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Byline: STEPHANIE WHITTAKER
Name: Sean Peasley
There's something about driving a 53-foot tractor-trailer alone for hundreds of kilometres that can get a man thinking about a possible new career path.
That's how it was for Sean Peasley.
As a long-distance trucker, hauling freight from Ontario to Texas, he had time to consider what life might be like if he turned his woodworking hobby into a business.
And within four years, he had taken retraining at a vocational centre in Montreal and set himself up in his own woodworking shop.
Peasley's interest in cabinetmaking dates back to the fourth grade, when he did a woodworking class.
"In high school, I took another woodworking course but after that, I put it aside," he said.
After attending high school in the Eastern Townships municipality of Cowansville, Peasley moved with his family to Brighton, Ont.
Worked in a factory: "I got a job in a factory that made adhesives, silicones and industrial grease. Another division of the company made hairsprays and hair mousse.
"I was responsible for making the batches for the pharmaceutical products, mixing the ingredients into various formulations."
Took chemistry courses: At the same time, he studied chemistry at Loyalist College in Belleville and obtained a vocational certificate in the field.
"It gave me more understanding of what I was doing and the theory behind it," he said. "I worked there for six years but eventually moved into the maintenance part of the business. I was dismantling the industrial machines and doing preventive maintenance on them and troubleshooting. So to get a better understanding of that work, I took a night program at Loyalist College in maintenance practices for industrial machines. It focused on hydraulics and pneumatics. I always liked getting the theory behind the work because it filled in the blanks of what I was learning on the job."
Decided to take a different route: By 1996, Peasley was ready for a career change and he trained to become a long-distance truck driver.
"After that, I went on the road, hauling freight as far as Loredo, Tex."
And it was during these long hauls that he began to muse over another possible career change: cabinetmaking.
Went back to factory work: "I left trucking in late 1997 and moved back to Knowlton because my family had returned here," he said. "I got a job working at Knowlton Packaging, doing what I had done before. I was compounding shampoos and soaps."
There, he met his wife, a former high school friend. They married in 1999.
Returned to driving a truck: Two years later, Peasley was contacted by a friend with a tip on a job in Brighton, Ont., driving tankers to farms, where he picked up milk and trucked it to dairies for pasteurization.
"I did that for two years and moved back to Quebec again," he said.
Decided to realize a dream: After spending a few months doing logging and wood cutting, Peasley decided it was time to realize his dream of turning his former hobby into a career.
Enrolled in vocational program: "I saw a newspaper ad for Rosemount Technology Centre's cabinetmaking program and I enrolled," he said.
The course ran from April 2001 to August 2002, during which time he did an internship at a cabinetmaking company in West Brome, which specializes in custom work: doors, floors, moldings, cabinets and furniture.
Landed a summer job: "They hired me in 2002, and I worked the summer but I knew I'd return to Rosemount for the furniture finishing program," he said.
Added to his skills: He continued to work part time while studying furniture finishing and began doing his own projects on the side, using space in his in-laws' garage.
Launched his own business: Peasley decided earlier this year to launch his own business after buying the machines he'd need to do the work.
This week, he's putting the finishing touches on a cupola for a client's garage and a television cabinet for another customer. Other projects have included the construction of a kitchen peninsula, racks for compact discs and solid wood armoires.
Business comes through word-of-mouth contacts.
"I decided it would be best if I had both cabinetmaking and furniture finishing skills. In addition to building things, I can repair furniture and do touchups," he said.
Ultimately, Peasley plans to build a larger work studio nearby in the bucolic setting of Sutton township.
"I like building fine furniture and plan to create my own line of furnishings," he said.
Meanwhile, he says he loves the creativity of the work he's doing.
"To take a rough piece of lumber and turn it into something beautiful is very pleasing," he said.
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Anyone considering a career as a cabinetmaker should read about the subject in magazines and books, says Sean Peasley.
He also recommends they investigate programs at such vocational schools as Rosemount Technology Centre in Montreal's east end.
"The courses I took at Rosemount were really helpful," he said. "They gave me the confidence to go out and research and attempt projects."
Also, talk to people who build furniture, he suggests.
"And understand that it takes time to get good at this. It takes a lot of practice and errors. Wood's funny. You build something one day and the next day, the air is humid and the wood warps. You need a lot of patience to do this and you can't hurry a job."
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