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Carpentry may be my true calling

E very month-end, starting today, our reporters will try to walk in the shoes of various professionals, and will share stories of their experiences on our print, online and social media platforms.

Reporter Shanel Lemmie spent a day in a workshop, trying to be a cabinetmaker. Here is the first instalment of our new Day in the Life feature.

When I arrived at Richard Campbell's workshop, located on Pechon Street in downtown Kingston, I was outwardly confident that my previously undiscovered talent would somehow manifest itself.

Deep inside, though, my heart was pounding out of fear that not only would I ruin some furniture, but also lose a finger or some precious appendage. I, nonetheless, presented a brave face and eagerly took instructions from the Campbell, who has been a cabinetmaker for just over a decade .

My assignment for the day was to help in the completion of a bedroom set.

As Campbell walked me through the paces, all I could hear in my head were the taunts of my colleagues who never miss an opportunity to tease me about my long nails.

"So how you a go cut board wid dem deh claw deh?" one teased.

"You haffi guh file dung dat or di saw wi do it fi you," another added.

Ever the defiant one, I was determined to end the day with all my extensions intact.

Seemingly oblivious to the sweltering heat from the mid-morning sun, Campbell brought an already primed chest of drawers to life by expertly applying a quick-dry black enamel spay. It seemed fun. I eagerly waited for my chance to show my worth as a painter but the professional did not even glance at me.

Growing impatient, I reached for the spray bottle. I didn't have a chance to palm it properly when he said, "Dah part yah a nuh your part. Dah part yah a kinda one technical part."


Sensing my feeling of rejection, Campbell gave me a cloth to dust the other piece of furniture we would be working on. I collected myself and got to work. A few dust bunnies later, I was given a real task.

Campbell handed me a cardboard guide and instructed me to drill the holes for the handles that I'd later attach. As I approached the glossy black board, it flashed in my mind that I was making a permanent hole in a piece that some unsuspecting customer had paid for. I steeled my mind and began. In no time, the drill felt right at home in my hand. Not even my nails that I had been ridiculed for could slow me down. I quickly moved on to screwing on the handles, and made light work of that too.

"You done already?" Campbell asked. Before I could even bask in my pride, he beckoned me over to the table saw, the instrument I truly feared. After a demonstration, I hesitantly approached. Though it had seemed easy enough, I still sent up a silent prayer for the health of my fingers.

"God, please don't make this chop off mi finger," was my silent prayer.

I slowly glided the sheet of hardboard over the table saw and watched it separate before my eyes. Not one minute in, my hubris overcame me.

Zoop! The board I was holding flew across the table. I stood back waiting for the pain to kick in because I was sure I lost a finger. But the pain never came. My prayers were answered.

The only evidence of my blunder was an imperfect cut on the board. I had survived my toughest test.

After that, the careful exuberance and relief that washed over me propelled me into a steady rhythm. In unison, Campbell and I sawed, stapled and assembled until we were finished.

We made a beautiful piece of furniture. Carpentry may have been my true calling, after all.