MEET A MAKER - TOM SCHEPERS
With over 40 years of wood craftsmanship and hand selecting veneers, one of the first things Tom mentioned was how much he enjoys learning what’s new in the world of veneer. When you talk with those around Tom, you will hear about how incredibly knowledgeable he is.
“I sometimes wonder how we will replace the knowledge Tom possesses. He seems to know more about the veneer business than there is information available to learn,” David Lubbehusen, Director of Design Solutions.
Tom’s humbleness and pursuit to never stop learning speaks directly to the company’s core values. He lives them through the care he takes to ensure the customer gets an exceptionally crafted piece of wood furniture.
“Often the veneer samples come to me at our Veneer Studio for review. When I know we have a project and at times in general, I still like to go to the yard and see the bundle of flitches firsthand so there are no surprises and we get the consistency the customer deserves,” adds Tom.
Tom elaborated that looking at veneers at the yard is similar to discovering that great find like “pickers” do. “During my last visit, I saw this cherry flitch with a unique figure in it. I wasn’t sure what we would create with it, but I knew I needed to buy it. It sold immediately. That customer truly received a one-of-a-kind piece of art. We won’t see that figure again in a piece of wood. That’s the beauty of natural materials.” adds Tom.
“Tom has forgotten more about veneer than most of us can learn in a lifetime. He has the eye of an artist and the hand of a creator. He has a unique ability to see the beauty of the end piece of furniture while selecting veneer in its rawest state,” comments Phil Englert, Director of Sales Operations and Training.
Tom likes to remind our tour groups that trees are exactly like humans. There are no two trees alike in the forest. It’s all Mother Nature and the environment that gives each tree its fingerprint.
“Think about someone with freckles. That’s genetic. They’re unique and add character. That’s exactly what birdseye maple is, freckles on the tree. Or the rarity and beauty of burl wood, too. This prized wood grain is the result of a tree being under stress or a malignancy. It’s simply nature doing what it does.”
Tom honestly admitted that sometimes he can’t identify the species of a tree by its leaves or bark like many people can. “My neighbors and I were discussing what type of tree we had in the backyard that needed to be removed last year. Oak, maple, hickory...we went round and round. Finally I said, ‘Let’s cut this thing down so I can tell you guys what species it is. I just need to see it from the inside.”
I would say that Tom’s perspective on trees goes right along with the adage, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.