by Lou Mancinelli
Trained in the school of blue collar (start at the bottom and work your butt off), West Mt. Airy resident Michael Matos, 45, is currently working two jobs. At night, he is a full-time manager at the Classic Cake bakery in Kensington.
That leaves part of the day and weekends to devote to Michael Matos Fine Woodworking, the fine carpentry and custom woodworking business Matos runs out of his home. Michael launched it in Mt. Airy in 2010 after working in wood and carpentry for 10 years in the Bronx and Brooklyn. There he often contracted custom and refinishing jobs.
From refinishing antiques to repairing the old broken rocking chair in a child’s bedroom to designing and building custom cabinets, start to finish, or stripping the old and starting over, Matos is poised to handle the task.
Like for one of his recent clients, who had lots of old beautiful furniture that had aged poorly and been scratched like a post by cats, Matos stripped everything down to the bare wood and refinished the furniture.
“I learned a lot by doing the small things,” he said. “Now I wanna do the big picture.”
Matos is a skilled carpenter who got his first job in a frame shop in 1989, a year after he graduated from high school. At the same time he studied graphic arts and communications for two years at Bronx Community College.
In woodworking, Matos is able to fuse his eye for design with the craft he has worked to develop for two decades. Locally, aside from work with different clients, he is making custom-cutting boards from maple, spruce, mahogany and more, which will soon be available at the Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop, 8509 Germantown Ave.
“I’m totally tuned into the piece when I’m working on it,” said Matos about his state of mind while working. “It’s like I want people to know who I am.”
He is the sort of man who left one of the most glamorous cities in the world where he had friends, family, roots, a job and an identity for a new city where he knew only one person, no job and had to discover things anew.
When Matos moved with his wife in 2009 to Mt. Airy (they are no longer together), it was because the two had stood on the steps of the Chestnut Hill Hotel and felt like this was a place they could consider home.
“I worked day and night,” he said about his various positions in different wood shops. “On the weekends I worked. I wanted to learn more.”
Once he had learned the basics, he started working with chisels and knives, making things on his own like chairs and tables.
Matos has a car now, but when he first arrived in Mt. Airy, he took the R7 train to the R8 train to get to his job at a wood shop in Bridesburg. When he injured cartilage in his wrist there working on heavy loads, he moved on to a mattress shop. In 2010 he worked at Kilian Hardware on the Hill, and last year started at the bakery in Kensington.
One thing that inspires Matos about the local area, besides the trees and woods that are like songs, a far cry from his New York neighborhoods, is the elaborate Victorian architecture found throughout the neighborhoods of the Northwest.
More information at 267-980-0145 or MichaelMatosFineWoodworking.com.