Build, make, restore


Courtesy of Crystal Smith

Geometry teacher Crystal Smith started her own woodworking business in 2011. Smith continues woodworking as a passion project for herself, and close family and friends today.

The rhythmic buzzing of a wood saw as a piece of lumber is cut in half. The slish-sloshing of paint and stainer as buckets are moved from project to project. Hammering, hammering, hammering, until the final product is complete.

This is the melody of geometry teacher Crystal Smith’s life.

“To me, woodworking is creating something from nothing, or restoring something,” Smith said. “It might be custom made, or I might restore it. And it can also involve painting.”

Smith grew up in an environment of building and making, which helped fuel her passion for woodworking.

“I grew up with a dad that did all kinds of work in the shop,” Smith said. “We lived on a ranch in Colorado, so I learned a lot of the basics from him, from the time I built my first birdhouse when I was 8 or 9 all the way up. [In 2011], when ‘shabby chic’ was popular, I saw all this stuff and wondered whether or not I could do that, so I tried [woodworking] and realized I really liked it.”

Smith decided later to fuel her passion for woodworking into a business, starting in 2011.

“[When I had my business], I was teaching during the day, running home and eating dinner really quick, going out to my garage around 6 p.m. to start working until midnight, and then grading papers until about 2 a.m. I’ve restored multiple dressers, dining tables and drawers. [I have] created blanket boxes, blanket ladders and trellises, and even sold restored pieces I bought from garage sales at my storefront in downtown McKinney.”

Smith grew up creating and building her in home. Smith helps create sets for the school’s theatre departments in addition to teaching geometry. (Courtesy of Crystal Smith)

Smith was forced to close her business in 2016, however. She was diagnosed with a nerve disorder, which made the long hours of working impossible.

“It was a hectic time, but I really enjoyed it,” Smith said. “However, when I was diagnosed with my nerve disorder, which causes a lot of pain if I do too much work, I really had to put the business aside and focus on doing things for me, my family and my friends.”

During this time, she’s worked on projects for those close to her.

“When my mother moved up here in 2016, she had a cabinet she wanted refinished,” history teacher Homa Lewis said. “I asked Mrs. Smith if it was something she could do, she came over and looked at it, took it home and brought it back in beautiful shape. I couldn’t get over how beautiful it looked.”

Smith has also worked with theatre, helping them with their sets.

“Mrs. Smith began assisting us with Grease when our tech director left, and we needed help building,” theatre director Jessica Brewster said. “She also built a bench for our state qualifying One Act Play, ‘Anatomy of Gray,’ and also served as the master carpenter on ‘Pirates of Penzance.’ And this year, built some sconces for our One Act Play, ‘Wit.’”

Overall, Smith likes the challenge of the many shapes that come with woodworking.

“I like the challenge [of woodworking],” Smith said. “That’s the thing that drives me. Getting to actually take the vision I see in my head and figure out what that’s going to look like in real life. And, of course, as a geometry teacher, I actually get to use the geometry in real life.”