Fur­ni­ture builder finds the work ther­a­peu­tic

Wood­work­ing hobby turns into busi­ness.

The Weekly Vista - - News - LYNN ATKINS latkins@nwadg.com

Pete Kei­gley likes peo­ple to touch his fur­ni­ture. He en­cour­ages vis­i­tors to run their hands along the wood and en­joy the satiny fin­ish. He works hard to get that fin­ish.

When Kei­gley re­tired as a fi­nan­cial plan­ner, he wasn’t plan­ning to start a new busi­ness. He had al­ready had two suc­cess­ful ca­reers. But when he and his wife were shop­ping for a game ta­ble for their new re­tire­ment home in Bella Vista, Kei­gley men­tioned that he could make a ta­ble like the one they were ad­mir­ing. The fur­ni­ture sales­man over­heard the com­ment and asked Kei­gley if he could make a cus­tom en­ter­tain­ment cen­ter for his own home. A cus­tom fur­ni­ture busi­ness was born.

“I use a lot of ex­otic woods,” he said. Ev­ery piece he makes is one of a kind and is built to fit the cus­tomer’s life­style.

When he first moved into the house on the east side, Kei­gley set up a small work­shop in the base­ment. But as his busi­ness started grow­ing, so did his work­shop. He added on to it sev­eral times, which meant dig­ging out un­der the house and wheel­bar­row­ing the dirt out. Now he has a 1,400-square-foot work­shop with a so­phis­ti­cated dust col­lec­tion sys­tem and most of the tools he could ever need.

He bought the tools for the busi­ness, but now, he needs to keep the busi­ness go­ing to pay for his tools.

But Kei­gley also gets the sat­is­fac­tion of know­ing he’s build­ing heir­looms. He adds a small gold plaque to each piece with his name on it.

“I like to think of it as giv­ing a tree an­other life — an­other ex­is­tence,” he said.

He knows many wood­work­ers in the area, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the Bella Vista Wood­carvers Club and the State­line Wood­turn­ers, but he has not joined any groups. His work is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. In fact, he only knows of one other high-end fur­ni­ture maker in the re­gion.

He de­signs each piece him­self. When a cus­tomer wanted a Queen Anne desk and chair, Kei­gley de­signed them and drew his own pat­terns. The desk, which was com­mis­sioned by a lawyer, has a se­cret drawer.

Many of his de­signs have sur­prises, like a buf­fet that opens from the top in spite of what ap­pears to be a drawer. When he does build a drawer, it’s al­ways dove­tailed. A solid wood piece with the joints dove­tailed will last a long time, he said, un­like most of the fur­ni­ture you can buy to­day.

He never ac­cepts a job that comes with a dead­line and he al­most al­ways works in his shop. He can de­sign and build en­ter­tain­ment cen­ters that look like built-ins, but he makes them in sec­tions in his work­shop, not on site.

Although he works at his own pace, he likes to be pro­duc­tive and usu­ally has a project un­der­way.

“It’s the best ther­apy in the world,” he said. A few years ago, Kei­gley lost his wife of more than 50 years and only got through by go­ing down to his shop and work­ing. When you’re work­ing with wood, you can for­get about any­thing else, he said.

Lynn Atkins/The Weekly Vista

Pete Kei­gley stands in his 1,400-square-foot work­shop. He re­tired and moved to Bella Vista from Iowa al­most 20 years ago.

Lynn Atkins/The Weekly Vista

Fur­ni­ture maker Pete Kei­gley uses a lot of ex­otic wood, of­ten com­bin­ing two kinds of wood for a con­trast. He likes to make his own han­dles and drawer pulls so they match the piece.

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