Goshen News, Goshen, IN

September 27, 2012

From tree to table, woodworker explains how its done



Cletus Lambright, the owner of Lambright Woodworking in Topeka, his family and crew readied themselves for customers on Friday. They put out homemade apple treats, games and brochures explaining the legend of Johnny Appleseed. His daughter Valerie Yoder made a life-size Johnny Appleseed scarecrow holding a basket of apples. She put him in a rocking chair by the front entrance to greet the customers.

"Why Johnny Appleseed," Lambright asked rhetorically. "Well, I guess it is because this is the harvest time, apples are now ready for picking and we wanted a special day to have an open house sale and a theme that we relate to."

According to Wikipedia, Johnny Appleseed was a devout advocate of plain and simple living, a vegetarian, a role model for Arbor Day and a horticulturists. He was born, John Chapman, on Sept. 26, 1774, in Massachusetts. He died at the age of 70 in Fort Wayne according to the Fort Wayne Sentinel. He was known for planting thousands of apple trees as he traveled west toward Illinois.

As a tour bus pulled up alongside the building, Lambright said, "That is my 3 o’clock tour." He quickly walked across the floor in his well-worn, leather apron. He met the busload of tourists at his back door where he began the tour with a speech about trees, lumber and how he, his children and his employees transform it into fine furniture.

Lambright has some prominent customers. Notre Dame has kept him busy with a few projects. Right now he is filling a recent order for "kneeling" stools. He has had articles written about his work in Country Living, Better Homes and Gardens and numerous interior design magazines. But what keeps his doors open are referrals from his many repeat customers who could be ranked as avid "fans."

"We decided to remodel the interior of our home," recalled Mina and Spencer Price of Oregon, Ill. "It was 20 years ago. We could only afford to do it a piece at a time. We started with a full set of custom, kitchen cabinets. We have a large kitchen. Cletus and his crew did an amazing job. They look as good today as the day he installed them."

Price couldn’t say enough about all the pieces they have acquired over the last 20 years. Each set or piece she purchased has a story behind it, which she was more than happy to tell. "We know whatever design or wood Cletus suggests will be the best and the workmanship will always be top of the line. We have heirlooms now — not just furniture."

It looks like Lambright’s Woodworking will be around for a few generations to come. As is the Amish tradition, the woodworking skills are being passed from father to son. Ethan Yoder is Cletus’ grandson. At the age of 7 he enjoys helping out his father, uncles, cousins and grandfather in the shop and already knows his way around wood. "I like to make rubber-band guns and other things." He said he enjoys the feel, smell and look of wood and his favorite tool is the jigsaw.