Making The Cut

Dr. Tony DeIorio’s hands play a key role in both his vocation and avocation. Now here’s where it gets tricky: DeIorio is a surgeon and his unlikely hobby is woodworking. Think of woodworking tools, like powerful table saws, where a momentary lapse in concentration could slice off a finger.

“I start every woodworking project with 10 fingers,” says DeIorio, a general surgeon, “and my goal is not only to finish every project, but to finish it with 10 fingers.”

To which his wife, Lauren, adds wryly, “and I make sure that we keep his disability policy up to date.”

Even though he took a woodworking class in high school, DeIorio didn’t initially pursue the hobby. Instead, his passion began with a bit of do-it-yourself inspiration when he and Lauren were building their home four years ago. In an upstairs entertainment room, DeIorio requested a built-in console cabinet. What he got was a hole in the wall.

“When I asked the builder about it, he said I’d have to hire a carpenter to actually build the console cabinet to put in the hole,” recalls DeIorio. “I got two bids, both were around $1,500, and I just thought that was too expensive. I knew exactly what I wanted, so I told Lauren I thought I could do it myself. She looked at me like I had lost my mind.”

Lauren quickly pointed out he’d never done any woodworking and didn’t even have the tools he’d need. But most importantly, he was a surgeon whose livelihood depended on his hands, and the only cutting tool he should be using was a scalpel, not a table saw. Undaunted, DeIorio assured his wife that he’d be careful. He bought a table saw on sale for $450 and purchased $100 worth of pine wood. Within a week, he built the console cabinet accented with a tinted-window door.

“I enjoyed the project so much that I just kept going from there,” says DeIorio, proudly showing off more of his handiwork in the entertainment room. “I built the solid oak bar chairs, stained them, and even upholstered them. I built the pedestal that the couch is on to put it eye level with the TV screen.”

Putting aside her fears of dismemberment, Lauren began to think of practical applications for her husband’s newfound hobby. A casual mention that a hall tree would be nice or a hint that the kids (daughter Alex, 12, and sons Tony, 11, and Thomas, 7) could use bookcases in their rooms would prompt DeIorio to head back to the hardware store.

“All of my woodworking projects have come from a need and serve a function,” says DeIorio, pointing out a beam he built above the kitchen snack bar to hang pendant lights from. “But, of course, I’d like to think that each also adds beauty to our home and will be something that will last.”

DeIorio’s practical nature spills over into his choice of wood. He uses aspen, pine, and oak because he says, “they’re affordable and easily available at local stores.” As for finding the time between family and his surgical practice, DeIorio’s projects are relegated to evenings and weekends.

“Once I get going on a project, I can get obsessed,” he admits, “and usually I can get most done within a week or two. But with a bigger one, sometimes I have to stop on it for awhile and then get back to it when time permits.”

Fitting that criterion is DeIorio’s largest and most ambitious project to date. And like all of his others, this one too was born of necessity.

“It was my turn to host the Christmas dinner for our practice,” says DeIorio, who is a partner at Ocala Surgical Associates. “But there was one problem—we didn’t have a dining room table. We could either buy one or I could make one.”

Deciding on the latter, DeIorio began the table project right after Thanksgiving. Any spare time he could manage was spent cutting, sanding, and creating the enormous red oak pedestal table. By Christmas, it was finished except for the stain, so the DeIorios covered it up with a festive holiday tablecloth and all was well. Months later, the soon-to-be stained, nine-and-a-half-foot by three-and-three-quarters-foot table rules the dining room. Up next is a matching buffet.

With each new project, DeIorio added woodworking tools as needed. Slowly, the corner of the garage where he works has almost taken over the structure. Sure, the couple’s cars no longer fit, but DeIorio has squeezed in two large woodworking tables. That original table saw is, of course, nearby, along with a drill press and a motorized joiner. DeIorio brushes sawdust off sheets of paper featuring his designs of now-finished projects, smiling in satisfaction.

“I love being a surgeon,” he says. “But woodworking is a great escape for me. I like the creative aspect of designing and then making something useful. There’s a lot of gratification in that.”

And in starting and finishing with 10 fingers.

Posted in Healthy Living Features

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