Master of the Craftsmen




Newspaper Articles About Frank James
And His Unique Craftsmanship Talents

Building A Dream

' The way we build furniture today,
it will only last a few years. I'd like to go back to the old ways of making things.'

James has spent almost $3,000 on his dream bed
and still isn't finished with the design.

Panorama Staff Writer
Times Herald Vallejo
Thursday, May 1, 1980

VALLEJO--The two-car garage in the house where Frank James lives has a bed in it. And that's about all there is room for. Constructed by James, who is a carpenter, this elaborate dreamboat is a project launched about 14 months ago.
  The bed stands 7 feet high and 7 feet long. The total width is 9 feet, 6 feet of which is a well awaiting a mattress. Since the bed stands on a pedestal, it is entered by a small staircase with a wrought iron rail.
  In the arched headboard structure, under two  chandeliers, is an aquarium, a coffee maker, shelves and cupboards, a liquor cabinet, a stereo, a TV
-- and a trophy case. And a clock.
  "Everybody daydreams. Don't they?" asks James., defending his own fantasy creation and at the same time projecting plans to set up a business venture to fulfill other people's daydreams about the kind of furniture they would like.
  A bed is a good start, obviously., since everybody spends about one-third of their lives sleeping. Translated into years that makes us all veritable Rip Van Winkles. James, however, says he also has other ideas for innovative designs in furniture.
James contends that on one is coming up with -- or dreaming up -- new designs. "They only add to or take away from existing designs," he claims.
  Drafting the plans for the bed meant for James putting a day-dream down on paper, not letting it drift away.
 "But I tore the whole thing down when I was about 75 percent through with it and started all over," he says.
  The carpenter's creative ideas invaded his sleeping hours. "I'd wake up in the middle of the night with an
idea for improving the design. Then I could hardly wait till morning to get back to building it."  "After I broke the bed up and started to change the drawings, then ideas started to come better. And I didn't need the drawings," he recalls.  The structure is made of pine and redwood nicely appointed with brass designs in the mortised wood. The finish is high loss varnish. He would like to use mahogany and oak, he says, but hey are too expensive. Mahogany at $11 a foot is out of reach of his earnings, most of which he has put into the bed, an investment he estimates is nearing $3,000.
  A newcomer to Vallejo, James, 33, is a native of St. Margarets, Trinidad, where he grew up the only boy in a family of eight children. He came to the United States in 1970 and decided to stay, settling first in New York where he developed his own construction business.
  In New York, he worked also as a clerk in the United Nations building.
  He moved to Long Beach, but there was too much traffic there, he says. He likes Vallejo. "You can think better here. It's quiet, more like the country, like home."
  James states his intention in creating the bed was "to build something strong."
  "The way we build furniture today, it will only last a few years. I'd like to go back to old ways of making things -- stuff that won't fall apart if you have to move three or four times in your life."
  A graduate of Naprima College in Trinidad, James attended trade schools, also. He learned his father's trade, masonry, and from his stepfather learned plumbing.
  He manages well as an electrician, too, having laid out the wiring for the controls on the bed. They are all on one panel -- from illuminated fish tank to
percolator and lights and music -- so if anything goes wrong, repairs can be made easily, he says.
  Of all the trades, it is carpentry that James really likes. He hints he'd like to teach carpentry skills. If he did so, the first lesson would be quality production.
  "The greatest thing a man has to use is patience. When something in the back of your mind tells you a thing is wrong, you have to change it," he believes.
  Too often, he adds, craftsmen shrug off their mistakes when they can tell them-selves "it's not worth it" to correct them.
James' first career choice was drafting, but there is not much money in the pro-fession, he says. However, he has always liked to draw and has added to his bed an overhead panel with a large drawing of world leaders -- Martin Luther King, John Kennedy, Anwar Sadat and Jimmy Carter. "That's a bonus -- for whoever buys the bed," James says.
  He likes politics, likes to know what's going on in the world, he says. Talk shows are his favorite TV pro-grams and football his favorite spectator sport.
  He plays ping pong and chess and claims he is very good at dominoes. He reads, mostly novels, and he likes jazz and calypso. Calypso, he says is like country and western.
  No, the bed is not quite finished. There is more brass  ornamen-tation and a canopy drape of fur is yet to be installed.
  "You know, fur. Up by the chandeliers," he explains.

Bed of Roses

  And yes, the carpenter has more designs ready to go. Recognizing that this is a mobile society and many people are single and move often, he is designing modular furniture.
  "The modules can be taken down, stacked and moved and set up again. They'll be light. Lightweight enough for a housewife to move without calling on help."

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