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Darrell Stimson, the Wood Wizard, began his career in furniture touch-up at age 14. One of his neighbors in Los Gatos owned an antique shop. When a shipment arrived from the East Coast one day, his neighbor asked the young Stimson to help unload the antiques. Impressed with Stimson's careful handling of the fragile furniture, he asked if the youth knew how to sand wood."

Of course I do," Stimson replied. Of course he didn't. His bluff was called when the shop owner placed a 100-year-old chair in front of the young boy and challenged him to "show me". That's when the education began. For the next two years Stimson earned $1. 25 an hour sanding and stripping furniture.

In 1973 he went to work for a shop where he learned how to stain and finish kitchen cabinets. "Talk about hands- on experience," Stimson says. "I once stained and finished 800 cabinets in a year."

His next job was at a furniture store. "This place sold such cheap furniture, my sole responsibility was to go to the customer's home to repair the stuff when it broke. And eventually it always did."

Stimson got fully onto his career track when he went to work at a Santa Clara refinishing shop operated by an elderly Italian craftsman named Phil Castanza.

"Mr. Castanza taught me the old-world technology of furniture touch-up," Stimson says. "He would tell me to watch carefully because I was the last kid he would ever teach this to. I learned all the basics from him."

This included how to fill-in dents with lacquer sticks, regrain using ground pigmented colors and how to French polish and properly buff a piece of furniture. Eager to learn, it took the 23-year-old apprentice five hours under Castanza's watchful eye to complete a one-hour job.

"Like I said," Stimson laughs, "long learning curve!" In 1983 the fledging Wood Wizard felt ready to open up his own furniture touch-up business in Lafayette. Eventually it was expanded to include a refinishing shop as well.

"Most people who learn furniture touch-up do not learn how to refinish," Stimson says. "Both skills take extreme patience and attention to detail. That's why people often learn one or the other, but not both."

In 1984 Stimson married girlfriend Caroline Heron, a former hairdresser in Lafayette. Unable to pursue her own craft because of a neck injury, she joined her husband's Lafayette business as the office administrator.

The business eventually moved to Pleasant Hill and expanded to include seven employees, but converted exclusively to an "on-site" service when Pleasant Hill redeveloped its downtown in the late 1990s. That was fine with Stimson, who prefers working one-on-one with his customers anyway.

"I love my job," he says. "I love meeting people and the challenge of problem solving because every piece of furniture is unique. I love that I'm able to accomplish something with my hands." Contact us today for more information or call (925) 370-1489