He pauses in front of stacks of maple and cherry. Within the pile are some unusually wide pear and apple planks. He’s particularly fond of American woods. ”I’ll just sit and look at my boards for hours and figure out what I want to make,” Rooney says.
”Let’s go to the Pentagon,” Andy Rooney says. We pick our way around stacks of boards and assorted power tools and move a few paces from woodworking shop to five-sided writing shed.
Half of the garage was commandeered for 800 board feet of cherry Rooney couldn’t pass up. ”My God, look at that cherry. It’s 19 inches wide. Isn’t that beautiful?” he asks.
Rooney comes here each morning at 6 o’clock, stealing silently out a side door of the farmhouse so as not to awake Spencer. He works for two hours until pausing for breakfast. After writing and eating, he segues into woodworking for the rest of the morning.
”I’ll die, but I won’t retire,” he says. ”If I lost my marbles and knew it, I’d quit writing. I keep looking for signs that I’m losing it, but I feel as vital about writing and the drive to be creative at 82 as I did at 22 or 42 or 62.”
He’s presented as gifts much of his smooth, glossy woodwork to his four children, five grandchildren and friends in the form of chairs, dining room tables, coffee tables, end tables. The farmhouse is filled with his labor of saw and chisel. To the untrained eye, they appear to be the work of a master craftsman. Their creator is more critical.