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Greg Allen: The Cracked Chest

Greg Allen 2Greg Allen is the founder of Builder of the Spirit Ministries. It is a 501 (c) (3) ministry dedicated to sending books and Bibles to the needy of the world. Greg is also a gifted woodworker or craftsman. Below is a picture of a chest of drawers he built called, The Cracked Chest. When I asked him what inspired him to build it, he answered:

“In 2007, I was working at a manufacturing facility, and the following poem came to me while at work one day. I jotted it down on a napkin within three minutes.” 

The poem is called Skid Row:

My place of employment is a classroom today.

Used with permission, copyright Greg Allen

Used with permission, copyright Greg Allen

Thanks be to the One for educating me.

Out back lie a bunch of pallets, ones long forgotten.

As I throw another on the pile I can’t escape my thoughts.

The sight of stained bleeding rust, the nails driven deep.

These were once trees.

Then it hit me.

Christ hung on one for me.

Stack upon stack of old gray skids no one wants.

I was once like them, tossed for junk.

Now they lie a waste, rottin’ in the sun.

Rugged, breached, tattered, often torn.

I was once amongst the pile, no better than those of skid row.

Lying a waste, rotting in sin.

As I gaze upon the worthless, I ponder my depraved prior ways.

With a chuckle, the feeling stirs within me “There’s no takers for these.”

No outstretched hand to take em’ in.

They’re just trash the world would say.

Just a little trimmin,’ sandin’ here and there.

Others could foresee my thoughts as a begger’s plea.

They don’t share the vision.

Cause Jesus saw something in me.

I’m thinkin’ a crafted heirloom them all, that He has fashioned of me.

Which one do I choose?

My heart says, “Take em’ all!”

His supervisor had some old skids (pallets) and Greg asked if he could use them for a project. The supervisor gave his okay to use any of them at any time. When I asked Greg how and why he created this unusual piece, he answered:

I’ve always had an analytical mind and can envision things from nothing. I don’t even typically work from a set of prints, although I can draw them of a perceived design if I have to.  I have a 24’ x 30’shop, and since 2007, I’ve been building things from what the public perceives as useless, trash, or undesirable.

In my first book, Builder of the Spirit, I correlated building things in the book to personal challenges and storied outcomes. I consider what I make art for there is a story in it; a stir of emotion usually. What started out as simply sending a photo of my latest work called, The Cracked Chest to a friend has resulted in something going viral on the Internet.

The other day I received an email from a lady who saw The Cracked Chest, and she begin telling me about her abusive husband and how she finally got away from him. She said the chest stirred emotion in her. She felt like that piece; in that she felt broken, worthless, and damaged from the abuse, but she wasn’t in a heap or destroyed. In reading that—there’s my inspiration!

Now, I’ll get down to the particulars of the piece. I saw a crude drawing of something similar on the Internet and I fashioned my design.  I used recycled shipping pallets of red oak and poplar—the kind truck drivers use as spacers for loads. The pallets were dried for a year and then planed into 2” x 3” x 4’ lengths, and then fashioned into 3/4″ X 3″ planks after that. I taped four sheets of poster board together and began to fashion a pattern from what I could see in my mind’s eye.

It took roughly 6 weeks and over 100 hours to complete. Although, I didn’t have any money invested in the wood I did have about hundred dollars in the drawer pulls, the knobs, paint, the cracking additive, and polyurethane. I have promised my family I wouldn’t sell that particular piece because I plan on entering it in the County fair in July. If it wins Grand Champion, as I’m sure it will, I’ll then be eligible to enter it in the Indiana State Fair.”

So I asked, “Would you make more of The Cracked Chest?”

Greg responded:

Several people have approached me about buying the piece or building a miniature version of it. It’s an unusual piece of furniture, and some people have a hard time grasping that it really is functional. I consider it a work of art.

From my years of experience at building custom furniture, I’ve found that most people won’t pay the price that’s reflective of all the hours you have in the piece when they can go to places like Value City Furniture and get something far cheaper. With the economy the way it is, most people would rather buy cheaply made pieces from China. On the other hand, if you market your work as art people have a tendency to pay more than they would marketing it as furniture. I don’t know anyone in our area who can run a profitable business that solely makes custom furniture.

I would be willing to make more pieces of that design, but anyone who’s interested would have to wait a minimum six weeks for completion, and the dollar amount would be between $2,500 and $3,000, plus freight costs. Whenever I reiterate that fact it’s usually a deterrent.”

Greg Allen is a nationally syndicated columnist, published author/novelist, talented artist, and poet.

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