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From businessman to artist

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By Natasha Colbaugh

Nick Thompson is following his dreams.

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After 38 years in the furniture sales business, he is setting out to make custom furniture.

At eight-years-old Thompson’s father got him excited about woodwork by buying him an electric jigsaw for his birthday.

On Monday, Thompson sat in a sale marked recliner at Thompson’s Furniture as he recalled his father’s carpentry ability. His father built houses and houseboats. Thompson said he followed him everywhere learning the same skills. Though he started selling furniture right out of high school, he continued to watch and learn the art of woodwork from his father.

From boyhood he carried a passion for wood building. Since retirement has arrived, Thompson knows exactly what he wants to do with his time. He wants to build custom furniture.

Working in the furniture sales business, Thompson often runs across customers needing specific furnishings. From a dorm room bed with storage to a desk designed to fit a wheelchair, Thompson has found his niche in these recent creations.

When customers had specific needs, Thompson would search through the catalogues trying to find something similar. And when there was no available solution he would create the perfect fit.

In one instance he found many desks matching the necessary heights, but none that would fit a wheelchair comfortably.

“I made one to fit a wheelchair under,” said Thompson.

It was a poplar wood with a cherry stain. The legs were tapered and the measurements were exact, something only a perfectionist could manage.

Thompson has been working with wood since he received his first jigsaw, making small carvings. But making furniture has created more opportunities. He has gone from making small gifts for friends to creating unique signature pieces for houses.

“I did the little things for many years, but I have done furniture the last few years,” said Thompson.

However, making large beds and desks is easier than crafting a small bowl or a wooden Christmas ornament. Thompson has worked until early morning crafting small hollowed maple pieces to give to his wife or friends. One handheld bowl has 50 sections from the same piece of wood. These sections are each arranged with the wood grains in opposite directions, creating a delicate eye-catching art element.

Though Thompson has refined his wood building skills with the ornamental pieces, he finds the custom furniture is a true testament of his ability.

“Manufactured furniture only comes in standard sizes,” said Thompson

At one customer’s request Thompson created a bathroom vanity. The furnishings were needed to fit a small place for a very tall man. The outcome was a contemporary piece fitted with a laminate counter top.

Another accomplishment for Thompson was the completion of a solid oak display case destined to hold a football signed by Peyton Manning. Thompson also prides himself in doing built-in bookshelves and custom picture frames.

From a small room in his house, Thompson crafted these items for his customers. His dream of making custom furniture may lead to a larger workshop where he can build furniture without space restraints.

“It’s kind of a dying art. So much furniture is imported,” said Thompson.

Custom furniture is mostly solid wood and often carries a high price, said Thompson. But the formation of custom furniture is similar to antique furniture without staples, screws or nails.

“Custom furniture lasts a lot longer,” said Thompson.

Wooden joints and detail are a part of creating custom furniture and with the likeness to antiques, Thompson can see himself refinishing or repairing antiques in the future.

“This is all I’ve ever wanted to do and the time has come,” said Thompson.