Woodworker David Laumeyer: The Hobby That Heals

Story By: Katie Vandenhouten

Photography By: Tonya Perry

David Laumeyer never fancied himself a craftsman or woodworker. That is, until he picked up a drill and saw for the first time. Once he tried his hand at building, he was hooked. From fences to furniture, Laumeyer has excelled at his newfound hobby and has built some very special custom pieces for himself and for others in the community.

     He has built beds, desks, entertainment consoles, end tables, and even a beautiful kitchen island for his home. Even though he has only been crafting for two years, he has quite the knack for it.

When Laumeyer was stationed in Afghanistan, he suffered a traumatic brain and shoulder injury. Since he could no longer work out due to his injuries, he decided he’d take up woodworking as a hobby. He has been creating beautiful custom woodwork ever since.

“I had no experience at all in it, and so I thought this could be fun until I can get back to working out,” he recalls. “I never thought it could’ve taken off like it did.”

As it turns out, his unlikely hobby came into his life just when he needed it most. He had survived his deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan with non-life-threatening injuries, but the emotional and psychological stress of war became just as symptomatic as his physical injuries. Laumeyer was later diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

What started out as a hobby to replace working out became a way for Laumeyer to conquer his illness. “Once I started building, it became super therapeutic for my PTSD, so that’s why I continue doing it,” he explains. “I have a little shelter in the back yard-a carport that I built-and I can go out there for hours and, therapeutically, it’s what has helped me with my PTSD.”

“Being able to get outside that bubble and have my own area to just decompress and really let my creativity run wild is what I enjoy the most,” he adds. “It’s the therapy I get from it.”

His favorite part of making furniture is seeing how happy people are with the final product.  He once made a four poster bed and got to see a video of the owner seeing it for the first time; her reaction was priceless, and it really gave him the satisfaction of knowing his work had made someone so happy.

Christina Cocita was also a happy customer when Laumeyer created her custom coffee table. “I sent Dave a few pictures of what I was dreaming of for our coffee table, and within a few short weeks he delivered our beautiful custom made, real wood coffee table,” she says. “We couldn’t be more satisfied with the outcome and how it brought our living room together.”

He gets inspiration from websites and tries to replicate designer furniture with a rustic twist. He ultimately recreates high end furniture for a much lower price.

“I can do that a lot cheaper because I don’t have to go through a big company, so a lot of stuff I can recreate with cheaper wood, like pine versus maple, and save a lot more money that way,” he says.

His most treasured creation is the changing table he built for his new baby daughter, Ansley. “I probably put the most time into that, and it’s the first thing I built out of a solid oak,” he says. “It’s a little more pricey to build, but I took the time, and I was a little more tedious with it.”

His wife, Tiffany, agrees. “My favorite piece has to be the changing table he built for our new addition!” she says. “Having a child was difficult for us, so there’s a certain sentiment that is priceless.”

As a full-time college student, he doesn’t have as much time to build for others like he used to, but when he does, he does everything he can to save people money. “I try to make it more affordable for the person,” he adds.

As good as he is at woodworking, his ultimate passion is in the medical field.  As a medic in the army,  he found his passion for healthcare, and he plans to continue on that path. “I’m about to graduate nursing school in August and then I’m going to get my Master’s to be a Nurse Practitioner,” says Laumeyer.

He also wants to raise awareness for PTSD, and he wants to make it known that mental illness is a disease just like any other disease, and it should be taken seriously.

He urges anyone who thinks they have symptoms of PTSD to see a doctor and get help. “I got off active duty in 2014 and didn’t seek treatment until late 2016.  It’s the stigma of PTSD that, like many others, scared me from seeking help,” he says. “I’ve seen so many take their lives, both military and non-military, just because they didn’t seek help.”

During his first deployment, his team was hit with mortars, and his truck got hit with a grenade during the first day of missions, badly injuring a fellow soldier. “Second deployment, we lost six people in two helicopter crashes, and I was doing training on flight line when I suffered a TBI from a flying sheet of plywood,” Laumeyer recalls.

Even after seeing and experiencing such trauma, he still didn’t realize he was having symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder right away. But when his anxiety, fear, and hypervigilance started getting in the way of life, he realized he needed to talk to someone.

“I felt like there was a threat everywhere I went,” he explains. In addition to nightmares and anxiety, he developed a fear of crowds and felt a sense of danger everywhere he went, which finally lead him to seek help at the VA.

“I just dealt with it for a while like most people,” he recalls. “ A lot of people don’t really take the disease or the illness seriously.”  He thanks his wife for encouraging him to get help. “I owe my life to my wife who was a driving force behind me seeking treatment. Today I’m able to live a relatively normal lifestyle.”

He may have come back home with PTSD, but Laumeyer still feels blessed for the home he came back to: “It made me a much more humble person. A lot of people don’t realize how great, as Americans, even our people who are in poverty– how great they have it versus the average person over there.” He never takes a single day for granted.

He credits Nikki Bowers with teaching him about craftsmanship and helping him get materials, and he also thanks his wife for her continued love and support. He says he couldn’t have done it without them.

His new baby and studying are keeping him busy these days. He doesn’t have as much time for his woodworking as he used to, but he still plans to keep building as his favorite hobby.“I do plan to do it on the side to make extra money because I enjoy it,” he says.

Laumeyer’s motto in life comes from singer Jack Johnson, who says “don’t let your dreams be dreams.” It’s the motto he lives by to remind him to live every day to the fullest and go after what he wants. “It’s the signature in my email, and it’s something I’ve always lived by,” he says. “Do something you love every day for your job to not feel like it’s actually work. Not letting your dreams be dreams. Just going after it and making it a reality.”

Ultimately, that is exactly what David Laumeyer is doing: pursuing the career he loves, enjoying his family, creating beautiful woodwork, and winning his battle with PTSD. The fact that the hobby he loves happens to bring in extra money, well, that’s just a bonus.

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