KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — He keeps a chronicle of a lifetime of woodwork. A portfolio of pictures shows the furniture Al Hudson has made over the years, including his first piece at age 14.
Now Al Hudson is 99 years old. His 100th birthday is tomorrow, May 8, 2019.
The Master Craftsman continues to create the finest furniture at his house in West Knoxville.
You could say Al has sawdust in his veins. His father was superintendent of a woodworking mill in Chattanooga.
"My dad put me to work in the summertime sweeping the dust up, all the shavings and sawdust," Al said.
His grandfather was a master cabinet maker. Al was his apprentice for four years.
"I still use most of the knowledge that he gave me," he said.
He uses some of his grandfather's tools though modern tools make up most of his workshop assets.
Back in high school, he said, machines simply were not available to non-commercial woodworkers.
"There wasn't even a battery-operated screwdriver," he said as he demonstrated the tool.
Al took a long break from woodworking. He joined the Marines and went to college. Then for most of his career, he was Head Mechanical Engineer at TVA. After he retired, he embraced his old love and is a member of the East Tennessee Woodworkers Guild.
He enjoys it.
"Doing the hand work, the machine work, but the greatest joy I get is solving problems," he said.
Before he picks up a nail or a piece of wood he makes a detailed scale drawing.
One project took seven months!
Al considers a desk he made for his granddaughter his most beautiful piece.
"I probably wasted a hundred sheets of paper trying to design a desk for her that I thought had a feminine attraction to it," he said.
As he reviews his portfolio and reflects on 100 years, he will celebrate his birthday with a look back.
"A friend of mine is taking me to Chattanooga to knock on the door of the house where I grew up and ask if I can come in and see it," he said.
Then he will come back home and get back to work, woodwork.
"I think it's kept me young. It's kept me thinking, it's kept me busy, occupied, enjoying life. I really love to work with wood."