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Labor of Love

Father revisits old hobby to give daughter one-of-a-kind anniversary gift

Created date

February 20th, 2017
Bill Hartwig built a piecrust table, an anniversary gift for his daughter and son-in-law, in the woodshop at Brooksby Village.

Bill Hartwig built a piecrust table, an anniversary gift for his daughter and son-in-law, in the woodshop at Brooksby Village.

Bill Hartwig was determined to give his daughter Judy and her husband Carl a meaningful gift for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. He just couldn’t imagine what it might be.

“What do you give two people who’ve been married 50 years?” says Bill. “They already have everything they need.”

Bill’s moment of inspiration came as he glanced around his apartment at Brooksby Village, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass., where he’s lived since 2004.

Handmade furniture in the early American style, crafted by Bill throughout the years, fills the space. A sugar bin and sleigh seat rest along one wall; a butler’s table sits against another. A distressed dining table that looks as though it belongs in a Pottery Barn catalog invites guests to pull up a seat.

“I’ve been away from woodworking for so long, but the thought came to me that I could make a piecrust table for Judy and Carl,” says Bill. “I made a piecrust table once before for my wife Thelma, but that was 40 years ago.”

A piecrust table is a pedestal table which typically has a tilting mechanism so the table can be easily moved and stored. The top of the table has a raised edge that’s crimped like the edge of a piecrust.

“Once I decided what to make, I knew I was up against a deadline,” says Bill. “I had to get to work.”

Woodworking legacy

Bill’s history as a woodworker dates back several generations. His grandfather was a wood carver for Kaiser Wilhelm II in Germany. Bill’s father built bungalows on Long Island. When Bill and Thelma moved to Southborough, Mass., in 1955, Bill converted their basement into a woodworking shop.

“I really got into furniture making,” says Bill, who worked for Alcoa. “I spent nights, weekends, and vacation time tinkering in my woodshop.”

After Thelma passed away in 2003, Bill sold his Southborough home and moved to Brooksby where he eased up on woodworking until the idea for the piecrust table surfaced.

Brooksby’s woodshop proved to be the perfect location for the undertaking. The well-appointed shop contains a wide assortment of power and hand tools. Best of all, Bill was working alongside other woodworkers.

He asked Bruce Wedlock, a skilled furniture maker whose apartment is just across the hall from the woodshop, to help him at various points in the project.

“Whenever there’s a knock at my door, it’s usually someone from the woodshop looking for advice,” says Bruce Wedlock. “I have to admit I was a bit skeptical when Bill knocked on my door and told me he wanted to make a piecrust table.”

But Bill’s determination and know-how soon won Bruce over.

“Bill has an infinite amount of patience,” says Bruce. “He won’t stop until the piece is just the way he wants it.”

Gift of a lifetime

Bill started the project in late 2015. Carl and Judy’s fiftieth wedding anniversary was in August  2016.

For the finishing touch, Bill wrote a note to his daughter and son-in-law and affixed it to the bottom of the table. The inscription reads, “For Judith Lynn, our lovely daughter and Carl Gustin, our one and only son-in-law, for their devoted love and attention.”

“Judy and Carl were quite surprised and liked the table very much,” says Bill. “Having the woodshop at Brooksby was ideal. I got the feel for woodworking again, and I even learned a few new skills along the way.”