John McLoughlin casts a plane against the rugged surface of walnut, peeling its layers and compelling the timber to shape. The wood shavings, and the gatherings of dust and splinter, fall delicately upon the floor and table. Buckets of water-based paint and panels of unfinished wood stand strikingly against a wall of brick and mortar.
McLoughlin, a carpenter for more than 30 years, works diligently from his makeshift workspace – a garage located at the back of his Yonkers home. A laptop computer rests alongside two coffee cups, a lighter and an empty box of cigarettes – an inadvertent collage of the stress brought about by skill, and vice versa.
The Co. Leitrim native founded his company, Celtic Craftworks, nearly six months ago due to his inability to “perform heavy construction. [His] arm hasn’t been the same since the accident, and it can’t extend above the shoulder.”
On that day, May 1, 2010, McLoughlin escaped serious harm when his black Honda VFR 800 motorcycle flipped on a stretch of road along the Bear Mountain Parkway. He cannot remember the incident, but estimates that his body skidded approximately 50 to 60 feet.
McLoughlin suffered numerous injuries: a broken arm, a dislocated shoulder, a damaged knee, cracked ribs and broken toes. He contends that his scars, including a sizable depression of the left shoulder, prompted a sudden reimagining of his life.
Standing at the edge of his workplace, McLoughlin examines the newly-cut timber with his blue eyes, and periodically scratches at short, black hair that grays at the temples.
He feels happier than he has ever been, contends McLoughlin, and with “all limbs attached.”
Rededicated to his family and his health, McLoughlin eschews a life of speed in favor of a business opportunity that utilizes his prodigious talent.
As the sole operator of Celtic Craftworks, he oversees and manages all aspects of production – from the cut of the wood to the splash of the paint.
When McLoughlin crafted and painted two replica fiddles for New York City’s “Sandy Seisiún” fundraising event on December 1 and 21, he garnered widespread acclaim. The fiddles, which can be viewed on the company website, feature the message “One tune at a time” and signatures from band-members who performed at the events.
After the third-leg, on February 1, the event committee plans to hold for the fiddles an eBay auction, which will raise funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy – an October storm that devastated several local communities, including Breezy Point and The Rockaways.
McLoughlin remains particularly sentimental about the project, adding that the fiddles remain “close to [his] heart” and that, despite the workload, it was an “absolute pleasure to make them, and [he hopes] that can raise a lot of money for the affected communities.”
In the meantime, McLoughlin continues to build a clientele through carefully-crafted woodworks, such as clocks, motifs and tabletops.
A recently commissioned tabletop, for the 20-year anniversary of an Irish pub in New York City’s East Village, exhibits a central green shamrock encircled by black, sans-serif text. Two Irish flags adorn the table top's crown and base.
As McLoughlin proudly states, there is “no job [he] won’t consider, no matter the size, style or color.”
He also creates custom-made flooring, framing, shelving and worktops.