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Monday, February 25, 2013

The blind woodworker

Back in January, I spent a day hanging out with Niel Makielski. Niel is legally blind after losing his vision to macular degeneration, but has a very elaborate home woodworking shop in his basement where he works on projects ranging from watch stands to full home entertainment centers. After losing most of his vision, Niel developed a very unique and interesting workflow to allow him to accurately measure pieces of wood and find tools.

Niel Makielski

After ruining a few pieces of wood by cutting them unevenly and out of square, Niel Makielski pauses as he examines his table saw while working in his home wood shop on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, near South Bend. A warped blade was the culprit. Makielski, who is legally blind, suffers from macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in 60 and older Americans according to the National Eye Institute. (James Brosher/South Bend Tribune)

Niel Makielski

Niel Makielski cuts a wood board on his table saw as he works on a new project in his home wood shop on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, near South Bend. Makielski has developed a unique workflow in his wood shop allowing him to continue to pursue his passion. (James Brosher/South Bend Tribune)

Niel Makielski

Niel Makielski’s “Coke bottles” glasses rest on plans showing the dimensions for a wood table project on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, at his home near South Bend. Makielski is building the table from scratch to house a magnification machine he uses to read. (James Brosher/South Bend Tribune)

Niel Makielski

Niel Makielski uses a magnification device to help measure the width of a would-be table leg as he works in his wood shop on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, at his home near South Bend. Makielski is legally blind, but can see and make out some shapes and writing by leaning in extremely close or using magnification devices. (James Brosher/South Bend Tribune)

Niel Makielski

Niel Makielski points out a marking on the back of a showcase he made in his home wood shop a few years back on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, near South Bend. After progressively losing his vision to macular degeneration, Makielski continued his woodworking to prove his doubters wrong by developing a unique workflow. He now signs his projects with “B Niel,” short for blind Niel. (James Brosher/South Bend Tribune)

Niel Makielski

After cutting several pieces of wood out of square, Niel Makielski leans in close to examine his table saw blade to see if it is warped on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, at his home wood shop in South Bend. A warped blade was the culprit. (James Brosher/South Bend Tribune)

Niel Makielski

Saw dust flies as Niel Makielski leans in extremely close so he can see a measurement to cut a biscuit joint into a table project on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, in his home wood shop near South Bend. (James Brosher/South Bend Tribune)

Niel Makielski

Niel Makielski sights down a freshly-cut table leg as he works in his home wood shop on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, near South Bend. Makielski can see some shapes and objects by leaning in extremely close. (James Brosher/South Bend Tribune)

Categories: Projects | Tags: | Comment (1)

One comment on “The blind woodworker”

  1. myrna makielski says:

    James,
    The pictures and video were great! Niel went to Battle Creek this week, people were coming up to him – the pictures were posted on the VA website!

    Niel has the table finished and has finished a headboard for our grandson, Marek. He is getting ready to start one for our older grandson, Harlan.

    You are welcome anytime, Niel enjoyed the day you were here.

    Thanks again for everything! Niel and Myrna

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