Thirteen years into a military career, Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Becker, a cyber operations technician assigned here with B Company, 1st Cyber Protection Battalion, Cyber Protection Brigade, returned to woodworking using only a circular saw and drill while stationed at Korea in 2009. After a household goods delivery of his son’s wooden dresser, that was falling apart, Becker was encouraged to make his own furniture.
“I knew how to do everything. I worked outside on an apartment balcony,” he said. “I’ve since built tons of furniture for us. Everything has lasted.”
Since then his hobby continued to grow at his following duty station, Hawaii. The balcony size workspace expanded into the back yard with supplies stored in a small shed. This is where he had more time to dedicate to working on more projects, whenever he need a kid-sized desk, he’d make everything custom made specifically sized to fit a kid. Other people took notice and began asking about furniture of their own.
“He can pretty much do anything you ask, and the quality is outstanding,” said John Lanting, a U.S. Postal Service mailman whose mail route delivers along Becker’s current neighborhood in Grovetown, Georgia.
As projects came along, he purchased the tools he needed. With the extra outdoor space, it allowed for more tools such as a table saw, courtesy of his father, and a router used to create joints into the wood.
Becker and his brother helped his father when they were younger. He paid them $2 per hour assisting with remodeling houses, rebuilding roofs and siding. Becker’s passion of woodworking is evident.
“You cut into a piece of wood and you can smell it. You cut into different species of woods and you can smell it,” he said. It takes me back 25 years ago and it’s really fun. It’s a nostalgic type of thing.”
At 17, he joined the Army during his senior year of high school. When he turned 18, he shipped from home and from woodworking. His deployments and tours include Iraq, Korea, Germany, Hawaii, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and Fort Gordon, Georgia.
Every Father’s Day is something to look forward to because the family buys new tools as gifts for him.
The family benefits from the furniture he makes. He recently created a customized closet shelving system for his home in Grovetown. Both kid’s rooms have beds with drawers outfitted underneath them and each their own desk. There is an entertainment center built for all the gaming consoles. Becker is working on a fourth desk for his wife, who also doesn’t mind the dust and has accepted it as part of their life.
“She loves having furniture. Anytime she see’s something in a magazine it’s ‘I want this, but like this,’” he said.
Becker spends a lot of time in the garage. There’s a long list of things he has to build. He takes 30 minutes during his lunchtime to stop by the house and set up his tools, ready for an evening of woodworking.
He likes his dining room table best, which is just a big 3 ½ inch thick piece of pine. It’s super-thick and sturdy. The table and benches are something he made that the family sits around for dinner, to play cards, do homework, sit and be comfortable on something that will be around forever.
“Having stuff that will last forever and people enjoying it is what it’s all about,” he said.
Most of his furniture grade wood is found at lumber yards near Atlanta and in South Carolina. Locally, there’s not many good places to get wood because mostly its pine trees cut down in the area for mulch and the paper mill, not furniture quality. The stock of wood in his garage are Jatoba from Brazil, Bubinga from Africa, and a Mahogany from Honduras.
Everything is made at his own pace, taking the time to build, selecting the wood, and digging through stacks of wood to find the right piece to fit the right area of a project. Sometimes, there’s that special piece of wood Becker has his sights on and buys it to just have it sit for two years or more until he finally finds a way to use it.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be yet and that’s a lot of fun.”
“Every day is an adventure. You look at the wood in the lumber yard and it kind of speaks to you, something significant stands out. You will always remember this special furniture. It’s a journey until the end.” He said. “The enjoyment of making something for somebody or for your house is a forever type of statement.”
When his dad had his business it became stressful because he wasn’t building for fun anymore. Becker’s father built furniture to meet deadlines always crunching the clock to pay the bills.
“I never want it to be a job I’m depending on for money because at that point it won’t be fun anymore,” Becker said. “When it’s time to retire, I would like be an online professor and also do wood working. Mainly wood working, because I enjoy doing this.”