My father was a grocery store manager; he couldn't even drive a nail. So I guess I must have my grandfather's genes, which were then passed on to my son Richard, whom I admire as a master craftsman.

My grandfather came to the United States from Germany in the mid-1800s, where he'd been a wagon maker and wheel maker. Upon arrival, he found work as a woodworker and carver at a Buffalo, N.Y., piano factory. About 150 years ago, he built himself a rugged chest of drawers that was finally passed on to me.

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