Kansas City native John Boyd has been a cabinetmaker for 42 years and established his own business, John Boyd Woodworks, 30 years ago. In addition to making his own custom furniture (find him at Bottoms Up Market in the West Bottoms), Boyd also restores antiques, taking care to preserve the piece’s original character—just call it “old and improved.”
Kansas City Spaces: How did you get into this line of work?
John Boyd: I always knew that I wanted to work with my hands, and I like wood so it seemed like a good fit. Back then, I couldn’t find anybody in this area that was doing woodworking apprenticeships so I apprenticed in southeastern Pennsylvania, in York County. My apprenticeship was in a cabinet shop, and then I worked in commercial woodworking, making things like bar cabinets, for about 10 years off and on. But I’ve always done restoration work on the side.
KCS: How would you describe the furniture you build?
JB: I like to build, and I do a lot of projects almost from the tree right to the finished product. That’s been more of my focus for the last few years, building custom pieces. My work looks like it’s old. Most people can’t distinguish it from antique pieces unless they’re very knowledgeable. I work with both new and reclaimed wood, but my work is more polished than all of the rough-finished “reclaimed wood” pieces you see on the market today. That’s just not what I do.
KCS: Where do you find the pieces you restore?
JB: I really don’t deal at all. I mainly work with the interior design and antiques trade, so they find me! I’m kind of a hidden secret because I work primarily with the trade. When they have something that needs to be done, I’m often the guy that does it. Some of my work has even been featured on the cover of this magazine, but you’d never know it.
KCS: What influences the way you choose to restore furniture?
JB: It depends on the piece. For modern furniture, I’ll do whatever the client wants in terms of color. But for more historic pieces, I am more interested in conservation. I don’t like to overdo things. I think if it’s an antique piece it should show its age. I once restored a clock case from a historic home—it was actually George Washington’s field headquarters during the Revolution—but I didn’t do the finish on it. The man who did used a lacquer on it and made it look brand new, but it shouldn’t look brand new. I take more of a conservative approach.
Old Meets New
In addition to building new furniture and restoring old furniture, Boyd often takes on projects that employ a combination of those skill sets. For one recent project, he was asked to work with a Sunset Hill client’s beloved 18th-century display cabinet. “I built around it, duplicating all of the original 18th-century Italian carving,” Boyd explains. “That created a larger piece with the original cabinet at its center.”