The late Eugene E. Landon was recognized both at home and abroad as a master craftsman with the ability to build museum-quality reproductions of 18th century furniture using the same methods and tools used by craftsmen from that era.
To Pittsford, N.Y., resident Thomas C. Meiller,
however, Landon was more than that - he was a mentor and a friend.
For about a decade, Meiller took woodworking classes from Landon. It was during that time that the two men developed a friendship that endured until Landon's death at age 76 on June 1, 2011.
Meiller recently wrote "Inspiration: Gene Landon's Seven Hearths," a 200-page book that pays homage to Landon through the examination of his extensive work.
The book reveals a man without peer, who, had he been born 250 years earlier, could have stood toe-to-toe with the finest craftsmen during the time of our nation's founding.
Landon was so in tune with his craft, he often could discern the measurements of a piece of furniture by sight and the quality of a particular wood by smell and taste.
"The taste factor may sound strange, but it comes from always chewing chips around the shop," Meiller quotes Landon from a 1983 article in "Colonial Homes" magazine.
"He knew the history extremely well," Meiller said. "He worked on so many pieces of antique furniture, he knew just by looking at it how it was built."
In spite of his lofty standing as a woodworker, Landon held no pretense of greatness, Meiller said.
He was, rather, a man of great personal warmth and kindness. He was a patient and generous teacher who never missed a chance to discuss his passion for taking chisel or plane to wood.
The book focuses primarily on Landon's home, Seven Hearths, the Queen Anne-style house he built in the mid-1970s, and the workshop adjacent to it on Quaker State Road, just north of Montoursville in Fairfield Township.
It contains photographs of Landon, the hand-crafted furniture and furnishings produced by Landon, and the tools with which he built them.
Each photographed piece is accompanied by a short story or caption, the era of the historic piece it represents, and sometimes, a photograph of the original historic piece from which it was patterned. An occasional anecdote - an observation by Meiller or a quote from Landon himself - is included.
Also shown are special projects, such as Landon's Liberty Tree Eagle, made from wood salvaged from the nation's last Liberty Tree - which stood on the campus of St. John's College in Annapolis, Md. - and a reproduction of President George Washington's "Rising Sun" chair, which the first president sat on during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
The seeds for the book were planted when Meiller met Landon in 1997 when he was a guest speaker at a meeting of the Rochester Woodworkers Society in Rochester, N.Y.
Landon's talk made an impression on Meiller and several years later, when several members of the society decided to take a workshop taught by Landon at the Olde Mill Cabinet Shoppe in York, Pa., he took the class, too.
The two men hit it off quickly and became friends. That friendship was fueled, in part, because Meiller, a mechanical engineer, was able to make detailed drawings for the class.
Meiller said his drawings created "common ground" between him and Landon.
"That made me a little more close (than other students) because I had that tie-in beyond the class," Meiller said. "There was more communication."
Another factor was geography. Meiller's travel from Rochester to York brought him through Williamsport, so he would stop at Landon's home.
In 2003 or 2004, Meiller stopped by Seven Hearths to measure a piece of Landon's furniture prior to driving on to the workshop in York.
"As I'm measuring it, a storm hit and there was a terrible downpour," Meiller said.
Because road conditions were poor, Meiller offered to drive Landon to the workshop. In return, Landon invited Meiller to stay the night at Seven Hearths.
The arrangement soon became a routine, but it never became run-of-the-mill for Meiller.
"So I started driving (Landon) to and from classes and would end up spending the night," he said. "Here I am staying in a place that's like a museum."
In 2007, Landon was invited to again speak to the Rochester Woodworkers Society. He asked Meiller what he would like his lecture to focus on. Meiller responded: a tour of Landon's house and workshop.
In preparation for that lecture, Meiller toured the home and workshop with Landon and took dozens of photographs that would be used for a slide presentation during the lecture.
It was then that the idea for the book began to take root, but the idea did not begin to bear fruit until Landon's death, Meiller said.
"Obviously, with his passing, I said to my wife (Judy), 'I've got to do this,'" Meiller said.
Meiller also presented the idea to Landon's wife Jane and son Benjamin.
"My idea was to do 25 pieces of furniture with a little story on each one," Meiller said. "They wholeheartedly said, 'Yes, do it.'"
To that end, Meiller said he spent six days rephotographing Landon's work. He also was given access to his office and workshop, so he was able to find drawings, documents and magazine and newspaper articles to assist him with the book.
As the work went on, the scope of it grew, he said.
"Soon the 25 pieces grew to almost everything Gene made in his house, and pieces I had taken pictures of in his shop," Meiller wrote in the book's preface.
The "print on demand" book is available at www.lulu.com by typing the words "Landon" or "Meiller" in the search engine.