Putting the "log" back in Blog

R.I.P. Frank David: Thanks for Sharing Your Passion for Wood

Posted on September 24th, by Andy Brownell in Wood. 15 comments


The last time I spent with Frank David in August at Midwest Woodworking.

The last time I spent with Frank David in August at Midwest Woodworking.

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

15 thoughts on “R.I.P. Frank David: Thanks for Sharing Your Passion for Wood

  1. Thank you Andy for sharing this find with the rest if us. I had the pleasure of hanging out with Frank several times during my excursions from Indianpolis. Frank was gracious with his lumber and knowledge even giving me a grand shop tour during one visit. His wry spirit will live on in the story told by my furniture built from his stash.

    • Andy thank you for you’re post.I had a relationship with Frank David as well as his father Joe.His father was a german jew and fled germany when Hitler took power.My trade is on site wood work finishing and refinishing.I restored Franks house after it caught fire.I used t\o go to the curt off bin and buy wood for my butcher blocks.After Frank died I stopped in the shop and bought all of the curt offs two truckloads for $50.00!

    • Sad news indeed. I also never got to meet the man but did talk on the phone with him a few times around the time of the big sale. I could tell his health was very bad in our converstations but he never let on how bad. I really do regret not meeting him in person and getting to share some of his lumber. RIP Frank.

        • Hey Andy. I was trying to get some lumber shipped but Frank was obviously way too sick to make it happen. I would love to get another chance at some of his coveted lumber. I am a small time hobbyist in northeast Florida.

  2. I got to meet Frank at the wood sale in August. Talking to him for those few minutes while he figured the cost of the lumber I was buying I could tell he was a very caring person. I am sure he will be missed. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Hey Andy. I was trying to get some wood shipped to me in FL. but obviously Frank was way too sick to make it happen. If and when a sale happens again I would love to attend.

    • Hey Kevin,

      It’s still not too late to get some wood shipped. You should email Daryl Ritchie at dritchie1@cinci.rr.com, he should be able to help you out, but I’d do it in the next week or so. He’s the last of the workers there and he’s wrapping up some orders to be shipped. Please use my name when you contact him.


      • Hi Andy,
        I tried daryl and he said he would check the stash for some wide sugar pine but he never got back to me. Maybe they don’t have anymore to sell. Oh, well I tried.

  4. Hi Andy,

    Hope this e-mail finds you well. My dad asked me to check to see if you know what happened to the rest of the wood at Midwest Woodworking? Is there anymore available?

    We have started our house and Dad will be starting to make the light fixtures out of the mahogany we bought. Once I get our current house on the market I will start the stain glass. Hope to hear from you.


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