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His new call to duty

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Studio furniture maker Andrew Pitts has planned a lifetime for what he's doing now. The sole owner of Andrew Pitts - Furniture Maker in Heathsville, Va., Pitts does it all from joinery to sanding to finishing and upholstery. He built his shop, mills his own lumber and does all of his own marketing and bookkeeping. What's most interesting is that Pitts is a retired captain in the U.S. Navy who yearned for this opportunity throughout his long career in the service.

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While his military duties kept him at sea most of the time, Pitts and his wife, Kathy, carted the growing workshop around with them whenever they could as he transferred to new stations. Finally, in 2002, with 30 years of active duty, he left the Navy and decided to make his studio furniture business profitable.

"Unfortunately, my Navy career never left room to take formal training, but as a Navy 'nuc' I was very adept at learning from reading, so I read all that I could and then tried to apply the principles in the shop. I'm pretty good at figuring things out, so it worked out well and I learned the mechanics of building furniture."

Pitt’s portfolio includes this four-drawer cabinet made from persimmon, featuring bent-laminated sides.

Now Pitts has a growing clientele of mostly local individuals for whom he builds one-off pieces of accent furniture for their homes. He is also an active member of The Furniture Society and expresses gratitude toward his colleagues for giving him a cross-pollination of various artistic styles.

Getting started

Pitts, who grew up in Franklin Lakes, N.J., built his first piece of furniture in high school, but really made a decision to be a furniture maker after graduating college and in his fifth year in the Navy.

"I bought my first large tool, a radial arm saw, as an ensign living in Idaho Falls, Idaho. That was in 1976 and there was sparse information available for budding studio makers. The business of studio furniture, as opposed to the hobby, was a mystery to me. I could see that raising a family could be tough financially and the Navy was a great career, so I decided to do both - a Navy career and a furniture-making career, in that order."

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