Andy Rooney

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60 MINUTES' star commentator builds beautiful furniture and confesses to board hoarding by Tim Snyder

Andy Rooney is a woodworker. References to woodworking arc sprinkled among the gems of wisdom chat this famous journalist has dispensed over a career spanning more than half a century. Rooney has even alluded to his woodshop activities on television's 60 Minutes news program, where his astute, amusing and often irreverent remarks are enjoyed by millions of viewers.

Investigating the woodworking rumor, I learned that Rooney has two workshops. His "small" shop is at his year-round home in Connecticut. The centcrpiccc here is a Shopsmith combination machine given to Rooney in 1951 by Arthur Godfrey, a popular TV personality during the 1950s who shared Rooney's passion for wood.

I managed to wrangle an invitation to visit the larger workshop where Rooney docs most of his work. It's loeated in upstate New York, not far from the Albany area where he grew up. I found the famous writer as you see him here —up to his ankles in offcuts, with one small table just completed and another one underway. Tables of all types are a Rooney specialty. "I pay a lot of attention to the top and to the drawer fronts," he explains. "That's where you have the chance to show off your most beautiful wood."

Rooney still docs a great deal of his writing on a manual typewriter that's as old as he is. But he hasn't resisted the progress of power tools for woodworking. A Powermatic cabinet saw and jointer hold down central positions on the shop floor. Rooney uses a Makita resaw bandsaw to cut lumber from trees felled on his own property, and he relies on a 15-in. planer for thicknessing. Both of these machines can move around on mobile bases that Rooney fashioned from hardwood and heavy-duty locking casters.

The rest of Rooney *s shop is filled with the familiar clutter that would make any serious woodworker feel right at home: clamps, hand tools, encroaching lumber, coffcc cans full of small stuff and objects whose purpose can no longer be determined. The 24-ft. by 24-ft. building is bursting with many years of woodworking history. A second structure, clearly built for auto shelter, has already given over one of its bays to a wood rack built to hold an impressive stash of cherry.

The farmhouse on Rooney's upstate property is full of beautiful boards that have been thoughtfully coaxed into fine pieces of furniture. A cherry sideboard in the dining room shows off a bank of drawer fronts cur from a single board with a light stripe of sapwood running through it. In the living room, my host showed me an end table with an incredible top of bird's-eye maple. Inspired by the work of George Nakashima, Rooney believes that a board's beauty needs to lead the way into the design process.

Our talk about woodworking always seemed to lead back to the wood itself. At right, Andy describes some of the more noteworthy pieces in his wood collection and presents a convincing defense of board hoarding. ^

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