Retired Fairmont chiropractor cannot be accused of whittling away his time | Life

WHITE HALL — If it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, one look inside Roger Kritzer’s workshop and there would be no doubt that Kritzer is most definitely an expert woodworker.

Since his youth, Kritzer has enjoyed working with wood. His father had a workshop where he picked up a few skills, and Kritzer also took a shop class in high school.

“I built go-carts when I was a kid,” Kritzer said. “I built them for the whole neighborhood.”

Kritzer was so engrossed by the craft of woodworking that he continued to hone his skills for decades. He didn’t receive any formal training, but he has “an entire library with 20 years’ worth of magazines and books.”

Today, from his workshop behind the home he shares with his wife, Deanna, Kritzer produces stunning wood pieces with such care and precision that he could surely sell his finished pieces for thousands of dollars.

Why, then, would they not be for sale? “I do this in relative obscurity,” Kritzer said. “I usually give my stuff away.”

Through the years, Kritzer’s love of woodworking superseded any thoughts of making money from it. And now that he’s retired from his 40-some years as a chiropractor, Kritzer can devote even more time to his art.

“I’ve done it most of my life, but I really got into it over the past 10 or 15 years,” Kritzer said. “And since I’ve retired I spend almost every day in the shop, not every day, but almost.”

Kritzer grew up in Jeannette, Pennsylvania — about 35 miles east of Pittsburgh — and moved to Fairmont when he was at student at California University of Pennsylvania.

“My parents moved here when I was in college,” Kritzer said. “My dad got a job with the power company.”

Later, Kritzer graduated from the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, where his brother had also studied. Kritzer set up his chiropractic practice in Fairmont and worked here until his retirement a few years ago. Kritzer and Deanna have two grown sons, Matthew and Austin, who now have families of their own.

Friends and family of Kritzer have been the lucky recipients of his labors.

“I make all kinds of things, but I’ve made a lot of rocking chairs. I’ve probably done about a dozen,” Kritzer said. “I’ve given them to my sisters and brothers when they retire,” Kritzer said, acknowledging that giving a rocking chair as a retirement gift is an age-old cliché. But there’s no doubt that these handmade beauties are treasured by anyone who receives them.

“My wife’s cousin lost their house in a fire, so I built a rocking chair for them,” Kritzer said. “And I donated a couple for auctions for charitable things.”

Kritzer builds his rockers in the style of the legendary woodworker, Sam Maloof. Handmade chairs in the Maloof style can be found online for thousands of dollars, in some cases as much as $8,000 for one chair.

“I just finished a stationary chair to give as a wedding gift,” Kritzer said.

The chair is fashioned in the Craftsman style with clean, straight lines and evenly spaced slats. Its reclining position is adjusted by moving wooden pegs into slots along its back.

Over the years, Kritzer has purchased a number of tools to add to his burgeoning collection.

“I have a multitude of both power and hand tools,” Kritzer said. “I have your basic table saw — which everybody has — a couple of band saws, a planer, a joiner, a couple of drill presses, a milling machine, and lots of hand tools.”

But starting out, Kritzer had just the basics.

“I had that saw right over there, that’s it,” he said, pointing to a table saw. “And in high school, my dad gave me a lathe.”

A look around his workshop revealed even more tools, including a router — on its own table — and a lathe, but not the same lathe given to him by his father 50 years ago. The acquisition of all of these tools has been a slow process for Kritzer.

“If something would come up and I had the money, then I would buy the machine,” Kritzer said. “And same with hand tools. I’ve picked up a lot of them at auctions.”

Kritzer opened a drawer that held at least a dozen hand planes.

“Hand planes all do different jobs,” Kritzer said. “This one is for straightening and flattening. This one is for roughing lumber. It depends what I’m trying to do.”

And then there’s the wood. In every corner of his workshop, Kritzer has beautiful pieces of raw wood, some in boards, others in log form.

“A lot of people get hardwoods from overseas, but I like to stick with cherry, walnut, oak, ash — mostly domestic woods,” Kritzer said. “Whatever I can get at a bargain.”

Several years ago a neighbor called Kritzer to ask if he wanted a cherry tree that had fallen in her yard. Kritzer jumped on it. He called someone to mill the logs into boards, which are stored in his workshop’s basement.

“They’ve been drying for about five years, and now they’re ready to use,” he said.

The workshop itself is a source of pride for Kritzer. “I built it about 20 years ago, and my son Austin helped me,” Kritzer said. “I knew it was time to get the dust and noise out of the house.”

The three-story barn-shaped structure houses Kritzer’s workshop on the main level, storage in the basement, and Austin’s music studio on the second floor.

Some of Kritzer’s grandest pieces were made for the First Presbyterian Church in Fairmont, where he and Deanna attend church. One such piece is a tall, solid oak cabinet that was custom made to house the church’s large number of handbells. The Cambridge Handbell Choir has been an important part of the church since the 1970s, Music Director John Morrison said.

“As we were going through the process of expanding the range of the bells to add a lower octave, it became apparent that the bell storage we had was not going to be sufficient to store all of the bells,” Morrison said. “Roger came to the rescue and graciously built an absolutely stunning wooden bell storage cabinet which could accommodate the bells for years to come.”

“We have a wonderful handbell choir,” Pastor Evan Walker said, “and the cabinet [Kritzer] made for the handbells is a good and safe place to store the bells. It’s beautiful.”

For the church to buy such a cabinet, the price would be in the neighborhood of $10,000.

Kritzer built an additional storage cabinet that holds both chimes and bells, and a wooden cabinet to store the chancel choir’s folders. “We are so grateful for his beautiful woodwork at First Presbyterian,” Morrison said.

Also for the First Presbyterian Church, Kritzer built a baptismal font, but not until he studied the church’s interior.

“The baptismal font he made for the church is amazing,” Walker said. “He did it in such a way that the design matches the rest of the church’s aesthetic. It all looks like it’s part of the same set. The little cross on the baptismal font matches the crosses that are on end of the pews.”

“I can’t even imagine how long it took him to make it,” Walker said. “He is very talented.”

Lately, Kritzer has been teaching himself the ancient art of blacksmithing. He built a small forge for heating the metal, as well as a table with a steel top to use in shaping the metal.


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