I’d like to introduce two of my favourite and incredibly energetic and ingenious renaissance men – very unique business owners:
What??? No suits??? No ties??? For them, they’re merely distractions.
These two, much like an old married couple have been married to their passions for making things with an intensity and a symbiosis so rare – one that I was incredibly fortunate to be a part of and lives with me daily.
Ken on the left (with the coffee cup always close) and Louis on the right.
Together, they formed Breakfast Woodworks with Ken running the shop whilst Louis oversaw and marketed the business, yet still operating his own Architecture firm (Louis Mackall Architect) designing exceptional projects. This continued for about 45 years until instead of retirement, they reformed as Leetes Island Woodworks.
Ken’s ingenuity and skills always extended far beyond construction and custom woodworking.
I had the privilege to work with him on so many prestious projects that it just seemed to become the norm. Often whilst I worked on projects, Ken would be in the next room building machines literally from components – timers, relays, solenoids, pneumatic valves, etc. and preparing for the next shop evolution with an uncanny and unflappable vision. Also, as a boss, he also had that sort of vision with his employees, so when he saw potential in others, he worked to help them develop.
When CNC machines started to become available, he said to me “Ruf, here’s our budget, I want you to find us a machine, learn how to use it and and then train me” (I think he had too many projects of his own). That fuse was lit and as soon as the machine was installed, I started showing him the basics, but since he literally lived in the shop and made the most of every moment, his skills had eclipsed mine within months. No one could ever keep up with Ken.
His passion and a laser focus left no room for superficiality (certainly not for appearance) and despite his intensity, he was also one of the kindest, genuinely warmest people I’ve ever known and incredibly generous with his time. He rarely took time off, but when he did, his holidays were often spent in Haiti helping hands-on with infrastructure projects.
I never told these guys how much I love them (but that would be truly embarrassing for us all).
We tragically lost Ken last week and know that he will be deeply missed. My deepest heartfelt condolences go to all his family, to Louis and to Louis’ family as well.
Years ago when we were working on the Backstreet project, Louis was happily working in the shop to the buzz an old chain mortiser, while laughing in response to some shop banter, he replied with a twinkle in his eye “bop until you drop”. I think that this is a good reflection of the philosophy when you love what you do. You “go for the gusto” and then it’s time to stop.
I will miss Ken terribly. We had some incredibly dynamic woodworking experiences (even all-nighters) together and I don’t know where I’d be without a Ken & Louis (aka Breakfast Woodworks) in my early woodworking development from babbit bearing machines, to CNC & CAD. I just know that they have inspired both myself and many others in unimaginable ways.
May you all have a Ken and Louis in your life.