Ben Block on Commitment to Craft
Ben Block originally wanted to become a musician. As he searched for work, he started a job as a cabinetmaker, where his boss told him, “Be careful what you get good at.” Despite the well-intentioned advice, Block fell in love with craftsmanship and eventually started a custom cabinet company, Block Brothers Custom Cabinets, which is named after his parents’ sawmill in Monroe. In this installment of MH+D Inside Out, he reveals the value of perfectionism paired with a strong work ethic.
Q. What type of projects do you work on?
A. We do a little bit of everything—built-ins, bathrooms, furniture, trim, stairs, and interior finish work. These days we’re also doing more and more design, as well as contracting and project management.
Q. What do you love about your work?
A. I start with this blank space, and then I break down every fraction of an inch of whatever problem the space poses. It’s not just something beautiful, but I’ve solved all these functional problems along the way.
Q. Your company is growing right now. Can you tell me about that?
A. We don’t want to become a company that grows too fast and loses its identity. We sign every piece of our work that goes out of the shop, and I drive home a sense of ownership with all my guys in the shop. Every joint that’s glued together and every edge that’s sanded should be as perfect as possible. I think perfection is hard to achieve, but it’s what I try for every day.
Q. Why is perfectionism important?
A. I scrutinize every detail, and we rework a product until it’s perfect. That’s the only way to consistently put out good quality. It doesn’t mean that every kitchen needs to be elaborate and have curves and angles and layers upon layers of molding. We find perfection in simplicity as well.
Q. Your father was also a craftsman. What did you learn from him?
A. He taught my brothers and me to take pride in our work and not do it halfway. I want to have our name on this company 200 years from now. That’s why we sign our pieces, and that’s why I put my name on this business to begin with. It isn’t something I’m trying to grow and sell and move on to the next thing. I live and breathe this work. I run the business the same way I glue a door together. I give it everything I have and do it as well as I can before I walk away from it.