Local Craftsmen Keeping the Art of Carpentry Alive
Aug 31, 2016 10:30AM
By Clare Heekin Lynch
Portersville resident Alan Stauber starts with a tree trunk and a saw. More than 100 hours later, he has a piece of furniture with details so contoured and precise that it’s almost too lovely to use.
As a master carpenter, Stauber comes from a long line of carpenters and home builders. In 1983, he started his own business, Quality Carpentry, in order to offer first-rate craftsmanship that many larger builders just can’t provide. “To be able to create a product that is 100 percent unique, that is built to the specifications of your wants and needs, and uses no fillers, gives me such a sense of accomplishment,” he said. “You really get from it what you put in.”
Carpentry is one of the oldest skilled trades that is still used to this day. The word “carpenter” is derived from the Old French word charpentier or “carriage maker.” Today, carpentry consists of much more than just framing houses. Although this is a large part of the industry, carpenters are also responsible for cabinetmaking, furniture building and other finer trades.
“If you can do cabinetmaking, then you can do carpentry,” said Cranberry resident Joe Janeda, who first became interested in the trade in woodshop class in school. “I took more than 10 years of woodworking and then learned, hands-on, for another 12 years after that by working for different carpentry businesses.”
In 1991, he started his own business, Janeda Cabinets, in Warrendale. “While it has been challenging at times competing against the ‘big box’ stores, especially in an economy where people are more worried about the dollar versus the quality, there are still others who understand that better quality means longer life,” he explained.
Both carpenters do rough, finish, and shop carpentry, which includes everything from framing a house, to creating shutters and cupolas, to installing the exterior finishes on a building. While today’s new technology may add precision and speed to carpentry tasks, the way that techniques are passed down through generations has remained the same for hundreds of years.
“As home economics classes have given way to college-prep type classes, the art of the carpentry trade is slowly disappearing,” said Janeda. Today, carpentry is primarily taught through apprenticeships or specialty courses that give on-the-job type training.
“To me, it’s just sad that this art is slowly disappearing because woodworking offers the chance to learn the safe use of power tools and the opportunity to create something that becomes a source of pride,” added Stauber.
But woodworking is in the blood of those like Stauber and Janeda, who have spent their lives crafting wood. “While you have the consumers who want reasonable products at mass produced prices, you also have those who appreciate beautifully skilled work,” said Stauber. “If you can find furniture that satisfies your needs at a furniture store, then buy it, because chances are, we cannot build it for less than that. However, if you need a piece of furniture to fit a particular need or dimension, we can do that.”
Both old-school carpenters are keeping busy with work because of the niche that they have built for themselves. Janeda is well-known for his work not only residentially, but commercially. His handiwork is showcased in more than 30 restaurants around the country, including Pig Iron Public House, Bar Louie, BRGR, and Brick Oven Pizza in Pittsburgh, as well as in offices and other business establishments including Stray Dog Hot Studio, GNC, and Payless. Stauber has earned a reputation in the community for his work on several area mansions.
If you’re looking for a design or remodel that is unique to your home, you might consider hiring a licensed and qualified carpenter to complete the job. These craftsmen are passionate for the art and design components of their work and can take on any project from a small renovation or item that needs to be repaired, to an installation job or building a major addition on a client’s property.
“If it’s good enough for my house, than it’s good enough for yours,” laughed Janeda.