R.I.P. Frank David: Thanks for Sharing Your Passion for Wood
It’s never easy to come to grips with the death of a friend. However, the recent passing of Frank David, of Midwest Woodworking didn’t come as a total surprise. Frank has been in and out of the hospital for the last five years since I’ve known him. His health had continued to go downhill over the last decade and had according to some, he “cheated death” more than a few times. He had a strong will and constitution, but sadly, his body finally gave out earlier this week.
I was introduced to Frank by a family friend who was also his insurance agent. My friend knew I was a furniture maker, and when he told me, “you have to go see this warehouse full of lumber”, I knew I was in store for something special. Much has been written about Frank’s seemingly endless supply of domestic and exotic species at Midwest Woodworking. And I’ve been fortunate enough (as have a few others) to have had access to the pick of some “boards of a lifetime”. For that, we all should be grateful. Every woodworker covets their secret supply of lumber. Rare is the instance of a woodworker sharing that with others, but that’s exactly what I have tried to accomplish over the last few years. Despite his reluctance to let go of his lumber, I think Frank knew his business was coming to an end, so he found some satisfaction in knowing that his supply was going to be used by woodworkers around the country who appreciated the nuances of the grain, and the uniqueness of each and every piece in his collection.
Frank was however, someone more than a just reliable supplier or exceptional lumber. He was a fellow woodworker and a friend. Much of the time I found myself in his dusty, unorganized shop was spent talking about different species of lumber. Many species I had never heard of until he introduced me to them. Niangon and German Bog Oak, among others, became part of my woodworking lexicon and ultimately part of my personal experience as a woodworker. Frank even taught me how to operate some of the massive 3-phase, 440 volt industrial equipment in his shop, which was quite a step up from my 110 volt Ridgid shop equipment. Over the years, he also passed on the knowledge of how his lumber piles were organized and sorted by species. In fact, I can even describe to you exactly where to find different species by size and thickness in the catacombs of his immense facility.
Frank also shared some of his own personal stories of being in the business for decades, as well as the experiences he had with his dad, and founder of Midwest Woodworking, Joseph David. He told me of the massive 40’+ long solid walnut conference table he made for P&G’s executive floor (someday I’ll try to seek it out in person). And where I could find the remnants of walnut trees from the Daniel Boone National Forest that were supposed to be cut into veneer, but instead found their way as solid stock in their shop. Those remnants are now on their way to Louisiana. Good luck Beau!
From the desk I’m writing this blog post on (made from a single slab of Makore) to the beds I put my children to sleep in tonight (Walnut and Sapele), much of the furniture in my home came from Frank David’s lumber supply at Midwest Woodworking. It’s not unusual for a piece of furniture to accumulate a narrative over time, as it’s passed on from one generation to the next. For the pieces made from Frank’s stock, the lumber itself had a story of where it came from, what the larger order was that it was originally a part of, and the negotiations I had with Frank to take it home to become something more.
Frank my friend, I will miss the stories we shared over my lunch breaks. I will miss having the opportunity to learn about the material I work with from your own unique perspective.
I will even miss your voice and mannerisms that resembled the combination of Dr. Evil’s voice (from Austin Powers) with the appearance of a retired Santa Claus.
I don’t consider myself a particularly spiritual person, but it will be hard not think about you every time I catch the reflecting light in the wood you introduced me to.
Thank you Frank. You’ll be missed, but not forgotten.
– Andy Brownell