By Attorney Franklin J. Hickman
Woodworking is a major part of my life and something of a family tradition – I am a sixth-generation woodworker. After joining the Firm in 1981, it seemed natural for me to contribute handmade objects, including library shelves, in-out boxes and other useful items.
In 1990 the Firm moved to a new space and we needed a conference table. Building our own table seemed to be more interesting and challenging than purchasing a store model. We set to work as a team, with Janet Lowder providing the most extensive help since she lived close by the workshop at the time.
The greatest challenge was leveling the top which was made of nine 2” thick pieces of curly maple and oak. We developed a moveable bridge which held a router with a ¾” bit. It was tedious moving the router from side to side and forward gradually at ¾ inch steps, but the system was working to make the table top flat. As Janet and I were working on leveling the top we became absorbed in conversation and failed to notice that the router bit was working its way deeper into the then-thick top. We were down at least a ½ inch below the surface before we realized what was happening. What to do? Regroup. Redesign.
The table was thinner, but we added layers along the sides which match what was left of the top and provided thickness as originally planned. We left a mark in the middle of the table at the point where the router bit cut the deepest. A subtle reminder of the importance of paying attention.
The table has been in constant use for the last 32 years. Refinishing has erased the last trace of our error, but the lesson was imprinted indelibly.
A brass plaque under the table lists the contributors to the project – teamwork, problem-solving and flexibility being hallmarks of the Firm.