This story may not ever be in the pages of Fine Woodworking Magazine, like I had hoped. (okay, I still hope…and fingers cross that maybe someday it will be!) After all, This is a story about a little shop in a little town, not a story about a famous carpenter with pieces in New York City. In fact most of his “pieces” we treasure in our own homes, and many homes around Holton Kansas have the best quality cabinets money can buy, because of this guy. My dad is humble, and has run his cabinet shop with faithful employees, for 41 years.
My self determined role, in our family, is the “historian”. I document our lives with my camera, and write stories for my kids to pass down to their kids. I LOVE stories…. reading them, telling them, listing to them on podcasts. If you like stories too, read on! This is a story about my own family and the legacy of fine woodworking passed down for generations. I heard once, that “stories have to be told or they die”… I agree, and maybe that’s why I love them so much, so here goes…. This is a true story about a carpenter, his great grandpa, and a legacy to pass on:
The Cabinet: A Maker’s Legacy & Story
While watching my dad, woodworker Michael Eubanks, restore an old, battered cabinet, I began to wonder about this piece of furniture. Maybe it’s a byproduct of growing up in a woodworking family, but I believe one can tell when a piece of furniture has been made with love. And this cabinet? I knew it was special.
As it turned out, the cabinet was a long-forgotten family heirloom made by my Great-Great- Grandfather William, a cabinetmaker like my dad. The cabinet had sat in a shed for decades, and as the beauty of the piece began to emerge under my dad’s skilled hands, I felt an urge to know more of the story behind it. I’d always found genealogy interesting, but never had the time to dive deeply into our family history. But this cabinet — broken, battered, and beautiful — inspired me to dig deeper. With the help of ancestory.com I even found a few photos.
William Glenn had created the beautiful quarter-sawn oak cabinet 119 years ago. He didn’t use the modern tools of today. The hand tools he used required precision, muscle, and sweat, over many hours it would have taken to build the stunning piece of craftsmanship. William grew up in Holton, Kansas, the second youngest of six children. Of course, there weren’t tablets or televisions at the time, so I imagine William spent his childhood playing and working outdoors. Eventually he married, had five children, and, after years of farming, made a career change to become a carpenter and homebuilder.
My dad, Michael Eubanks — son of Paul Eubanks, grandson of Alice Glenn, great-grandson of William Glenn — was born in the same small Kansas town, with a heart for woodgrain and sawdust and a knack for working with his hands. He met and married my mom, Brenda Cooper, and settled in the town of his birth; the same town where he would raise me and my three siblings, and where I raise my own three children. At the age of 22, Mike took a risk and quit farming to become a full-time cabinetmaker. He opened his humble cabinet shop, Eubanks Custom Woodworks, in the heart of Holton. He has been in business for 41 years now, and is known for the high-quality cabinets and furniture he makes. Renowned sculptor and furniture maker the late Wendell Castle, another Holton native, used to stop by to see what Mike was up to and loved the cabinet shop in his hometown.
Mike taught all four of his kids, Nathan, Dayna, Levi, and I, woodworking, first with hand tools, then power tools. (though I’m 37 and I doubt he’d let me cut anything out by myself at the shop) Now, he teaches his grandchildren, William’s great-great-great grandchildren, to embrace the proud tradition of woodworking that was long-ago etched in our family tree.
Recently, my daughter Charlotte made a beautiful bedside table with the help of her grandpa. They worked long hours to form the rough walnut, taken from the beams of the old Morgan mill in Holton. Like the cabinet, the bedside table will become a treasured family heirloom she can one day pass down. As she created the beautiful details of her table, her elegant young fingers curled around the same handle of the Stanley 45 combination plane that William Glenn once used on his cabinet. Charlotte stained, finished, and rubbed her table down with steel wool wax to make it soft and shiny. Her craftsmanship won her the grand-champion ribbon at the 4-H County Fair. I think Great-Great-Great-Grandpa William was looking down from heaven beaming with pride, just as her Grandpa Mike was as she was awarded the top ribbon for her hard work.
My dad carefully finished the cabinet William originally made and gave it a well-deserved place of honor in his home. He matched the new bottom section to his Great-Grandpa’s piece that he carefully refinished. The cabinet, resurrected from decades in a shed, brings joy and beauty to a new home. This cabinet had a story to tell, and now, thanks to my dad, will continue to add new chapters to its tale as it is used and loved by a new generation.
Old wood, old tools, and old stories of a great-great-great grandpa’s legacy deserve to be resurrected, cherished, and passed down again and again. These heirlooms and their stories remind us that we were made to create! Hard work, craftsmanship, and passion aren’t just a thing of the past, but the very things that inspire us to be a little more “old-school” and continue to make beautiful things and create new stories to be enjoyed now and into the future.
And that, my friends (in my best Paul Harvey voice) …. is the rest of the story.