The Vermont Standard
From Newsrooms To Heirlooms



' “What I mostly do are derivations of Shaker and Mission styles with my own flair,” comments Lackley as he points out a Shaker-style Trestle table. He blends the old with the new, taking the fine details of handwork from the past and combining them in new ways. '
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The Vermont Standard
August 22, 2002

From Newsrooms To Heirlooms
Former Journalist Finds Building Furniture Most Satisfying

By Michelle Fields

Quechee - He was driving through a rural area of Georgia chasing a story of a double murder on a steamy summer day when the air-conditioning went out on his car. Somehow the pressure of the heat, and the three looming story deadlines that day led him to think about following another career path.

Ten years later that path has taken him from his role as a court and crime reporter for the Savannah News press to Quechee where he has just opened his own find furniture business--Mark Lackley Furniture.

Lackley stands in his very first showroom where a four-poster bed made of African Rosewood (Lackley describes this wood, called Bubinga, as “like the old mahogany that already has a patina on it”) and Cherry end tables with inlaid Tiger Maple diamonds and cuffs beckon. The only hint of Lackley’s journalistic past are the well-written descriptions and examples of techniques like dovetailing and double-wedged through-tenon joints displayed along the wall.

“What I mostly do are derivations of Shaker and Mission styles with my own flair,” comments Lackley as he points out a Shaker-style Trestle table. He blends the old with the new, taking the fine details of handwork from the past and combining them in new ways. He notes that he has over 150 woodworking books at home. “If you’re going to do what I do and be good at all you’ve go to be able to refer to pieces that represent the best of that style,” he notes.

Lackley, who has most recently been doing all custom work in a cooperative woodworking shop in Boston, enjoys running a one-man shop. “I handle every piece of wood,” he says with the grin of a child that does not have to share his toys. He particularly enjoys matching the grains such as the book matching technique he often employs. Using this method, a board is split and then folded out like a book so you see the mirror image of the grain on each side. These two pieces then are placed side by side in a blanket chest or china cabinet to expose the full beauty of the effect.

“I don’t invent this. I take all of my details from history,” comments Lackley. He points to a ball-and-claw foot on a Queen Anne Cabriole leg that he has hand-carved. While he works with many different types of wood--Bubinga, Cherry and Oak among them--he admits that Tiger Maple is his favorite. The wood, whose grain often evokes images of shadows in a dance, presents a challenge as the rippling grain wants to rip as it is worked. Lackley likes the challenge and says, “I do whatever it takes to make the design right.”

Looking back on his decision to go into woodworking, Lackley cannot recall exactly what led him there. “For some reason, I’ve just always wanted to do this.” Part of the inspiration may have come from his genes: his grandfather was a woodworker. A pair of artistic bookends that he made holds woodworking books in Mark’s new showroom.

That decision 10 years ago led the Yale graduate first to Atlanta, the only place that would take him with no woodworking background. Initially he worked with a third-generation Greek furniture and cabinetmaker. Although the work the shop produced was “definitely not high-end” it gave Lackley the opportunity to learn the tools of the trade. After two years he moved on to a large 50-person shop that made kitchen cabinets. Of this experience he states, “I saw different procedures and how the big shops operate. I decided that was not the kind of woodworking I wanted to do.”

After moving to Boston and taking classes at the North Bennett Street School that teaches traditional crafts such as woodworking, Lackley joined the cooperative shop. He and his wife Kim moved to Woodstock last year to enjoy the beauty of the area and the benefits of small-town life.

Now, while still doing some custom work, Lackley is moving away from that primary focus. “I’m taking my best designs and starting a line of furniture and I’ll be adding to that line all the time,” he states.

He gazes around his neat workshop and stack of African Rosewood waiting to be crafted into a bed. He concludes with a smile, “I just love doing this. The thrill is completing the piece and putting that first coat of finish on it knowing that it will be an heirloom in someone’s home.”

(caption) MARK LACKLEY has traded in his typewriter for tools of a different trade as he fashions fine furniture is his Quechee workshop.

Photos By Rick Russell
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