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When opposites attract

At first glance, Carl Johnson and Alison Swann-Ingram appear to be an odd combination to have merged their separate woodworking businesses into Franklin Street Fine Woodwork in Tampa, Fla.

Alison Swan-Ingram, left, and Carl Johnson work together at Franklin Street Fine Woodwork in Tampa, Fla.

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Johnson retired as the chief construction inspector for the city of Tampa and began woodworking on a full-time basis. Swann-Ingram grew up in England, moved to the United States and, after working on her house, took up woodworking.

"I wanted to do something different and I had been doing woodworking since I was a kid, not that it ran in my family because my dad tried hard, but he wasn't very handy," says Johnson. "For me it was self-taught, reading books and building things and tearing things apart. So I've always built furniture since I was probably a young teen."

About six years ago, at the age of 48, he retired and started working out of a 1,000-sq.-ft. shop in his house.

For Swann-Ingram, her journey to woodworking was more circuitous. She grew up about 50 miles west of London, went to Chile when she was 18 or 19 and met her husband, who was in the American Special Forces. Once she finished college, she moved to the United States and eventually settled in Portland. Ore.

The partners have produced "The Three Sisters," which features mahogany and glass display cabinets inlaid with precious stones that also act as the switch for interior lights.

"It is a wonderful city and we bought a really old house and there was a major project every weekend," she says. "They were all very big jobs and, through that process, I accumulated some tools and construction-type skills. I found a piece of beautiful figured quilted maple and built a table out of it and that was really my first woodworking project. I'm not really sure how things stayed together because there wasn't any real joinery in it, but I had so much fun doing it that my husband said, 'You like this, so go to school for this.' "

She attended the Oregon College of Art and Craft, started making things that didn't fall apart and sales followed.

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