A LIFE OF SAWDUST
Great craftsmen start young.
SHOP OWNER: Virgil Johnson
LOCATION: Versailles, KY
This slant top desk was the first big thing I ever built, when I was 15 years old and in tenth grade in high school. It took a year to build, but it was worth it. I received a "superior" award for top-of-class at the now-defunct EKU (Eastern Kentucky University) Student Craftsmen's Fair in 1979.
Built of black walnut, with brasses from Horton Brass, the desk was designed after one that I saw at a neighbor's house. I customized the internal drawer and pigeonhole configuration to suit myself.
The lower photo was taken in 1974, when I was only 11 years old. It was taken by a local reporter who visited my neighbor's sawmill one day when I was there leveling the piles of sawdust that were being ejected from the mill.
Starting the mill's big diesel engine was an adventure to say the least. The owner originally had an electric starter on the engine, but when the starter finally gave up one day, he resorted to a totally unconventional method of starting the engine. It was the equivalent of "roll-starting." He would jack up a forklift, put a long, 8-in.-wide flat belt around one of the large drive wheels, and hook it up to the pulley mounted to the old Cummings diesel. He would have me hold the compression release open until the engine reached a certain RPM, at which point I'd let go of the compression release and the mill would fire up. I'm lucky I lived to tell the tale.
. . . Virgil Johnson
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