About five years ago I ran into a problem; I had lots of woodworking projects I wanted to do but I didn’t have any place to put them once they were completed. I had just about filled our house with the amount of furniture my wife was willing to tolerate and my three adult children aren’t married yet so I still have to wait until I can attempt to furnish their homes with my creations. My solution was to become something I call a vigilante woodworker. Whenever I enter someone’s home, office, or backyard I begin to map out where one of my wooden creations would fit right in and planned my projects accordingly.
It started when my youngest son began his senior year at Lehigh University and moved into a house off campus with three friends. Now, one would think that the typical college student could survive quite nicely for one year using milk crate tables, a mattress on the floor, and a futon facing a flat screen supported by sawhorses. But I had other plans and soon my son’s room had a new custom bedframe, headboard, and nightstand, all unexpected, unasked for, but ultimately appreciated.
I also built a table for their flat screen and gaming/streaming devices and repaired their broken futon.
With this first taste of the outlaw lifestyle I was hooked. My next reverse heist occurred when a friend of mine opened his own law office, leaving his former megafirm behind. When I first walked into his new offices I had dreams of building barrister’s bookcases, desks, and maybe even their conference table. But alas, my friend was too quick on the draw and furnished most of the office with stock furnishings from a local office supply store. Not to be denied I searched for a missing nook or cranny and found the perfect place. In his waiting room my friend had provided comfortable chairs and a coffee bar, but had neglected to include any place for clients to put down their cups or to hold magazines. I sprung into action and in one weekend constructed a midcentury modern end table of pine with tapered legs and mortise and tenon joints.
Come Monday morning I snuck into his waiting room while his receptionist was away and put my creation between two leather chairs, moving a few magazines to the top and then sneaking back out unnoticed. It actually took the office three days before anyone noticed my addition and when nobody could figure out where it had come from one of the partners stole it for his office, were it abides to this day.
My most recent escapade may have ended my outlaw life. With the pandemic in full swing I discovered that when adult children move back into their parent’s home a lack of remote eating areas and surfaces for Zoom meeting becomes an acute problem. To meet this need I designed collapsible tables based on the old TV dinner trays our parents keep around for company. I beefed up the design, enlarging the tops, constructing them out of sepele, cherry, and Red Grandis, and adding brass, stainless steel, and aluminum fittings.
I was on a roll; everyone would want at least one of these babies and so I made three in the first weekend. I set one up in my study for Zoom meetings, put one in our basement media room so I could eat dinner while watching the news (and reruns of This Old House if I’m being honest), and I gave one to my wife. This last act was probably my undoing. My wife and I have been married for almost 28 years and upon seeing my newest design she immediately knew that in a few weeks our friends would be calling her to ask where the strange little tables they were finding around their homes were coming from.
So my life as a woodworking vigilante has come to an end. I agreed to either ask first before making someone something or wait until I’m asked before embarking on a new project for someone. I still think I can get away with the “Christmas or Birthday loophole” that hasn’t yet occurred to my wife, but for the most part I’ve now gone legit.
Still, my kids will probably get married and buy houses someday, so I keep my cape on a hook in the closet and my skills sharp so when the time is right I will be ready for the return of the vigilante woodworker.
Previously Published on jamesgoydos.com
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