I came to woodworking by way of my first career, which involved the
occasional construction of props and scenery. I started out wanting to be
a lighting designer, and worked as one during and after college, but rather
quickly switched over to stage-management and production-management work,
eventually evolving into a kind of technical show doctor for mostly
out-of-control spectacles. The work was all over the place, in every sense
of that phrase. I worked with, among others, Miles Davis, Weather Report,
the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Opera, the American Repertory Theater,
Bonnie Raitt, Missing Persons, IBM, Eastern Airlines (yeah, it was a long
time ago). I once loaned Chris Lloyd a set of socket wrenches (he's a
motorhead), and Lewis Black still owes me five bucks from grad school days.
My work was once hailed as "an act of artistic vandalism" by Opera News.
I burned out.
After a couple years I'd rather forget, I fetched up at the Cornell Law
School, where I was hired to do audiovisual work. I did not expect to be
there for more than a couple of years; it ended up being close to 32. Along
the way I wrote a Web browser, and started a legal-publishing research
operation whose byproducts now have an audience of around 35 million.
In 1992, I bought a house, and I needed to create some built-in
bookshelves. I'd never worked with hardwoods (they're not often used in
theaters), and I needed some tools, and I got out a #4-style handplane that
had belonged to my father to do all the smoothing. It was, in fact, one of
the postwar Craftsman planes that was made by Sargent, and of course I
still have it. I ended up building a lot of furniture for my own use, and
some more for a few other people. In the meantime, one thing led to
another, and to the slippery slope we all know, and to the infamous Mr.
Leach, and then a couple of us started this listserv thing, and then... I
became a dealer.
Starting about 1998 that got to be hard. The day job was going well, but
that meant that it was also taking crazy amounts of time. The tool biz was
gradually undercut by lack of time, and I put it on complete hiatus
sometime in the early 2000s, probably not as soon as I should have. Had a
decent career; spent a lot of time consulting here and abroad on four other
continents, did some work for the Library of Congress, testified *to*
Congress a couple of times, fought insane bureaucratic battles that would
make no sense outside of a law school, and came out of the whole thing with
much of my sanity intact.
At this point I face a choice: become a dealer again, or arrange to acquire
the VERY large barge that would be needed for a Viking funeral. I'm
planning on going with the first option; it's more fun, and I've been
looking forward to getting back to building stuff and selling tools for a
long, long time.
Nice to be back.
16-chair story tomorrow.
Thomas R. Bruce