As a 432nd Maintenance Group quality assurance inspector, he works with his hands during duty hours and makes unique gifts and awards for his fellow military members in his spare time. With each new carving over the last two years, his reputation has grown as others discover his woodworking talents.
“It started out with my supervisor who wanted me to build ‘Tiger Chocks’ [as unit awards],” Nicholas said. Chocks are wedges placed by the wheels to keep aircraft from moving accidentally, and they’re a familiar tool of the trade for maintainers.
“Then, another person in the aircraft maintenance unit asked if I could make a plaque,” he added. “He was impressed, so people kept coming back for more, and I continued on.”
Nicholas has made about 70 items for fellow service members here. His most recent gift, a shadow box set into the top of a coffee table, is one of his favorites, he said. He logged more 40 hours perfecting it for presentation to Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Edward, 432nd Wing weapons manager, to honor his retirement.
“He did a lot for me and a lot for the weapons community, and he’s been a great mentor,” Nicholas said. “The least I could was help provide a gift to recognize his 30 years of service.”
Gratitude for His Efforts
The gift left the chief almost speechless.
“Chief didn’t say a whole lot. It was more in his expression,” Nicholas said. “He couldn’t stop looking at it. He was quiet with a huge smile, and in his eyes you could see his happiness. He said, ‘Thank you,’ I don’t know how many times.”
Nicholas may be the go-to guy for unique gifts, but he doesn’t claim credit for his work.
“I don’t do it for recognition at all,” he said. “If someone wants to recognize me for it, that’s OK, but I’m not striving for that. It’s a memento to recognize the person’s years of service, so I’m happy to do it.”
Nicholas said he revels in the joy of seeing people’s reactions and that he enjoys doing the work.
“That’s the best thing,” he said. “I get the joy out of making it, but I also get the joy out of seeing their reactions, getting that sense of wow. It’s cool, because I’m bringing something they wanted to life.”
Passion for Woodworking
Creating works of art has been a long process for Nicholas. As boy, he was inspired by his family’s creations, he said, and as he grew, so did his woodworking passion.
“I took my first woodworking class in 8th grade, [and] then in high school,” he said. “I always did woodworking and design. I’ve always enjoyed building things, taking things apart, putting them back together, and finding new ways to make things more efficiently.”
Even after he joined the military 12 years ago as a weapons loader, Nicholas said, he still found time to go to the base’s hobby shop and make projects. When he bought his house in Las Vegas, he slowly began collecting tools until he filled the garage.
“I renovated my whole house, top to bottom,” he said. “I installed flooring, molding, and furniture as well as plumbing, landscaping, wiring and created a custom entertainment center.” The entertainment center was his proudest creation, he said, because it required woodworking, custom wiring, audiovisual equipment and lighting.
Whether it’s been his own home improvement project or a gift, Nicholas said, woodworking has given him an escape. “Working on projects is a fun and relaxing way to decompress,” he explained. “It’s fun, and I get to learn new things and exercise my mind by solving problems.”
Editor’s Note: For security reasons, only ranks and first names are used in this article.