Mike Hughes became interested in woodworking after college, when he was a newspaper reporter in Beaufort County in eastern North Carolina.
“I had no money and no furniture,” Hughes said. “But some friends of mine had built furniture before.”
So Hughes got help from his brother, who had some woodworking tools from making cabinets.
Hughes, 53, found better-paying jobs as time went on. He is currently the vice president of community relations for Duke Energy, where he oversees the company’s relationships with North Carolina municipalities and helps out when customers have questions about company-wide initiatives.
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He doesn’t need to build his own furniture anymore, but he still toils in his shop at his home in west Raleigh.
“It’s just always been therapeutic for me,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed being in a shop.”
Hughes has filled his home with some of his creations, including cabinets, dressers and several coffee tables.
These days, Hughes spends a lot of time making things for other people.
Duke Energy supports the United Way and hosts local fundraisers to benefit the charity. Usually, Hughes makes small items such as bowls and bracelets that can be sold in silent auctions.
Hughes said he also makes holiday gifts for his coworkers every year.
“I have a very understanding, or forgiving, wife,” Hughes said. “Every time I give her something, she acts like it’s the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen.”
His wife, Susannah, doesn’t typically get involved in the woodworking hobby. But every once in a while, she requests something in particular for the house.
“I’ve usually been able to deliver something that is at least functional and sometimes even decent,” Hughes said. “I try to get right on it to maintain that great relationship.”
A few years ago, he made a wooden bracelet for his wife and it became one of the more popular things he’s created. He also gives bracelets to female coworkers who pass them on to family members and friends.
Hughes is skilled enough now to add crushed stone details and different colored wood in the bracelets.
“I never thought I’d make women’s jewelery, but it was something people seemed to like,” he said.
His work might be popular, but Hughes doesn’t have plans to turn woodworking into a money-making venture.
“That’s not why I’m in it,” he said. “I’m a better woodworker than I am a businessman. Generating customers doesn’t appeal to me that much.”