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Doctor has eyes on woodworking

Dr. Jay Stallman applies surgical precision and attention to detail to his hobby of woodworking. Always enthusiastic about heading to his shop on the weekends, he is most proud of his authentic 18th century furniture replicas.

Stallman recently completed this Newport block-front chest, a reproduction of an original mae in 1765 by John Townsend.

Stallman is a specialist at Georgia Retina in Atlanta. The ophthalmologist takes care of patients with problems in the back part of their eyes such as retinal detachments, as well as complications from diabetes and macular degeneration. His profession entails performing delicate and precise surgery under a microscope.

"I think in any job or any profession, especially one that's very demanding and has a certain amount of stress, everyone needs a hobby or passion of some kind. Woodworking is something I've been passionate about for a long time," says Stallman, who began woodworking with his father as a child.

"When you're doing woodworking, I think you have to be very focused ... not only to produce quality work, but for your own safety. If you're working with tools and machines, you can't have your mind wandering off somewhere else. So if you're completely focused in the workshop, it means that you're not letting the stresses of life and your career affect you, at least at that time. You have to be really in the moment."

Through the years, Stallman has taken classes to enhance his skills. He prefers creating 18th century reproductions and has made several chairs, tables and tall case clocks. He recently joined the Society of American Period Furniture Makers, and at the group's recent meeting displayed a pair of knife cases with serpentine fronts that took him more than a year to complete.

Other recent projects include a Newport case clock, a Philadelphia secretary and Chippendale-style chairs with ball and claw feet. But he doesn't always stick with reproductions. Sometimes he makes his own plans or modifies existing designs, with the goal of further developing his proficiency.

"When I make pieces, I usually pick something that requires some skill or technique that I haven't done before to try to expand my repertoire. I'm also trying to learn new techniques, which keeps it interesting. I will do a project with some carving, then something that involves mostly inlaying and veneer, then turning."

Stallman hasn't sold any of his work. He keeps the pieces in his home or gives them away as gifts to family members. His other hobbies include photography, scuba diving, fly fishing and aikido, in which he holds a fifth-degree black belt.

For photos of his work, visit

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue.

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