Clay Gurganus is a blind man with a passion for woodworking.
You read that correctly. Gurganus lost his eyesight at 23 due to complications with diabetes and glaucoma, yet he doesn’t let that keep him from doing what he loves. He has a full-blown woodworking shop in his garage complete with power saws of nearly every kind, drill presses, routers, sanders and almost anything else you can think of.
“I have just about everything I need,” Gurganus says as he proudly points to his gigantic air-filtration device and air handler in the attic.
Gurganus’ love for woodworking goes back to his junior high school days, but he rediscovered his zeal for the craft after his family’s basement furniture was destroyed in the flood of 2010. While he and his wife, Jamie, were discussing replacement furniture options, he hypothesized the idea of making the furniture himself.
“All I need is a table saw,” Gurganus recalls saying with an impish smile, “Here we are (now) with a full-blown shop.”
Gurganus recently had a full-sized furnace and a central air-conditioning unit installed, too. (He doesn’t want to slow down production when it gets too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer.)
“I’ll try to make about anything,” Gurganus explains.
He has intricately detailed checker boards on display along with cutting boards. There is also quite a lot of furniture in use all around his house and in his kids’ bedrooms. And, of course, in the basement there is the original project that includes a stand for a 75-gallon fish tank and an entertainment center with matching end tables.
“I’m totally blind,” Gurganus says, but he’s never let that get in the way of getting things done. He currently works as financial aid coordinator for ISU’s college of veterinary medicine. In the distant past, he’s been a fry cook at a restaurant and owned his own business as a DJ. In May, he’ll celebrate his 20th wedding anniversary, and he has two teenage children.
And in case you have the same question many others have had for him in the past — “How do you keep from cutting your fingers off?” — Gurganus just smiles, proudly displays 10 completely intact digits and explains, “I don’t stick them in the blade.”
Contact Darren at 953-4822 ext. 304 or email@example.com to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”