Meet The Chicago Woodworker Who Draws Inspiration From His Dog


Woodworker Phillip Keefe at work table with black-and-white dog watching him

Wood table by Phillip Keefe with legs made to resemble a dog's legs

Table with various pieces of woodwork

Most woodshops vibrate with the noise of power saws, lathes and drills. Not so at Phillip Keefe’s shop in Avondale, where the craftsman employs hand tools and ancient techniques to create his whimsical furniture pieces. Phillip Keefe took a break from his work to discuss his process.

What got you interested in woodworking? My dad made me a workbench because I wanted to build an acoustic guitar. It turns out that isn’t easy to do, so I decided to learn on furniture first.

How has your technique evolved? I realized that I enjoyed working exclusively with hand tools. It’s how someone would have made a piece in the 1700s or 1800s. The more I got into the technical side of woodworking, the more I began to expand my design and execution. I found that you can create cool, modern pieces with traditional methods.

Tell us about your look. My style shifted a year and a half ago. My dog had cancer that required aggressive treatment. As a way to process things, I started building furniture with Iggy in mind. It started with an exploration of his form, but as I progressed, the design became more abstract—a table leg may look like it’s in motion, but it doesn’t immediately look like a dog’s leg.

And the guitar? I never made it! Actually, I quit playing music altogether. Now all my creativity goes into woodworking.