Roger and his partner Dan Richfield.
If you frequent Lie-Nielsen Toolworks events you may have run into Roger Benton. He is one of the show crew that demonstrates Lie-Nielsen tools and lifts large crates of tools at the end of the show. When we travel to do shows we get to catch up with people like Roger whom we haven’t seen since the last show. It’s sort of a Carney thing. One of the many things Roger does to make ends meet is roam the borough’s of New York City harvesting lumber from trees. As you can imagine, dealing with large tress is like dealing with large animals. The “fun” is in direct proportion to size. Roger has lots of stories, like the one involving his uncle getting an injured hand permanently mended into a half closed position so he could work the clutch on his Harley. Sadly this story doesn’t involve uncles and Harleys….
— John Hoffman
‘I Don’t See that Going Anywhere.’
“Nah, that’s probably fine,” I said.
Kyle had just brought up the possibility of adding another ratchet strap to the load of mulberry slabs that were causing the truck’s bumper to hang so close to the ground.
“There’s another strap behind the seat,” he offered, hopefully.
I made a show of vigorously attempting to rock the stack of slabs side to side, demonstrating the absolute soundness of the load. Then I confidently dropped the clincher: “I don’t see that going anywhere.”
Kyle managed to emote the phrase “It’s your funeral” without actually speaking as he went for the rest of the gear.
The preceding batch of hours had been spent doing the work of many men so we were pretty shot. The mulberry tree was massive, the biggest I’ve seen, and working quarters were tight. The tiny Brooklyn backyard this beast lived in was barely 25 feet square with tall brick buildings on three sides. Chainsaws are loud, and I’ll tell you that you haven’t really heard a ported Husqvarna 395xp sing until you’ve run it wide open for a few hours within such tight concrete confines. Running this saw in that space is to your sterocilia as Mt. Saint Helens’ explosion was to the surrounding fir forest: utter devastation. I love that saw, I have feelings for that saw that would scare people, but I have to admit that on this occasion I’d had quite enough of it, thanks much. The mulberry cut really well when we found the rare stretch of metal-free wood, but stretches of metal-free wood would prove to be in short supply that day. We hit an even dozen nails on the first cut. Ten mangled chains later we had ringing ears and nine slabs to show for it, the slabs around 2-3/4” thick, 10 feet long and 20″-34” wide.
The slabs were gorgeous and heavy, and had to go through a “small alley,” then up a short flight of stairs and into the truck. The homeowner had warned us about the “small alley,” and we thought we were prepared. We were not, for at some point in the past someone had seen fit to erect a small storage shed in the alley. This looked to have been around 800 years ago. The dilapidated shed was crumbing into the building on one side and left a gap around 20″ wide on the other. So the “small alley” was further condensed into a dirty gap one could squeeze through if one wanted to abrade oneself against a filthy brick-and-stucco building on one side while contracting tetanus from the jagged tin ruin on the other. We each gave it a dry run before committing to the feat with slabs in hand. This was when we confirmed that the small alley doubled as a urinal for the homeless.
A few scrapes and bruises later and we had all the slabs in the truck with no signs of lockjaw.
That’s when Kyle tried to be reasonable, I uttered what is now a fun phrase for my friends to throw back at me and we hopped in the truck and drove off.
We made it about six blocks.
Kyle said, while looking through the rear window, “Um, dude….”
Before he could finish, the truck bed bounced up sharply as if suddenly relieved of its burden. That was because the truck bed had been suddenly relieved of its burden. The slabs, splayed across Kingston Avenue, quickly grew smaller in the rear-view mirror. I could hear tires screeching as the cars behind us slammed on their brakes. It was like in a spy movie where you press a button on the steering wheel to deploy the road block. “They’ll never catch us now!”
Kyle: “We lost the….”
Me: “Yes, I see.”
While the street kids from the bodega on the corner laughed and made insensitive remarks, we loaded the truck a second time. We blocked the street for about 15 minutes, 20 at the most, the car horn crescendo drawing heads from upper-story windows. I smiled and waved cheerfully. Kyle, bless him, quietly fetched two extra ratchet straps from behind the seat.
We were on our way again in short order. Back at the shop the story was told, embellishments were made. Laughter was had at my expense. “Let the troops have a laugh,” I’ve heard. It’s good for morale.
“I don’t see that going anywhere” is now one of my standard catch phrases for exceedingly precarious situations, and it gets used with scary frequency.
— Roger Benton
For more information on Roger, his furniture and wood business see
BENTON CUSTOM INC.