Building son's highchair gives woodworker a lift

January 13, 1993|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,Staff Writer

Veronica Simms has known her brother Kenneth is a talented woodworker since he showed an interest in the craft 12 years ago.

In October, Ms. Simms, 44, was even more awed by her brother's work when he made her a wood-and-gold jewelry box for her birthday. It was not the first handmade item Mr. Simms, 35, made for his sister, nor the biggest. There were closets, cupboards, clocks, frames and wall hangings. But the jewelry box was different.

"It wasn't something a regular lay person would do," said Ms. Simms. "It's so elegant. It made me feel very special.

"He had a knack of destroying when he was younger," she added. "He had plenty of tools at an early age, but he did not know what to do with them. I remember seeing scars all over my mother's table."

Mr. Simms, a full-time cabinetmaker for a shop in Virginia and a part-time entrepreneur, has operated Nifty Craft and Carpentry out of his home for five years.

After graduating from Arundel High School, Mr. Simms studied criminology at the University of Maryland at College Park for two years. He left school and eventually became an architectural model maker, which sparked his interest in woodworking.

His handiwork on a highchair for his 18-month-old son Kenneth Jr. is featured in the Editor's Angle section in this month's edition of WOOD, a Better Homes and Gardens magazine published in Des Moines, Iowa. The publication bills itself as the world's leading woodworking magazine.

"I sent them a picture of my son in the highchair. I knew the magazine included pictures of readers before, and I knew I had done a good job on the chair," said Mr. Simms, a lifelong Hanover resident.

Larry Clayton, editor in chief of WOOD, said the highchair was very well-crafted.

"Kenneth Sr. did the project in a good fashion and the photo of it with his son was darling," Mr. Clayton said. "I had it around my office for a few months and I decided to get an editorial assistant to give him a call. He's pretty shy."

Mr. Simms said he started the chair -- which has a built-in seat belt -- shortly after Kenneth Jr.'s birth and worked on it for 12 hours.

"The highchair is special because it is a piece of fine furniture with pretty complex woodworking. Kenny uses it at every meal," Mr. Simms said.

Kenny also uses other handmade items in the Simms' 100-year-old home -- a wood train track that reverses into a auto racing track, toy bins, miniature basketball hoops, and a rocking lion with a grooved back, a huge purple mane, rope tail and bulging eyes.

"Have you ever seen a baby with his own rocking lion?" Ms. Simms asked incredulously.

What about a living room with a handmade candy holder, next to five homemade clocks -- some that chime -- on a handmade mantle?

Mr. Simms even remodeled the kitchen with handmade cupboards, cabinets and a musical breadbox for his wife, Jolisa, 31. The bathrooms have handmade linen closets and toilet tables.

Toilet table?

The table, which sits next to the toilet, is about 3 feet tall and features a toilet-paper holder, a storage area for pens and pencils, and a desktop for books and newspapers.

"I am currently marketing a piece of furniture I patented in 1989. It is designed to facilitate reading in the bathroom," Mr. Simms said. "The idea hasn't caught on like I wish it would. I think it's a great idea. I wouldn't want to be in a bathroom without it."

Bay and Country Crafts in Fells Point is the only store that carries the toilet table. Owner Terri Paris said she has sold nine since 1990 for $49.95 each.

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