Slow and Steady wins The Race

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Slow and Steady wins The Race
Local ties help
The weirder the better
The 'big' job
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Thomas Bennett, a furniture maker in Athens, Ohio, understands the efficiencies good equipment can bring to a shop. His business is, in fact, built on the concept. But he can still be slow to take the bait when an equipment salesman dangles a shiny bauble before his eyes.

Several years ago at Woodwerks, a machinery dealer in Columbus, Ohio, Bennett was browsing new equipment while he considered the purchase of a stock feeder. At one point, the salesman tried to sell him an edgebander, and Bennett explained that, as a maker of solid wood furniture, his business was successful “because we don’t do edgebanding.” Later, the same salesman tried to interest Bennett in a 23-spindle Ritter R19F line drill, guiding him to the machine in question, then demonstrating the machine’s capabilities. Bennett was impressed and said so, but he also added, “It’s not for me.”


Owner of: Thomas Bennett Cabinetmaker
Location: Athens, Ohio
Years in business: More than 30 years
Maker of: Custom furniture and cabinetry
Also: Cuts and dries Southern Ohio hardwoods
Member of: Southeastern Ohio Woodturners
Web site:

Then later, in his truck on the two-hour drive from Columbus to Athens, Bennett began to think about the job he’d just taken to build 50 double-sided adjustable bookcases for the Coolville Public Library. “I was calculating each side had 200 holes. I kept multiplying in my head 200 holes times 100 pieces, and I kept coming up with the number 20,000.

“I started getting worried. We were going to use a stick with some marks on it, and have Russ Haning (Bennett’s employee of 19 years) spend a week marking out and drilling every one of them by hand. So as soon as I got back to Athens, I called Woodwerks and said I’d take the machine, and I ended up drilling all 20,000 holes in five hours on a Saturday morning by myself.”

From metal to wood
In the early 1970s, Bennett came to Ohio University in Athens from Alliance, a small town in Ohio’s northeast corner. He was a member of the nation’s first post-1960s generation, the generation determined to give form and substance to the ’60s dream of reshaping the world. At first, Bennett wanted to study architecture, a career for which he now feels he was not well-suited. But while taking classes at Ohio University’s School of Art, he came under the influence of several instructors who were passionate about the artistic manipulation of metal and wood. Wood sculptor David Hostetler was the most influential of these instructors, and today Bennett cites Hostetler as the chief reason he now works in wood, despite the fact that as an undergrad in the School of Art, Bennett’s forte was metal sculpture, in particular bronze casting.