This article was originally published in the February issue of The Walleye magazine.
In another lifetime, Pat O’Connor was literally working on the railroad. He hails from Chapleau Ontario and spent several years traveling around Northern Ontario on the trains. He really liked the Thunder Bay area and had the opportunity to step off the train here, so to speak, in 1976 to study at Confederation College.
Pat completed the Law and Security program at the college and then went on to work for the Community Safety and Correction Services until his retirement five years ago. His career spanned the decades and during that time, he met and married his wife, raised two children, and became a pretty accomplished triathlete. He also started a second career, something creative and artistically fulfilling in a way that a lot of government work just can’t be.
In 1987, Pat took a short-term leave of absence from his correctional Services job in order to return to college. This time he went with the Cabinet making and Millwork program, which included an apprenticeship at a local shop called Handcrafted Cabinets and Furniture. When the leave of absence was over, Pat returned to his day job, but with an extremely solid backup career.
While training at school and the cabinet store, Pat’s work focused primarily on making cabinets for kitchens and bathrooms. It was a good way to learn to work with your hands and establish a good foundation of knowledge, but it didn’t really allow a lot of room for creativity.
Pat used his new wood-working skills as kicking off point for his own ideas.  He expanding on his knowledge and began creating designs for smaller scale items such as cutting boards and charcuterie trays, and even began working on large scale items like canoes and kayaks.
Pat’s workshop sits directly behind his house. It looks like a garage from the outside, but he says, “There’s definitely never been any cars in here!” There are many big machines though and they all seem to make a different noise and a different kind of wood shaving.  There is a Computer numerical control engraving machine, a table saw, a band saw, a scroll saw, a router, an electric branding iron, a planer, a drill press, and more.  
Pat is at a point in his artistic development where he can simply look at the colour and grain of the wood and knows what kind it is. He picks up a board and says, “Yes, that’s tamarack, it burns really hot.” It was so amazing to watch him move about his shop, calmly but purposefully, turning a machine on, using it, then turning it off.  “This one will be a bit noisy” he kept saying. The noise was inconsequential; Pat moves fluidly and dreamily, as if nothing he does requires any effort at all. He barely even follows plans anymore. He says, “I see something I like, or my wife sees something she likes, and I just look at it and figure it out!” The blueprints and instructions magically take shape in Pat’s mind and then he creates something tangible and real. Holding one of his impossibly smooth charcuterie trays, it’s difficult to believe it was ever anything else.
Pat’s handiwork can be found at the Cheese Encounter, Sleeping Giant Brewery, and online at his website or on Instagram.
Pat is also open teaching basic woodworking in a one on one (or two on one) setting.
Contact him through his website about lessons or any of his amazing products.
Thank you so much for welcoming me into your workshop, Pat! I was pretty thrilled to get my hands on one of your amazing charcuterie trays. I think everyone in the city needs one!

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