Furniture designer and builder Sam Maloof passed away recently at the age of 93. I had the pleasure to meet him in the mid-1990s. I was an assistant editor at Woodsmith Magazine in Des Moines, Iowa. Maloof, along with several other woodworking luminaries, was in Des Moines to make a guest appearance at a woodworking show. Woodsmith publisher and editor Don Peschke invited them to a party in the garden at Woodsmith headquarters. It was a beautiful evening.
Sitting at one of the tables under a big awning, a couple of assistant editors and myself found a rare moment when Maloof was alone. We had recently watched a documentary in which Maloof was carving a piece of walnut on a band saw with the blade guard removed and about 8″ to 10″ of blade exposed. So we asked him if he had ever been injured in the shop. He said yes, but only once. He said he’d been napping in the shop, and for some unknown reason awoke quickly and started back at the band saw where he had left off. That was when he buried the blade in his thumb. He showed us the scar.
But what I saw were the hands. His hands were big and strong and impressive. They were the hands of someone who worked with his hands every day. He was a designer/artisan. He was what we wanted to be on some level, if only we’d had the creativity and the skill to pull it off.
He was also very nice. We asked a few other dumb questions which he answered with candor and humor. Quite a guy.
I looked through several photos of Maloof for this post and chose the one above. You can see his hands.
You can read about his life and work in this LA Times obituary with lots of photos.