Add Storytelling to your Woodworking

antique storeWhen I travel I like to visit local antique shops of that area. If I buy something, I feel like I am taking that item on a new journey in it’s life. But why is it almost every antique has a story behind it?

Usually most people when they decide to buy something they want it new. To have someone else’s old junk is not often appealing. Especially, if the old piece can cost as much as a new one. But usually the older pieces are built of better quality and better materials. Yet, it still can lose out to the newer modern look. This is where a story can help.

When someone buys a new chair, we never hear of any story. Of course not. The story probably goes, “It came down the assembly line. Got packaged. And shipped off.” Not much pazzaz there. But when it comes to an antique there is more to it.

When we hear a story of the piece we are being introduced to it.  The story many times can make a connection to us. Perhaps the person who previously owned it was of someone famous. Maybe it was a Grandfather who made it for his granddaughter on her wedding day. Or maybe it survived a natural disaster and managed it live another day. Whatever the story is, it pulls at our heart strings. Just look at the tv series, Antiques Roadshow. Every person who has an item to appraise starts off with the same question, “So what do you know about the piece?” And the storytelling begins.


IMG_3104IMG_3091I try to carry on the storytelling tradition with some of the  pieces I made for  customers. Sometimes the client will start the story off and I simply finish it. For example, I had a client who was a Professor teaching Aztec history. He wanted a writing desk with Quetzalcoatl carved on it. Quetzalcoatl has many meanings but one meaning is the god of knowledge and learning. What better place to study then a desk with a super smart god on your side? But as this desk is passed down from father to son, to grandson, they will all know that the man who owned it was a professor who wrote his lectures on that desk. 



IMG_0005Another time I had a customer who’s father passed away. On the day of the funeral, a severe thunderstorm rolled through and knocked down a large, old cherry tree on the family farm. Shortly thereafter one of the granddaughters became pregnant. They asked me to make something out a section of the cherry tree. What a grand idea. The tree died, much like the father, but the tree will be reincarnated and put back into the the family much like the birth of the new born baby.

After much time I decided to make a 17th century style stool. This stool was widely used and in days gone by for a variety of uses. A chair, table, workbench, and more. (see article) From the outside the stool has a smooth finish yet on the underside are still signs of sapwood and even some bark. I wanted the family to see that there were signs of the old tree that stood in the front yard.


DSC01944DSC01946Another story was for a newly married couple. I was actually hired to remodel their kitchen of the home they just bought. The home was an older one. (1920’s) The kitchen was going to get a completely new look. Cabinets, floor, doors, even walls were going to be removed and replaced. During demolition of the kitchen the couple learned they were pregnant with their first born. I saved some of the old pine from the original cabinets and set it aside.

When the kitchen was done they had a housewarming party and invited me to attend.  It was a nice party but I knew that as a young couple they would out grow that old house in a few years. They would move on and one day reminisce about the home they first started out in. I imagine them driving by the house and showing their young daughter the house “mommy and daddy” started out in. Just before leaving the party I gave them my housewarming gift. I took the wood from the kitchen cabinets and carved a Bible Box for them. On the bottom i carved the address of that home. My hope is that box will be passed down from mother to daughter and then one day granddaughter.

It feels good to be in the storytelling tradition. I play no character role in the story. My name is never mentioned. Much like an unknown author who write poems. But knowing i am helping make stories that will live on long after i’m gone helps give me a sense of being.

-Chad Stanton