Evolution of A Bear & His Cabinet Shop

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Bearcarver

Gone but not forgotten RIP
Original poster
OTBS Member
Group Lead
Sep 12, 2009
45,279
18,185
Macungie, PA
Evolution of A Bear & His Cabinet Shop



I thought I’d tell you guys more about me, while I’m still able.
I started off by being the 3rd born to a Self-employed Carpenter in Southeast Pennsylvania.
Mom worked in a Hosiery Mill for many years (making nylon stockings),and then went back to stitching Baseballs & Softballs at home. She was also paid to teach others how to Sew Baseballs.
Dad was a Self-employed Carpenter, who built 17 homes, without a helper, and also installed Venetian Blinds, Ceramic & Plastic tile, roofs, and small Concrete jobs. However most of his work was Remodeling homes. He was also the most avid Hunter & Fisherman that I have ever known.

I started out in a one room schoolhouse, with First Grade on the left half of the room, and second grade on the right half of the room. We had electric in the school, but no running water, 2 outhouses in the field behind the school, and a pump for water, in front of the school.
We also had a Potbellied Coal Stove in the back of the room for heat. The following year, there were too many first graders to have both first & second in one room, so they put a partition up in the feed mill next door, added 8 school desks, and we had second grade in the Feed Mill.
After another Red Brick One Room School house for third grade, we finally got to a modern multi-room School House, with indoor plumbing.
Then when I got to 10th grade, I chose Cabinetmaking, and half of my day was spent in the Woodshop of the Quakertown Community High School.
Then the following year they opened up a Technical School for 3 schools, including Quakertown, Pennridge, and Palisades, where I attended the Cabinetmaking class during the afternoon of every school day, and graduated there & from Quakertown in 1966.

Over the next few years, I worked at Link Belt, on the drafting floor, Insaco, and Bethlehem Steel.
At the age of 19, with things heating up, I found myself volunteering for the Army. It was called “Volunteering for the Draft”, which meant you only had to serve 2 years, instead of 3 or 4 in an enlistment. But then I added another year to be able to get an electronics course, to which I eventually quit anyway.
So 3 years in the Army, including Vietnam, put me back in Quakertown in May of 1971, alive & back at my Job @ Bethlehem Steel, which had been waiting for my return. Then after a total of 19 years, they closed my shop down, and I found myself in the Unemployment Line, with a lot of Vietnam Vets.
So I ran into an old Buddy of mine, who had been our neighbor & our paperboy when we were kids. He had his own Cabinet Shop in his detached Garage, and asked if I wanted to help him out. It was a ratty little place, but we turned out enough work for him to get another property & build a Pole Barn for a new & bigger shop. Then after about 10 years, and after hiring & firing a few other guys, things got too slow, and I was getting laid off too much, so we bought another house that had a big enough basement to have My own Cabinet Shop in the Basement.
I did just that—The 2,900 square foot basement had an extra block to give the ceiling height I needed, and we ran extra lighting throughout, and we ran Air Lines through the whole shop, and 220V lines where needed for some of the machines.
Then I bought the machines I needed, and got things going, before I quit the other job. I made my “Corner Gun Cabinet” as a test to make sure I & my Shop were ready, because if you can make a Corner Tall Cabinet, you can make anything.
Over the next 12 years, I made about 60 Kitchens & Vanities, and 8 offices, and probably about 25 entertainment centers.

Then when Bear Jr wanted to start his own Tower Business, we borrowed some money to help get him started, and we both quit our jobs to help him, once he got going. He did real good, real fast, and paid us back in full in less than 6 months.
So I worked for him for a few years, on ground work & Rooftops, where I wouldn’t have to climb 300’ or even10' or 12’. Then he got to the point where he didn’t need me much, so I advertised & built a few Decks, and then eventually I got into carving Bears with chainsaws, but that’s a story I already told, and can be seen @ this Link:
Why They Call Me "Bearcarver":
A Bear from Log to Finish


Then my health kept getting worse, and they decided I needed a new Aortic Valve, so I went in as an Out-patient to get my Coronaries checked with a Catheter. The “Doctor” doing the catheter screwed up & poked a hole in my Aorta, so they had to rush me to the ER to save my life. Then as long as I was there & unconscious, they moved up the changing of the Valve, and they replaced a section of my Ascending Aorta. So I spent 12 days in Cardiac Intensive Care, and 28 days in the hospital, before I left with new problems with my Kidneys & my Heart, and old problems with my lungs. Since that I got checked out by the VA, and they said “Agent Orange” was behind much of the start of the problems.
So now I don’t get around so good, and have quit just about everything you can’t do while being dizzy half of the time. This includes Driving, Fishing, Hunting, smoking meat, because of all the in & out of the doors, up & down the steps, and on my feet entirely too much, while needing oxygen 24/7.
I’ll keep doing whatever I can do, and posting anything that looks decent. If I get too boring, and people get tired of me, just let me know, and I’ll disappear.
Meanwhile I’ll put some pictures of that shop I used to have in the Big Basement (Below), and a few Pics of an Insurance Office I made some cabinets for.
I also have some Pics that Mrs Bear scanned of our Big Kitchen that we had in that same house. It was the biggest Kitchen I ever made, and if you guys want to see it, I’ll do a nice post on it, as soon as I get the pics together.

That’s about it—Enjoy the Pics!

Bear

3 HP, 10" Table Saw, with 5' X 8' extended table:
unnamed-7.jpg

5 HP, 24", 3 blade Planer, with serrated & "Segmented" feed rollers:
unnamed-2 2.jpg

3 HP Shaper, with Power Feeder:
unnamed-1 2.jpg

8" Jointer:
unnamed-5.jpg

Radial Saw, with Flip-stop Fence:
unnamed-6.jpg

Two spindle Horizontal Boring Machine, with 14 locking spring loaded stops:
unnamed-4.jpg

Edge Sander, with 6" X 156" sanding belts:
unnamed-3 2.jpg

Band Saw, Drill Press, and Dust Collector:
unnamed 2.jpg

Two Stage, 80 Gallon Vertical Air Compressor:
unnamed-11.jpg

Binks Air Assisted, Airless Spray System, with Cobra Gun:
unnamed-8.jpg

12" Tubeaxial Fan through wall, with Filters in doors:
unnamed-10.jpg

Wheeled Drying Racks & filters for incoming spray room air:
unnamed-9.jpg

First Job was this Small Insurance Office set-up:
unnamed.jpg

Right Corner: (Walnut stain on Red Oak)
unnamed-1.jpg

Left Corner 45° corner cabinet:
unnamed-2.jpg


Base Cabinets & full length top:
unnamed-3.jpg
 
Very talented man John, and an interesting life you led. We still have a couple one room school houses in our town, but they've been turned into small museums.

Chris
 
Thanks for sharing a little more of your life with us John and appreciate the effort that you put into this site and your posts.
A man on many talents and always eager to help a brother in need!
Hard to find men of honor and sage advice anymore in the world of the internet where people feel like they can post anything while hiding behind a screen.

Keith
 
Great story, awesome pictures.

Your school story is cool.

I went to 6th grade in the 2nd floor of an 1800s 2 story house. A kindergarten class occupied the first floor. The main school did not have classroom space. The house was located a couple of hundred yards away from the main building. I remember the teacher meeting us at the main school in the morning, marching us to the house, back and forth to the main school for lunch, and back to the main school at the end of the day. The teacher would pick two students each mid-morning to walk to the school and carry back a crate with milk and cookies for the morning snack. Graduated with 28 in our class.

Thanks for making me think back!
 
Thank you for sharing Bear, I’m always interested to learn more about people and never less than amazed at how interesting life’s journey can be. You have a great story to tell. I’m always happy to see your posts and can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from you over the years. When I first joined here after getting a. MES 40 I would have screwed up a hot dog on that thing if it wasn’t for you🤣
Not sure if you remember this:


Keep posting! Thank you for sharing and supporting us starting off and continued evolution! We’ve been using the air fryer info at our house, can’t always smoke/grill diner!
 
Bear, you are an incredible man who has had an incredible life. I enjoy hearing all about your life and your smoking/air frying. Your input on this site has helped, I think, everyone who has stopped by here. Thank you for everything sir.
 
Thanks for the post John. Some awesome workmanship there. I by no means am a carpenter. My favorite tool is the belt sander...erase mistakes fast. Take care.

Tom aka RG
 
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If I get too boring, and people get tired of me, just let me know, and I’ll disappear.
Don't even think about it. You're not going anywhere my friend :emoji_wink: After all that you've been through, including your service to our country, anybody should realize that what you're still doing is amazing and respect you for it.
3 HP, 10" Table Saw, with 5' X 8' extended table:
That's a beast. "Back in the day" I had a pretty nice shop with most of what you've shown here but on a smaller scale. For me it was more of a hobby than an occupation, however I did create some interesting stuff for a few jobs I worked on professionally. I've often thought about setting up another shop but with all that's going on in life right now, there'd be no time to enjoy the stuff.

Great story sir and thank you for sharing.

Robert
 
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Keep em coming Bear, I love to see good craftsmanship at work, very hard to find nowadays. I enjoy the stories of people that just made it work no matter what has been thrown at them.
 
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Great thread John . Love the story , which I was already privileged enough to know most of it , and it never gets old . So I enjoyed it and actually read through it a couple times .
That table saw setup is top shelf . With that and some basic other tools you can do anything . The rest of the stuff really speeds production . All nice floor mounted equipment . Really nice shop .
I'm most comfortable in a workshop than any where else .
The walnut stain on the oak really tells a story to anyone that has done dark stain on a lighter wood . You had the whole process perfected from rough out / bill of materials to the last coat of finish .
I'm lucky enough to have seen some in person . It's mesmerizing to look at . Just top of the line craftsmanship .

Please post up the pics of the Kitchen at the " shop house " and don't forget to mention the elevator .

That South East corner of PA . is the Mecca for early American furniture , and cabinet makers . Just amazing craftsmen in that area still to this day .
Great thread John . I really enjoyed it .
Thanks for posting Bud .
 
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Thank you John. Better stick around though because we haven’t gotten everything out of you yet I’m sure. Heck of a nice shop spread and I would very much like to see that kitchen. I had a business installing and finishing custom hardwood floors back in the early 90’s so I was a butcher while you were a surgeon, but I have a huge appreciation for craftsmanship and quality work. Everything I’ve seen of your work is absolutely top self. Would love to see more.
 
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John, I've said before, you have the greatest attitude about all that's happened to you, and it's more of an inspiration than anything I can think of. Those Cabinets in that office look excellent. I'm no Carpenter, but that shop looks very professional and as said above by Rich, You could do anything with that setup. Stick around, SMF still needs your wisdom.
 
Amazing post and interesting read. You have lead quite a full life it sounds. Thank you for your service and I look forward to many more years of watching you evolve. Thanks for posting.
 
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If I get too boring, and people get tired of me, just let me know, and I’ll disappear.
Don't you ever do that, John. I'd venture a guess at you were among the first to welcome me when I first joined SMF. You are an institution around here and would be sorely missed if you were to disappear. I expect to see you here posting as long as your health will allow, and I pray that you will be around for a good long time yet.
 
Every time anyone asks me about smoking, bbq, or grilling I tell them about a guy on the internet named “Bear” and I give the Step-by-Step index link. I tell them you’ll finding everything you need right there.

You may have humble beginnings but the number of folks you’ve mentored online makes you a revered celebrity in my eyes. You’re a real person who’s been around every block numerous times. The kindness you exhibit by posting your experiences, good and bad, is immeasurable.

You’ve also cost me a lot of money and fostered an addiction in me. Haha! I started with a kettle and now I have no room in my backyard for one more cooker.

When my wife says, “Don’t you have enough grills?” My first reply is, “Well, Bear made this really amazing…”
 
John, your story brings back many memories. My dad's hobby was woodworking. His favorite things to build were furniture such as desks, bookcases, four poster beds, etc. He built a shop and had versions of most of the equipment in your pictures. But he's gone now and I have some of his hand tools, but the bigger equipment is all gone, too. We just didn't have a place to put it all nor the time to use it so it was better to let it go to someone who would. I still have several of his pieces, but our children have gotten most of them which is as it should be...
 
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