Beginnings

I’ve been working for myself making furniture for a living since April of 1982 when I was only 22 years old. I really had no idea what I was getting into when I decide I was going to be a furniture maker. I’d read a couple of books about woodworking by James Krenov (A Cabinet Makers Notebook may have been the first) that made woodworking seem really romantic – working in a small basement shop making fine pieces with beautiful yet simple details. Choosing the wood carefully paying attention to grain and color. Painstakingly cut dovetails and hand planed surfaces.

So I’d read a few books, bought a few tools (an 8″ tables saw and 4″ jointer, a router and sander, a 7″ planer) taken a very basic evening woodworking class and made a few very simple pieces on the side while working as a carpenter for about a year and a half. By that point I decided I pretty much knew it all and so decided to start my own business – Richard Bissell Fine Woodworking. I quit my carpentry job and moved my tools into the basement of my parents vacation house in Putney, Vermont and hung a sign at the end of the driveway. Only after I’d done this did I come to the realization that nobody knew I even existed (as far as woodworking was concerned) and that I really had no idea how to change that. Quite a scary realization.

As it turned out I didn’t know a heck of a lot about woodworking either but I wasn’t aware of that and as it turned out I had plenty of time to hone my skills while trying to figure out how to sell things. I believe my first sale was a crude file cabinet for a friend had seen one I’d made for my brother. It was frame and panel construction with oak frames and 1/4″ luaun plywood for the panels. The drawer fronts were oak as well and if I remember correctly the drawer boxes were made of 1/2″ or mayby 3/4″ plywood. In hindsight it was a hideous piece but it did hold files and the drawers went in and out.

Anyway, that’s how I got started making furniture. Fortunately I was very young and I’d read a few books that made furniture making sound very noble so I stuck with it. I’m glad I did. It’s a wonderful way to make a living and I’m fortunate enough to do it in a wonderful place to live – Vermont.

My plan is to use this blog to give readers an idea of what it’s like to be a furniture maker and to show what goes into making a well made piece of furniture. I’ll also present new designs here and show work in progress so please check back regularly.

Comments are closed.