Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Journey Begins (Pt. 2)

For several years Johan worked a fulltime job, while making furniture on a part time basis in his basement workshop. By 1967 it was time to go out on his own, and it was then he founded Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd.

Johan worked out of the back of a rented barn for the first year, before finding a property where he could build a proper shop in 1968. A picture of the original shop is shown below, and in addition to the building please note the old Ford Econoline van parked on the side.

I remember that van well because 7 years later this was the vehicle I learned to drive - complete with 3-on-the-tree standard transmission.

Unbeknownst to me at the time my license coupled with a strong back meant that I became the designated pick up and delivery guy. This was unfortunate combination for me because there happened to be a market for refinishing upright pianos at the time, and pianos were not a joy to lug in and out of that vehicle.

Oddly enough the original piano dolly from back then is still in use in our shop.

As the business grew my father found himself needing more help, and it was then he hired is first full time employee - a brilliant wood finisher by the name of Art Welton. Art was originally from England, where he learned his trade in the guilds. He was also skilled at tuning pianos, which probably goes a long way to explaining why we got so busy with pianos.

Art quickly earned the nickname "Picasso" for his ability to match stains and toners with exceptional clarity. The photo below shows him finishing components for grandfather clocks.

The next photo was likely taken in the 1970s (based on the hair and groovy sideburns) and shows my father in the background together with his second employee - a machinist by the name of Heinz Federmann.

For the remainder of the 1970s and into the early 1980s the business grew slowly and progressively, with a variety of fine woodworking machines being added along the way including a hydaulic veneer press, veneer guillotine and stitcher, as well as a sliding table saw, edgebander, stroke sander and widebelt sander.

In 1981 I graduated university and decided to "take a year off" by working for my father, before deciding on whether to go back for law school.

I've been here ever since.

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