With the New Year, it’s time to look into the article closet to check on some gems that haven’t seen the light of day. This one has been almost two years in the making. It turns out that David is slightly camera shy, but the work he and his crew does is unbelievable.
Woodworking can be a very personal endeavor. We get into it for our own reasons. Maybe it’s because a parent or relative did it. Others of us find the path on our own.
That’s what happened with David Sochar, owner of Acorn Woodworks of Westfield, Indiana. You see, David has always had the ambition to get into woodworking, but didn’t have the right encouragement. “When I was a kid, everything was geared toward higher education. I went to prep school, then to college. During all this education, all I just wanted to do was make things using my hands. My counselors were highly entertained by this novelty.”
When the peace movement hit full stride in 1971, David was caught up in the effort. He wandered around the country for a few years, earning a living doing manual crafts and labor to provide a decent living. “After a few years, I settled on working with wood as what I wanted to do. It’s forgiving, plentiful and a perfect natural material.”
David found his way back to his home state of Indiana. Odd jobs such as framing pictures and restoring antiques helped develop his skills. Eventually, David landed a job with a true architectural shop, building curved staircases, mantles, shutters and other high-end pieces. “It was heaven for me. I had finally found myself.”
As David’s abilities progressed, he eventually helped establish a shop that employed 25 woodworkers and cranked out high-end residential work. Ultimately, in 1991, he had to walk away from the operation. “The owners were less than human. One of them is now doing time in jail. It was a very bad situation.”
He went home that afternoon and announced to his family that he had quit the job. Rather than be alarmed by his move, David’s wife suggested they withdraw some cash to purchase some essential new tools for his hobby shop. “When I got back from the shopping trip, I already had two orders waiting for me on my home answering machine. That was the birth of Acorn Woodworks, and we’ve been running like hell since.”
Today, Acorn Woodworks has a brand new 9,000 square foot facility just outside of Indianapolis. “We have room to dance, if needed. We even splurged and now have a forklift to unload and move lumber – talk about a back saver!” The shop is very well equipped with some of the latest equipment. A 20” Laguna band saw, Delta Unisaws… “We even bought a laser guided rip saw from the last Ethan Allen plant to close in the US. A wonderful 2-1/2 tons of solid American cast iron that can work all day without breaking a sweat.”
While the shop may have some of the latest and greatest equipment, David’s philosophy with his employees hearkens back to a different day and age. Currently, Acorn Woodworks employs five full time woodworkers, and each of them is considered one of the company’s greatest assets. “Today, I have the pleasure of working with some of the best woodworkers I have known, and doing the best work. We have no employee problems and each of these people is like family. I easily trust them with my livelihood.”
In fact, David encourages each of his employees to use the shop equipment to do his own ‘homework.’ “I encourage everyone to make things for themselves, since the problem solving takes on a new dimension when they have to live with their results.”
That trust in each employee easily shows in the quality of the work Acorn turns out. “Problem solving is what we do. Daily. On the fly. Anticipating. Always problem solving. All we do is custom work, so every project requires the sum of an individual’s experience, and the collective shop experience. We call this shop equity since it is an asset that is important to what we do. We all enjoy a bit – or more – of a challenge.”
Sometimes that custom work can take some very strange twists. “I was commissioned to make a cedar chest for a bridal dress. The customer told me that the bride – his wife to be – was killed in a car accident the day before the wedding. He wanted bluebirds painted on the lid and fittings inside for memorabilia of the wedding that never was. It was an extremely sad story, but it was gratifying to build and he was very appreciative. He explained how this helped with the grieving process.”
With all of the success David is enjoying at Acorn Woodworks, how does this one-time free spirit relax? For someone who has woodworking in his soul, there’s really only one thing he can do. “Well, my wife insists I need a hobby – other that wood – but I can’t imagine what she is talking about.”