A Day in the Life of Master Furniture Maker, Andy Rawls

Photo of Andy Rawls, Master Furniture Maker
Photo of Andy Rawls, Master Furniture Maker

Andy Rawls, master furniture maker, woodworker, and member of the MuskOx Herd builds handcrafted furniture out of his one-man shop in Boerne, Texas. As a woodworker and craftsman, one of his most important goals is longevity. It's his desire to build furniture that will last a lifetime and more. His designs are classic with a modern touch, and it's his hope that they will stand the test of time and hold relevance from generation to generation.

We caught up with Andy to dive into his daily routine that seamlessly blends his dedication to craftsmanship with his love of family life. From early morning routines to bustling hours in the woodshop, and cherished family moments, Andy shares insights into running a one-man woodshop, woodworking, and the joy of creating meaningful pieces. Join us as we explore Andy's journey through the rhythms of woodworking, family time, and the pursuit of fine craftsmanship.

Early Morning Routine

My alarm clock goes off at about 5:30am. I try almost every morning the best I can to open up my bible, spend a little quiet time to pray. I like to pray over my family, my children, my wife, and my business. Pray for those around me in my community. It's an important part of my life, my faith. And, top priority for me. So every morning, it's important to fill my cup, read some scripture and just kind of get myself ready for the day. So I'll spend about 20 minutes on that.

Andy Rawls Reading at 5:00am

Usually around 6:00am if I have a little window there, I might write a few emails for work. But generally we jump right into the kitchen, and start making breakfast. Oatmeal is the breakfast of choice in our house. Generally, we might throw in pancakes or french toast every once in a while, but most mornings we're making oatmeal with fruit. Kids get out of bed about 6:45am ish. We all eat breakfast as a family every morning at the table.

After breakfast, it's a bit of a scramble to get the kids out the door. We got lunches to be made. Kids are out the door about 7:45am. I hope to try to get a little bit of quality time with them before they have to go to school for the day. 7:45am, they're gone. My wife goes to work with the kids, and I hit the shop about 8:00am.

Start of the Day in The Woodshop

Okay, so I'm in the shop at 8:00am. I usually start my workday in front of a screen doing administrative stuff. I've got a lot of emails to write. I got a big job that can be very time consuming. I sit down and draw out new designs, price out the work. A lot of times I have to chase down materials, call in and see if I can find certain types of lumber or hardware. All that kind of stuff happens usually behind a screen or on a phone.

Andy Rawls in His Woodshop at 8:00am

Sometimes I have meetings, I have scheduled talks with clients, so I try to hit the window or try to put that all in the morning window from 8am to 9am or 10am. Sometimes it can go longer than that depending on what I've got. Usually I'll do that by just preparing my day for what I want to get accomplished on the bench, working in the shop. So if I need to work a little bit on a cut list, pull my designs and kind of see what I'm working on for that day, I'll do that. And then once that's done, the fun stuff finally gets to begin.

Late Morning and Lunch Hour

So from, kind of mid morning, sometimes early morning, I'm on the bench working, building furniture. It's really important for me to really manage time. Well, I'm a one-man show, so I have to get a certain amount of hours every day on the bench building, or else I'll just start to get way behind on my schedule. I generally shoot for 6 to 7 hours a day on the bench, which surprisingly is not that easy to achieve.

I jump right in, I go. Today, I've actually been kind of fine tuning and finishing up a bed that's going to Denver. I built it out of walnut, I was assembling it. I'm gonna get a few photos, send those over to the client, and double check to make sure everything's good before we send it out the door.

Andy Rawls Fine Tuning a Wood Bed Frame

Then I'm starting gearing up on a new project as well as some cherry bookcases for a client local here. Those are going to be a really fun build. I'm just getting started on those. So just roughing out, cutting out material, getting parts made. It's kind of where I'm at.

I usually start getting pretty dang hungry around noon. So my lunch time routine, I use my lunch time. I don't do anything special for lunch. I have my shop on my property, so I just walk the 20 yards over to my house, make myself a quick ham and cheese sandwich. Knock it out and then either I'll come back to the shop, keep working, or a lot of times I'll use that time to do any kind personal things I might need.

Andy Rawls Working on His Kayak Setup

I commit my after shop hours to my family as much as I can. For instance, today, I've got a big fly fishing trip coming up on the Devils River here in Texas. We're leaving in about 3 or 4 days with a group of buds. So, I'm working on getting my gear situated and figuring out how I want to set up my kayak. Today's lunch break I had a good time working on how I am going to rig my kayak, to prepare for that trip. So that's an example of how I kind of use that personal time on my lunch to knock out things that I might need to do for myself that I'm either going to be doing late at night or early in the morning. It's best for me to do it in the middle of the day.

Midday and Afternoon

My midday or afternoon routine is just pretty much the same as the morning, minus the administrative stuff. I try to just really get in that solid 3.5 to 4 hours of just good bench time building furniture. That's what I do for a living. There's nothing really exciting going on other than I'm just in the shop making sawdust, getting work done as best I can.

I really have to, for it's so easy when you're a one-man show to get distracted and get off and not be very productive. So I try very hard to focus on really knocking out work in the afternoon. I'll usually make myself a cup of coffee in the afternoon. I like my afternoon coffee, it kind of keeps me going and pushes me through those last three hours. And, then we shut down the day, usually close it down around 5pm, 5:30pm, and then it's off to hang out with the family.

Andy Rawls Working Midday

Post Shop, Dinner, and Nighttime

Okay, in the evening my shop times are done. This is the most exciting time for me of the day because my kids are home and I get to hang out when they get home, generally between 3:30pm and 4:30pm. Kind of varies and I commit that time to hanging out with them. But the most important thing I've learned is that once 5:00pm hits and I turn off the shop, I just try to leave everything in the shop.

Some days are stressful days, and some days you can be grumpy and I just want to leave that in my shop. Leave it there, walk out and go. Just to be a good dad and have fun with my kids. A lot of times we'll be playing soccer, shooting hoops. My son has a little electric motorcycle. We build ramps, jump it, all kinds of fun stuff. We try to have fun, keep the kids off the screens, keep them off the TV. We can let them go outside and run around. My wife cooks dinner. She's amazing that she works almost a full time job and comes home and cooks a lot. Sometimes I'll help her up, but more often than not, I'm just hanging out with the kids, trying to have a good time with them.

We always eat dinner together as a family, just like we do breakfast. It's very important, important to my wife and I that we have that fellowship with our family every evening. And then once dinner's done, we got a little bit more time to hang with the kids. Maybe we'll play a game, do a puzzle, just hang out and have fun.

Occasionally we'll throw on an episode of Dude Perfect for my kids. They love watching Dude Perfect. And then, 7:30pm, 8:00pm, they go to bed, and then it's my wife and I's time to hang out. A lot of times we'll crack open a a beer, drink some wine, or just relax on the deck and talk about our day, and just enjoy each other.

It's a good time. It's a good family time. I enjoy hanging out with my family. Like I said, it's a highlight of my day. I do love making furniture, but there's nothing better than just having a good time with your family.

What have been your favorite non commissioned and commissioned works you’ve had the opportunity to make?

So my favorite commissioned and non commissioned piece of furniture. The commission part is a hard one to answer because I've done so many commission pieces. The non commissions are easy. I built the crib for when my daughter was born. Almost nine years ago, I built her crib, which was a really fun, cool piece to build. And she slept in it. Then my middle son and then our youngest son all slept in it. So I gotta say, that's my favorite piece. It's got tooth marks on it from when the kids chewed on it, and it's been drawn on, and it's just one of those pieces that I definitely will hold on to and hopefully, hopefully may have grandkids sleeping in it. So that'll be my favorite non commissioned piece.

Andy Rawls Childrens' Crib
Photo of the Crib of Andy's Children, Made by Andy

My favorite commission, man, I might have to pick two. The most unique was getting the opportunity to build a cannon carriage for the Alamo here in San Antonio, Texas. I built the carriage that held the cannon, and then I also built a wooden pattern of the actual cannon that was sent to a foundry and then made a mold of, and then the actual cannon cast.

So there was a point where in my shop I had the cannon and the carriage all in here, and it was just really cool. It was cool to be a part of that process. I got to see a lot of cool things at the Alamo and get to know those people at the Alamo. So that was a really cool commission piece.

Then one of my favorite builds was a dresser that I built for a client, probably like 6 years ago. It was a forged, very traditional piece for your dresser. All dovetailed hand fit. It is just super labor intensive, a lot of hours. It's not often I get the opportunity to build a piece of that caliber for a client. So that was one that I really enjoyed. building. I have fond memories of that one.

When sourcing high quality materials for your work do you have any special techniques or anything in particular you look for?

Any special techniques for acquiring lumber? So it's really not that special, you know, there are ways that you can get really elaborate when getting material. Most of what I've worked with comes from either a large supplier in San Antonio or sawmills that are local to this area, to Texas. I've worked with clients in the past where they've cut down trees on their property.

I did a really cool build for a client in San Antonio. They built an awesome office complex, and they repurposed all the woods that trees they cut down for the building. I used those to build pieces for that building, so that's really cool. I've also had the opportunity to mill a lot of my own logs. I've had a huge, amazing sycamore log from Seguin, Texas that I was able to mill, and I've used some of that material.

But as far as anything super over-the-top fancy, it's just, I mean, I haven't had anything that I would say is just insanely unique. I've had some really beautiful walnut slabs, some really cool Texas pecan slabs, all of which come from, sawmill called Berdoll sawmill. That's, kind of close to Austin, Texas. So I also have a conex shipping container out here, which really annoys my wife, full of lumber that I've just collected.

One of the problems with being a woodworker is that you tend to hoard material. You don't really throw material away, and when you have the opportunity to get it and you have the money to pay for it, you just kind of buy it and collect it and keep it, and you never use it. So, I have a lot of it out there and maybe one day I'll use it all. You know, it's easy to get a hold of unique stuff. There's a lot of cool sawmills in the area, and that's kind of how I go about doing it.