New Stuff

There is a lot to love about our house, but Phil suffered two disappointments when we bought it back in 1995. One was that the staircase was enclosed, because he had always envisioned watching children run excitedly down the stairs on Christmas morning. The other was the smallish dining room, because he dreamed of hosting big family gatherings. We couldn’t do much about the staircase, but in 2004 we enlarged the dining room by demolishing the wall between it and a small former bedroom.

Our oval dining room table was dwarfed in the newly expanded space. One day at work he asked one of the doctors where he would recommend buying a large table. “Phil,” answered Dr. Richard Jennett in his broad New York accent, “you don’t buy tables, you build tables,” and promptly offered to build us a made-to-measure oak table. We designed a seven-foot-long by 40-inch wide table with two 18-inch leaves. Fully extended, the table is ten feet long and seats up to 14.

Left, the dining room table at its regular 7-foot length.
Right, progressive dinner dessert before Hanna’s senior prom, one of the first occasions to utilize the fully extended table.

Dr. Jennett learned carpentry from his father and grandfather; he still uses some of his grandfather’s tools. Phil was just an observer for the table project, but he became very interested in the construction process. He started accompanying Dr. Jennett on tree-cutting excursions and helped to mill and stack lumber. Dr. Jennett helped Phil refinish a table inherited from Phil’s grandpa Jake.

Another of Phil’s hobbies is canning. He enjoys making salsa, pickles, relishes and especially jellies and apple butter. He decided that he would like to build a jelly cabinet to store his output.

Dr. Rich Jennett and Phil with the jelly cabinet, Phil's first foray into furniture building.
Dr. Rich Jennett and Phil with the jelly cabinet. We are deeply indebted to Dr. Jennett for his generous contribution of time, expertise, materials and tools.

The next project was a pair of cedar chests for Laura and his friend Doug’s daughter Joni. He asked me what I would like for him to build next, and I requested an armoire. This was an ambitious project, but he completed it in time for my Christmas gift.

Phil and Dr. Jennett with my white oak Shaker style armoire with raised panels.

The following spring he built a matching chest of drawers for himself,

Phil’s chest of drawers, built to match my armoire.

followed closely by a pair of desks for Laura and Hanna.

Laura’s desk. Hanna’s has a slightly lighter finish, and she opted to forego drawer hardware.

The next Christmas Phil presented his mom with a secretary that he restored after it was damaged during storage in an outbuilding. Ethel was delighted and now uses the piece to display her collection of milk glass.

The mirror in this secretary was dated 1900. The piece had been neglected in a storage shed for some 40 years. Phil replaced the legs, shelves and missing decorative trim and refinished the entire piece.

Phil did another restoration of a desk for a former colleague at JCMG and built a table for pamphlets and flu masks at the reception area. By this time he was comfortable enough to build small projects without drawing a detailed plan. He built a standing desk for an old laptop computer that we use primarily for our movie collection database and a side table.

The side table is perfect for extra seating or serving snacks.

We designed a media center for our family room after replacing the wood stove.


Phil built a table for his niece.

Julia and her boyfriend Shane.

And so that Joseph would not feel neglected, he also got a chest of drawers.

jwh_chestPhil does beautiful work. I think that woodworking is a great hobby for him – it is both creative and functional. I expect these pieces to be handed down and will one day be antiques in their own right.

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