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Written by MITCH MAERSCH   
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 17:30

Mike Beattie is supposed to be retired, but he works full time at a hobby that turns out masterpieces of the woodworking craft

“I’m basically retired,” Mike Beattie claims.
But he devotes more time to his woodworking hobby than most anyone else spends on a full-time job.
At most anytime during the day, seven days per week, Beattie can be found in his storage facility he turned into a shop in the Town Port Washington.
“It really keeps me busy,” he said. “I was just going to do it a little bit but it just kind of got out of hand.”
The fruits of his labor make it all worthwhile. Hours of work yield pristine tables, cabinets and other wooden pieces that must meet Beattie’s standards.
“If I wouldn’t be happy with it, it wouldn’t go out the door,” he said.
Beattie is plenty happy with his self-taught hobby.
“I just love doing it. It gets me out of the house. It’s very rewarding,” Beattie said.
He arrives early, sometimes at 5:30 a.m., and usually stays until 6 p.m.
Beattie has a reason for logging such long hours. Many people in the area have come to know him, and they know where his storage unit is, so they stop by to chat with their friendly and down-to-earth friend.
“That’s the reason I have two chairs,” Beattie said with a smile.
Beattie slowly got into the woodworking hobby. When he was young, he received some advice from his father,  who was a tool and die maker and “very, very handy” that Beattie took to heart.
“He taught me a long time ago if it as done by somebody else, you can do it too,” Beattie said.
Beattie is mostly a self-taught woodworker. He ran a handyman business for 12 years and rented his storage facility to pursue his hobby.
He limits himself to handling two projects at a time. Last summer, he did two complete kitchens, including cabinets, tables, benches and pantries.
As charming as Beattie’s pieces look, he claims they aren’t that difficult to make.
“All woodworking is basically easy,” he said. It’s pretty forgiving. You can fix the mistakes you make.”
Pieces don’t take that long to make, either. A small table and two benches Beattie will donate to the St. John XXIII Catholic School only took about 15 hours.
Much of the work is sanding, gluing and waiting for the glue to dry. A dining room table Beattie is working on now will require about nine hours of sanding.
“If you really want it nice, you’re going to spend the time,” he said.
By the time it’s finished, the table will last a lifetime.
“They could drive a car on it when it’s done,” Beattie said.
Beattie’s skill has allowed him to do all kinds of custom work. He has made a bar, a bed with pull-out drawers, vanity, fireplace surrounds and entertainment centers.
Many people undertaking remodeling jobs will want matching woodwork, requests Beattie said he can fulfill.
Beattie gets his wood from Kettle Moraine Hardwoods in Allenton. His favorites are cherry and alder.
“They don’t split and are very forgiving,” he said. “They look beautiful when they’re done.”
Beattie mixes different pieces of wood within pieces. For the table going to the school auction, he put white oak trim on the outside of pine, and he used cherry for the legs.
His customers, Beattie said, don’t want just plain wood, and Beattie is attentive to every detail. He puts an epoxy in each knothole that makes it shine.
“People don’t want plain wood anymore,” he said. “They want character.”
Each of his pieces is so unique that Beattie usually throws away his plans after completion.
“No two people want the same thing ever,” he said.
In addition to furniture, Beattie finds much enjoyment in making duck decoys, taking after his father, whom he said made some of the best in the country.
Beattie learned some of his woodworking skill from working as a state licensed building contractor in Florida from 1995 to 2002.
Woodworking wasn’t Beattie’s initial passion. While working for the now defunct George Banta Publishing in Menasha, a group of employees won a charter fishing trip in 1970. Beattie hit it off with the charter fishing boat captain and a year later earned his captain’s license.
Within a couple of years, Beattie bought his own boat and eventually built his fleet up to three.
He initially traveled as far south as Waukegan, where the fishing season opened earlier, and worked his way back up to his home in Algoma. He would often stop at Port Washington along the way.
“It’s just a neat town,” he said. “The fishing is fantastic. I’ve fished all over the lake and this is the best fishing I’ve ever seen.”
Beattie got to be friends with former harbormaster Charley Graham, and moved his business and family to Port in 1981.
Business was good he didn’t have to travel anymore.
“That really cuts down on the expenses,” he said.
To earn income in winter, Beattie would buy homes, repair them and sell them in spring, which helped spark his interest in woodworking.
“I really enjoyed the carpentry aspect,” he said.
“I just decided it was something I liked. Over time, it became easier.”
That eventually turned into a handyman business and now a retirement hobby.
Inside Beattie’s shop sits equipment of all kinds he has acquired over the years. The most important piece, he said, is the dust collector.
Without it, he said, “You couldn’t breathe in here.”
Beattie still has a boat, although it’s not the charter fishing kind. He and his wife have a cottage on Green Lake in Washington County.
When he and his wife aren’t traveling, Beattie is in his shop completing his next masterpiece.

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