Woodworking in America: Peter Griffin
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We are interviewing producers from all 50 states. Today we introduce Peter Griffin, a furniture maker from Ohio.
How did you start working with wood? Who were your mentors?
Woodworking for me was born from the desire to do something different. I am an accountant by profession. Although it is a profitable business, when you close a deal in accounting, there is nothing physical you can point to and say, “this is the result of our work”. Everything is digital. Just numbers on a computer screen. So when I wanted to expand my entrepreneurship, I looked for something that would satisfy my desire to get out of an office and do something with my hands. That journey led me to woodworking.
Who were your mentors?
If you had asked me two and a half years ago what an airplane was, I would have had no context other than those that fly through the air. None of my close or extended relatives worked in the trade. My father was a preacher. My grandfather worked for the power company. My brothers, uncles and cousins all have professional degrees except my younger brother who is a chef. YouTube was my first and greatest mentor. From there I realized I needed more in-depth teaching, so I looked for books. My first was The Illustrated Professional Woodworker. When I had specific questions, I would ask one of my tax clients, Randy LaValley. He started a full-time woodworking business two years before me. It was great. So I would start contacting the guys from the local guild locally. But there is no one I would really call a mentor. Just more than one community.
What do you think is your best or favorite job? What kind of work do you do the most?
So … I haven’t said this before, but I was walking into a high-end furniture store and saw a live dining table that costs around $ 12,000. Something significant caught my attention. I didn’t want to own it. I knew I could do it. This started my love affair with woodworking and eventually tables. I love the tables and I love the lockers. My best pieces so far are the living room set I finished last week. I have two legendary tabletop builds I’m working on right now. They will be my greatest work. Each piece gets better.
What advice would you give to those who want to start woodworking or take it up as a profession?
Listen to your heart when it comes to your identity as a carpenter. You might know right away, it might take some time to figure it out, but if you want to pursue woodworking as a profession, listen to that voice that makes you gravitate towards a style, a method, a niche. People pay for specialization. They pay for uniqueness within predefined quality parameters. Once you know who you are, don’t take every job that comes your way. Try to focus on the jobs that make you better at becoming yourself and success will follow.
What’s your best practical advice or woodworking technique?
“Just because an edge sander doesn’t have a blade, don’t underestimate its ability to ruin your day.”
Is there anyone you would like to shout out or would you recommend following? Who inspires you? (It doesn’t even have to be related to woodworking.)
Right now, I really feel Mark Jupiter out of Brooklyn (Dumbo). His eye for design, his passion for great pleasures attracts me. There is also a designer from Santa Fe named Sequoia P. Madan. I have not yet seen anyone pour pewter on a live table as effectively as him. This guy is a bit of a recluse, but his work can be seen in his showroom at www.sequoiasantafe.com. He sells rustic / exotic / wooden art and does it like everyone else in the United States.
See more of Peter’s work on Instagram @pgriffinandcompany
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