A master of wood with a heart of gold

Sam Maloof passed away May 21 at the age of 93. In March 2005, I was fortunate to spend a day with Sam, his wife Beverly, co-workers Larry White, Mike Johnson and David Wade, and business manager Roz Bock for a Woodshop News profile. By now, everything that could possibly be said about Sam and his incredible woodworking career has been written time and time again. As a furniture maker and shop owner, Sam was in a league of his own.

But there was more to Mr. Maloof than his woodworking persona would suggest. I discovered he had a need for speed, occasionally pushing the pedal to the metal in his Porsche. He was also philanthropic, humble, loving and mischievous — not bad for a guy who was 89 the day I met him.

So allow me to share a few more personal thoughts about “Sam and his boys,” which don’t necessarily involve shop talk.

But first, I must confess, I did witness Sam prepare walnut rocker arms with his unconventional, over-the-shoulder, free-form technique using an Agazzani band saw. It was truly mind-boggling to see, something etched in my mind, yet definitely a procedure I will never, ever, attempt (nor, as Mr. Maloof would often say, should anyone else).

After spending several hours in his shop, Sam, Larry, Michael, David and I went out for lunch at a small restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Soups and salads were the fare and, surprisingly, conversation was mostly unrelated to woodworking. As far as I was concerned, everyone had a grand old time. And Sam was elated that I picked up the check. Thanks to Woodshop News.

So that was it. I had my five hours with Sam and an experience I would never forget.

But that wasn’t it. After leaving the restaurant, the master wanted to tour the local neighborhood. Huh? David drove; Larry, Michael, and I were along for the ride and Sam — yeah, Sam Maloof — came out with comments like, “I can’t believe how much things have changed” and “what a structural mess that is.” We drove around in an SUV for at least an hour. What a fascinating ride. If I only I could relive that hour, if I could have had a tape recorder going. If, if, if ...

When we returned to the shop, and before I said goodbye to everyone, including “The Man,” I grabbed a piece of scrap wood and asked Sam to sign it for me. Graciously, he obliged, took out a black pen and wrote, “To Brian. Blessing. Peace. Sam Maloof. March 30th, 2005.” The piece of walnut sits proudly in my living room.

Blessings and peace to you, Sam Maloof. You were one of a kind and will be sorely missed, more so than you would ever have imagined.

To read Brian’s 2005 profile of Mr. Maloof, visit www.woodshopnews.com. It can be found on the home page in the Editor’s Picks section.

This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue.