It's a happy man whose vocation is something he'd do for nothing if he couldn't make a living at it.

Such a fellow is James R. Knight, an expert woodworker and cabinet maker, who has been making a good living for the last 15 years or so by doing just what he wants to do.

Mr. Knight's father was the late Charles C. Knight, a school principal in Pittsfield for many years. The younger Mr. Knight tried a spot of white collar work himself, as a clerk in a bank, but soon gave up that foolishness and got back to what he wanted to do — working with his hands.

Mr. Knight operates in a shop at 186 Wahconah St., cluttered with old furniture and old cronies. He's one of that vanishing race — a true craftsman. He's well known among fine furniture fanciers in Berkshire County, and well beyond its confines.

He learned a lot of his tricks from the late Walfrid T. Victoreen, who for many years taught a manual training course at the Boys' Club.

People often bring him treasured old furniture to set aright. And sometimes they know not whereof they bring.

For instance, there was the minister from Dalton who brought in some broken up chairs in a bag. Mr. Knight put them together and restored them, then took them to Stevens furniture company to have them upholstered. There, a dealer saw them and recognized them as authentic Hepplewhite chairs worth about $600 each. The minister kept them.

The dealer was so impressed with Mr. Knight's work that through him Mr. Knight received restoration work from a museum in Chicago.

And out of Chicago there is at least one other example of Mr. Knight's work. It's a replica of the music stand used by the late Serge Koussevitzky. Mr. Knight produced it for Fritz Reiner, conductor of the Chicago Symphony, on the recommendation of Mrs. Koussevitzky.

Mr. Knight likes to make unusual things, things he calls "crazy stuff." For instance, he takes some old Shaker shutters and makes a screen for a modern apartment of them. Or he'll take an old mirror and make a coffee table out of it.

Incidentally, the maker cans and sells his own brand of furniture polish at his shop.

Mr. Knight's shop is a happy hunting ground for the ladies. "The dirtier the shop is the better they like it," Mr. Knight says. "They really go poking around and looking over this old junk."

The ladies know what they're up to, all right. Some of that old "junk" turns into marvelous furniture under Mr. Knight's hand.

This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989.