Eagan resident masters Colonial craft
Tony Kubalak travels back in time through furniture
By day Tony Kubalak works in the digital age as a software engineer. By night he steps back in time to hand-craft 18th century American furniture.
Each piece is a replica of an original, many of which are in museums across the nation. Whether it’s a reproduction of a Philadelphia high chest with intricate floral carvings or a Bombe chest of drawers with a serpentine face, each piece is built with care to mimic the exact likeness of its original.
“I enjoy the difficulty of each piece,” the Eagan resident said. “Finishing a piece is nice, but making progress along the way is most rewarding.”
Kubalak’s work received national recognition. His furniture was featured this month in Early American Life magazine’s Directory of Traditional American Crafts.
His Philadelphia high chest of drawers was selected by a panel of experts convened by the magazine due to its authentic technique and design, according to an Early American Life news release.
Over the past eight years, Kubalak’s work has been featured in numerous magazines and received several awards at the Minnesota Woodworkers’ Guild Northern Woods Woodworking Show.
Seeing an stunning period piece in a magazine piqued his interest in the craft about 20 years ago.
“It’s the allure of the challenge,” he said of his desire to replicate the furniture. “A lot of scholars say the high period of furniture making was the 18th century. … It still has a big following, which is a testament to the designs.”
Kubalak spent several years learning basic woodworking skills from books and occasional classes, but he yearned to master the craft. By the late 1990s, Kubalak traveled to Pennsylvania where he studied for 12 years under master furniture maker Gene London at his Old Mille Cabinet Shoppe.
Today, Kubalak uses period tools to build the majority of each piece, particularly the carvings and other details. Every item is made with solid wood and every drawer contains traditional joints.
Kubalak attempted to turn his hobby into a full-time job for a short time, but resided it to a hobby when he couldn’t generate enough income.
He said he enjoys the balance between his job as a software engineer and his hobby as a furniture maker.
“There’s a lot of similarities in that both are complicated and I always like a challenge,” he said.
Kubalak has completed a few commission pieces, but said he prefers to build 18th century replicas.
“Sometimes I’m not sure I want to sell them because they’re a part of me,” he said. “I don’t feel completely that way anymore.”
Most of his pieces decorate his modern home.
The Philadelphia high chest of drawers stands 6-feet high in Kubalak’s dining room and is among his favorite pieces due to its impressive size and intricate carvings. The piece took Kubalak about two to three years to finish.
The Bombe chest of drawers in his bedroom only took two to three months but was among the most difficult pieces due to its serpentine face.
In addition to hand-making American Colonial furniture, Kubalak released his first book in 2010 called “Carved 18th Century Furniture Elements,” which teaches people how to create authentic 18th century furniture embellishments. The book is available at amazon.com, several woodworking websites and at Kubalak’s website tonykubalak.com.
Kubalak is currently working on a follow-up to his first book.
More information on Kubalak’s books and Colonial furniture can be found at his website or by contacting Kubalak at email@example.com or (651) 452-2021.