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Woodshop revives passion for hobby, adds fun to retirement

Wooden toys are among the items woodworker Alan Michaud has for sale at his home in Frenchville. (Don Eno | SJVT/FhF)

FRENCHVILLE, Maine — Since retiring from Twin Rivers Paper several years ago, Alan Michaud has found time to return to a hobby that had once been a fun and lucrative sideline.

“I used to love woodshop when I was in school,” Michaud said Tuesday, standing outside his home on Main Street, Frenchville, surrounded by his wooden creations. “I always told myself, I’d have my own shop someday.”

During his 31 year at the Madawaska paper mill, Michaud initially found time to create large items, such as cedar chests, which he would sell from home and at various craft fairs.

Alan Michaud stands in his Frenchville garden near one of his sunflower windmills, Thursday, July 13. (Don Eno | SJVT/FhF)

“When Loring (Air Force Base) was open, it was great,” said Michaud. As it did with many others, though, the economic impact of the base closing impacted Michaud’s sales.

After that, it was a change in his work schedule that interfered with the hobby that had originated back in high school shop class.

“When we were on eight-hour shifts it was good,” he said referring to the mill work. “You worked eight hours, you played eight hours and you slept eight hours. When it changed to 12-hour shifts, we had no extra time to do anything.”

“Then I picked up ice fishing, but I got tired of that,” he said with a chuckle.

A few years ago, though, he dusted off his shop equipment and skills and began spending much of the winter creating wood pieces of various sizes and complexity.

Alan Michaud adds creative touches, like this face, to many of the birdhouses he makes at his shop in Frenchville. (Don Eno | SJVT/FhF)

A roadside display of his works features everything from planter boxes and birdhouses, to figurines and windmills. Michaud also builds outdoor furniture and swings.

“I love making all the stuff.” he said.

Michaud gets his ideas from online catalogs and pieces he sees from other crafters, along with customer feedback.

Customers are part of the fun, he added. Michaud has given away wooden toys to kids whose parents could not afford to buy one, and he has seen seasonal visitors come back and visit.

“I meet all kinds of people,” Michaud said. His friendly nature and willingness to tell stories make stopping in a joy.

Michaud normally stops selling items in front of his home at the end of July. The rest of the summer is spent traveling around. Then he starts preparing in the fall for his winter building season.

Retired mill worker Alan Michaud crafts figures like these at his Frenchville home shop. (Don Eno | SJVT/FhF)

His woodworking may not be the source of extra income it was years ago, but Michaud said it is something he loves doing and a creative outlet that makes retirement fun.

“If I didn’t have this after I retired, I don’t know what I’d do.”

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