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Michael Kuehn

I began my woodworking career in the mid 1960’s. We were living in Palm Beach County, Florida and a carpenter’s apprenticeship was available thru the Palm Beach County Carpenter’s Union. I applied for the position and was accepted. My grandfather was a craftsman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I grew up. He built bars and back bars by hand, using chestnut and walnut. Every neighborhood in the city had at least one bar, maybe 2 or 3. Later, he worked for the Milwaukee Transit Company doing the woodwork on trolley cars. Woodworking was a natural for me. The carpenter’s union agreement was a 4-year on the job apprenticeship program, which included 4 years of night school twice a week. Over time, I advanced from apprentice to journeyman and foreman then to a superintendent. By the early 1970’s I had my Florida Construction license and opened a custom remodeling business. We moved to Pennsylvania in 1981 to be near my wife’s family.

Needing to learn about the area, I took a job with a company working mostly at Lehigh University. Meanwhile, in January 1979, I purchased a Fine Woodworking Magazine featuring George Nakashimi. I was inspired by the way he felt about trees and wood. He said, “For each plank there is one perfect use.” I believe that. I have traveled to his home in Bucks County to visit his workshop several times and on my last visit, this spring, his daughter, Mira and Son, Kevin autographed that same magazine for me I bought in 1979. His family has done a wonderful job keeping his studio alive.

A number of years ago, I opened another construction business in Bethlehem PA with my daughter and son-in-law. Over the years I have built various pieces, bookcases and tables etc. but when I retired I finally had the opportunity to realize my dream of creating my own “one of a kind” furniture pieces. The hunt for the wood is as enjoyable as actually making the pieces. When I go to a sawmill to buy lumber they always ask me what I am looking for. My answer is, “I don’t know yet but I will know the right piece of wood when I see it.” I buy the wood when it’s available, then it sits around the shop till I decide what kind of base design and finish to use on the piece. It is a long process but I love it. I hope people enjoy using my pieces as much as I enjoy making them.