Swansea doctor can resuscitate your furniture

News-DemocratSeptember 1, 2013 

Don't even get Michael Hawkins started on the poor quality of modern furniture.

He hates the way builders nail together two pieces of plywood and call it a "joint," not bothering to use metal L brackets or even glue.

"Every year, it gets cheaper and cheaper," said Michael, 45, of Swansea. "They want to cut costs. It's about quantity, not quality."

Michael thinks some companies purposely sell furniture that will fall apart with minimal wear.

"They don't want it to last," he said. "They want you to buy something new. They know what they're doing."

In the past 13 years, Michael has turned his angst into action. He operates a home business called The Chair Doctor and Furniture Surgeon.

Michael not only repairs but rebuilds furniture so it will last longer.

"I use 50/50 epoxy," he said. "It's different from a standard wood glue. It will actually attach to the grain of the wood, and it creates a bond that's almost indestructible."

Michael also strips and refinishes pieces, everything from tables and chairs to sofas, hutches, office desks and patio sets.

He re-canes chairs if he's not too bogged down with other work.

"I taught myself over a period of time, by reading books and watching videos on YouTube," he said. "It's very tedious. It's very time-consuming."

Michael worked eight years for two companies that repaired, built and rented furniture in the St. Louis area.

He was looking for a new opportunity in late 2001, when he saw an ad in Entrepreneur magazine that read, "Earn $119 an hour fixing loose and broken chairs."

Michael was skeptical, but he contacted a North Dakota company that sold professional supplies and training materials. Its owner helped him start his business in Godfrey.

Michael later expanded to work on all furniture, not just chairs. He and his wife, Melinda, and their three kids moved to Swansea seven years ago.

Today, Michael's garage workshop is filled with furniture in various stages of repair and disrepair.

"I do a lot of work for Scott Air Force Base," he said. "They have a lot of transfers. People move to the base from overseas, and their furniture gets damaged. I go to the base several times a month doing estimates."

The Chair Doctor and Furniture Surgeon is at 212 Bobbie Drive in Swansea. The shop number is 618-416-0149.

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