Eddie Rodriguez, a cabinet maker at Aeria Luxury Interiors in San Antonio, Texas, shares his experience
How did you get into this craft?
I have always been fascinated by the creative process of taking a piece of lumber and turning it into something useful. During my formative years, my high school offered an elective course in woodwork. It provided me with the basic skills and training to develop and understand the intricacies of handling many different kinds of wood. My affection for aircraft work developed during this time, during which I had the opportunity to experience working in an aircraft cabinet shop. My high school period was a turning point as I realised that a hobby had become my passion, and when you love what you do it shows in what you produce.
What do you love about it?
I’m particularly captivated by the creative design aspect, from start to finish. When I first started in this industry, you could view the overall build of a monument in a hand-sketched drawing. Nowadays, 3D modelling and highly developed renderings are prevalent, which allow you to see lifelike versions of what the designer is envisioning. As advanced as simulated visual technology is, it is still important to see and feel the exquisite quality of handcrafted woodwork. This is what fuels my continued growth and passion in my work.
What are the challenges?
Incorporating decorative materials and gold-plated hardware has its challenges. For VIP aircraft, you need to be very careful with delicate materials as you finalise the build of each piece to ensure everything comes together perfectly. Keeping everything clean and untarnished while minor adjustments are being done is of the utmost importance and can be tricky towards the end of the programme, when everything comes together.
What are your day-to-day tasks?
There are new tasks to work on every day, because of our specialisation in aviation. In VIP completions, each aircraft is uniquely designed and customised for our clients. The one thing we do regularly is prepare our work stations based on the jobs assigned. Outside of that, we have the opportunity to create something unique with each programme.
What are you most proud of?
We work on each production article separately in our workshop, so when you see the outcome of your work in its complete and finished form, it is truly one of the most rewarding feelings you can have as an artisan.
What advice do you have for people starting in this career?
Love what you do, take pride in your work and follow the drawings – always follow the drawings.
What has surprised you, and what would you change?
I’ve been in the industry for 50 years, and there has been a lot of technological advancement. At Aeria, we’ve been able to utilise 3D printing, which has opened new doors and certainly helped alleviate some of the more tedious tasks. At the beginning of my career, I could never have imagined the level of luxury and intricate designs I would have a hand in producing, and that my hobby would carry over into a lifelong career that I am very proud of.
I have been fortunate to dedicate my life’s work to business aviation through opportunities that came very early on. I would like to see more schools and companies collaborate and provide those same opportunities to the new generation of artisans beginning to develop a passion for their craft and who, very much like myself, love the artistry and beauty of creating useful handmade products from a piece of hardwood.
This interview was published as part of a larger feature profiling craftspeople in the July 2019 issue of Business Jet Interiors International. Click here to read the full article.