch form and partly as a cabinet under construction. The original inspiration came to her from reading a furniture catalog, but she wanted a style that was somewhere between Scandinavian and Colonial.
I enjoy doing this free form design approach with this client. She
may not be able to express what she wants at first, but she is able to
provide suggestions as the design progresses. This is not something I
would be able to do with all clients, but we manage to stay on the same
wavelength and the projects have all gone smoothly.
Today, we reached a point where we had constructed the cabinet case
and were laying out the hardwood face that fits on the front of the
cabinet. My woodworking pal, Gerry, and I had come up with a set of
carved appliques to dress up the front of the cabinet and we were
feeling rather pleased with ourselves. It looked fantastic, but was a
considerable departure from any of the sketches I had given the client.
It was time to make sure we were still meeting her expectations.
I called her and she came out in the pouring rain to join us in our
workshop. She walked around the table where the front of the cabinet
was laid out waiting for her approval.
She studied it thoughtfully, and nods. "I like it!"
We relax, and wait for the other shoe to drop.
She smiles. "It’s going to work!"
We smile back, and point out the construction details of the rest of
the cabinet. Five minutes later, she has driven off in the rain and we
are hard at work, joining wood and solving problems.
The rain is still pouring down and the temperature keeps dropping,
but several heaters keep the cold at bay. We work with doors open
because the dust collection system does not handle the fine dust from
We settle into an easy rhythm of shaping wood, joining pieces
together, and tossing suggestions back and forth to improve the design.
Hours go by and the cabinet is almost ready to stain. A few more places
to fill and sand and we can start the task of matching a stain to an
existing piece of furniture, a grandfather clock.
The rain is pounding now and I realize that we have run out of
hours. Gerry goes off to tend to home and family and I close up the
shop. It has been a thoroughly satisfying day.
We have been making good progress on this cabinet and while we were
out at lunch, we were asked to quote on another project by the owner of
We also had a drop-in visitor who needs us to do some custom
carpentry. We’re not fussy. If the work is interesting and it pays
well, we’ll do it.
The only test is whether the client relationship is a healthy one.
Life is too short to work for people who have destructive mental
attitudes. We pick good clients and give them more than they expect. It
will take time to grow the business to the point where it becomes a
major source of income, but the journey is a good one for all concerned.
The best kind of work is that which satisfies the soul. If it offers
the potential of providing income for the forseeable future, then it is
worth pursuing diligently.
Hope you are finding some of the same.