By Jacob Fehr
PORT Dover is home to people possessing all sorts of skills and talents. One skilled local craftsman is Les Simmonds, a hobbyist carpenter who specializes in making solid wood bed frames.
Mr. Simmonds was a metal stamper who retired in 2010. He began manufacturing wood bed frames to fight his boredom. “My late wife said, ‘you can’t hang around here all day, go do something,’” he told the Maple Leaf.
Thirteen years later, Mr. Simmonds estimates he’s crafted hundreds of bed frames and sold them to buyers across Ontario, including Brampton, Ottawa, and Lake Huron.
“It’s satisfying to create something. You take your time, get good wood if you can find it, and do it right,” said Mr. Simmonds.
The carpenter receives some assistance from his partner, Gloria, who raved about the bed frames’ quality. “We’ve never had a complaint; they’ll hold up,” said Gloria. Mr. Simmonds met Gloria and moved to Port Dover four years ago.
Moving to Port Dover was comfortable for Mr. Simmonds in part because he was familiar with the community. He used to rent a cottage in town and loved visiting Port Dover with his children for the beach and midway.
Originally, Mr. Simmonds moved to Ontario from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, at age 17. His father was a coal miner but he hoped to find alternative opportunities and settled into work at Babcock & Wilcox Canada in Cambridge.
Asked if any of his skills from metal stamping are applicable, Mr. Simmonds answered with age-old wisdom: “measure twice, cut once.”
Mr. Simmonds sells the bedframes he makes on Facebook Marketplace. He takes orders, requesting information such as desired size and stain, and then travels to the lumber yard to begin looking for good wood.
“I love the whole operation. Keeps me busy and thinking,” said Mr. Simmonds. “You’ve got to have something to do.”
The carpenter does his best to meet special requests, including bunk bed frames built to fit different sizes of mattress and brick paneling in headboards and footboards. He admits he’s not equipped to do everything but takes pride in his ability to satisfy customers’ wishes. All parts of his bed frames are handmade from lumber he chose.
Recently, while watching them be pulled up, Mr. Simmonds had the idea to use his old pine kitchen floorboards to create an end table. The boards were too small for making a bed frame, he explained, but work well with a smaller project. “They were pulling up the floorboards and I was bringing them in [my workshop],” he said with a laugh.
He’s considering adding plaques with burnt-in signatures or insignia to the backs of future bed frames to make them uniquely his, likening it to how painters often sign their canvases.
Mr. Simmonds has no plans to expand his operation, pick up his pace, or work harder than he wants to; he doesn’t want his hobby to feel like a job. He enjoys winters with Gloria in Alabama and the occasional summer day spent fishing. “I take it year by year,” Mr. Simmonds said.
For him, crafting bed frames and the odd end table is “more than enough to be happy.”
Originally published August 9, 2023