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An interview with Rheuben Gibson. His Role: Furniture-maker

1. How did you get started making furniture?

Well, my grandfather was a furniture-maker. I guess I started building ó I was exposed to it as a little boy. My grandfather was a woodworker, and he had a woodworking shop here in Lima. I used a lot of his machinery and hand tools. I did go back to school and get formal training at North Bennet Street School in Boston. Itís the oldest trade school in the nation.

2. Do you work for yourself now?

Yes, Iím self-employed. My company is called Furniture Jones. We moved here after, well, weíve been here about 13 years.

3. What kinds of things do you make?

Itís all custom furniture. It could be anything from antique reproduction to my own designs. I do mostly free-standing furniture ó tables, chairs. I do some built-ins, some commercial work. Like, I did some at the Met. I rarely make the same thing twice, so itís very interesting.

4. How many projects a month?

Itís really hard to say ó it depends on the scope of the project. I canít really give an answer on that one. Iíd like to say I do a couple pieces a month, but again, it depends on the scope of the project and whatís involved.

5. Do you have a favorite type of wood that you use?

Yeah, I like walnut. Itís one of my favorite types of wood. Really, I like any kind of domestic hardwood. I love any that has interesting grain ó curly maple is another one I really like, or cherry is another good one. I tend to use a lot of walnut, though. I started with a good stockpile out of these woods, and if Iím looking for something Iíll seek out some of the tree trimmers in the area. If thereís a tree down, I go check it out.

6. Do you prefer power tools or hand tools?

Whenever I can, I use mechanical tools, but when I have to I use hand tools for the detail work.

7. Whatís the process from wood to furniture?

First, I draw out the design on paper by hand. Then, Iíll bring it [the wood] in and cut it on the radial saw. That will give me a rough length. Then, Iíll come over to this machine, a joiner, and that will give me one flat surface. Once Iíve got a flat surface, Iíll run it through the planer and that gives me a parallel surface. Then, I can come back in and edge one side. Then I can cut it on my table saw and finish that. If I have to do any shaping, I can do that on my router or on the band saw. If I have to do any carving or inlays, then Iíll do that. Then itís gluing it up, assembly, sanding and finish.

8. Whatís your favorite part of making furniture?

My favorite part is seeing where the furniture ends up. I love building something in my shop ó but itís a lot of fun to see the piece completed in someoneís home or establishment. I see furniture as an extension ó I see it as an intimate form of architecture. Thatís probably my favorite part.

9. If somebody wants a piece of furniture, how do they go about doing that?

They contact me directly at www.furniturejones.com. They can also find me on Facebook under that name, too.

10. You have a lot of dangerous equipment here ó have you ever been hurt doing this?

No ó thank goodness. I still have all my fingers.

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