Hard work comes easy when you love what you do. It’s a philosophy that becomes obvious when you talk to Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers’ newest member Pete Michelinie. The furniture maker has taken a long, winding and wooded path to get to where he is at his shop in South Pomfret, Vermont – but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Pete Working On a Crest Rail
He doesn’t even really think of what he does as a business. “I hope to reach a point of momentum where I have enough of a reputation to always have enough work at hand, but never that I think about expanding and creating a business.” Maybe it pays the bills, but that’s just a fortunate side effect of doing what he enjoys. For Pete, life is an adventure. “I want to have an adventurous life that balances passions, so that each can draw inspiration from the other.” And furniture making is one of those passions, rather than something he considers just work.
Date Stamped on Pete’s First Mallet
And you’d have to love what you do for the extreme attention to detail that Pete possesses. Creating the fine touches on his pieces requires painstaking care and much focus and vision. “Spending time out in the wilds of America and beyond helps me to be excited and enthusiastic about being at the bench.” It’s an enthusiasm that shines through in his work.
Stanley Side Rabbet Plane
Pete finds his inspiration from a variety of sources. His father was a huge influence on him, having introduced him to the value of working with his hands as a child. Later in life, his father introduced him to the cabinet and furniture program at the North Bennet Street School, where he ultimately learned his craft. He started school never having held a plane or a chisel, but he finished with twelve major projects completed instead of the three that were required to graduate.
Pete’s Tools, Many Older Than Him
Nature is another inspiration. After high school, Pete learned that he loved working with his hands on a farm. “It wasn’t until I took a gap year after high school working on farms in New Zealand that I realized that working with your hands for a living wasn’t only possible, but affords the lucky individual a prosperous and healthy life.” Loving the outdoors and working with your hands makes for a natural segue into woodworking, but that’s not all. Pete has hiked every long trail in the United States, a tremendous feat demonstrating his passion, his resolve and the things he holds most dear.
Pete also draws a lot of inspiration from working with his customers. “It’s always exciting and fun to see what we can create together. I tend to first ask the customer to show me photos of what they’re after, and if they can only describe it, I will bring appropriate design books to pinpoint style and details. Sometimes it’s only words to describe the piece, and that’s fine, too.” He keeps the customer informed throughout the building process, explaining the details and intricacies through words and photos.
Carved Heirloom Box
Ultimately, the process may lead him down any number of roads. “I don’t stick to any one style, rather I am excited by always seeking out beauty and refined details in many different styles and eras of fine furniture.”
As an example, take a look at his Walnut Letter Desk. “The desk is essentially a dovetailed box on legs, which is an uncommon way of making a table. The box itself is made up of a combination of half-blind dovetails and tapered sliding dovetails. The half-blind dovetails are cut by hand the traditional way. I don’t use jigs or machines to make this joint.”
The Letter Desk
When we asked Pete if he had any advice for aspiring furniture makers, his passion for the craft shone through. “Always challenge yourself. Never become complacent with your work! Mastery of craft is a farce, you should always be struggling to achieve something greater.” He knows that greatness is a process, and one that comes with a never-ending effort. It’s an effort that Pete himself always puts in, but never once mentions about his own work, because that doesn’t occur to a man who truly loves what he does.