Microscope engineer Lou Farkas switches work to follow his passion
By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — Lou Farkas has spent most of his adult life working to develop next generation high-resolution microscopes, a demanding and high stress field in which success is measured in such small incremental units of measure that the results are invisible to the unaided human eye.
Now he's embarked on a new career, one in which his high-end furniture creations are very visible and highly sought after for their superior craftsmanship and eye-pleasing appeal.
Farkas, who grew up in Ohio and graduated from Ohio State with a degree in electrical engineering, said he's always had a passion for woodworking and would unwind from the stress of the intense work he was doing by using his hands to build furniture.
''I did a lot of woodworking for family and friends,'' said Farkas, who bought the former Hickory Stick restaurant in Belmont 10 years ago and has turned it into a private home where he has a woodworking shop where he turns out furniture, much of it Shaker period pieces, which are highly regarded as works of art.
He said that during the course of his career in microscopy he spent a lot of time in research and development and traveled all over the world. Among his achievements was working with Billy Ward and other 34 other engineers at Atomic Level Imaging Systems in Peabody, Massachusetts, to develop a helium ion microscope which generated higher resolution images at the atomic level than ever before considered possible.
"It was the only one of it's kind in the world," said Farkas, who said that it was a major breakthrough in the nanotechnology world at that time, 2005, and led to the firm being sold to Carl Zeiss' Nano Technology Systems Division the following year.
It was around that time that Farkas and his, wife, Ginny, decided to move from the Durham area to Belmont, which they saw as a good place to raise their two sons. He continued to work for ALIS but says he grew tired of the hectic pace and constant travel.
Early last year, he and Ginny talked about the future.
"I said I can't do this any more. It's just too high stress. She said, 'Why don't you sell your furniture?' and that's how it got started. We looked at Portsmouth as a location but decided we liked Meredith better and it was closer to home," said Farkas.
Last summer they opened Meredith Bay Furniture Company in a 4,000-square-foot building at 44 Main St., just across from the Meredith town offices, where they could sell the custom-built furniture and antiques.
Farkas, who says that he has been stockpiling wood for 30 years to use in building furniture and enjoys working with American hardwoods which have unique grain structures, such as curly maple, birds-eye maple, red curly birch, butternut, and quarter-sawn white oak and white ash, which is sawed in a way which maximizes the exposure of the wood grain.
He said he has developed his own clientele through the many projects he has undertaken in which he first designs the specified piece on a computer and works with the client to achieve the desired result. He has made everything from kitchen islands with live-edge lumber and drop-leaf trestle tables to kitchen cabinets and counters with an antique cast-iron sink and a coffee table encased by a metal rim from a wagon wheel.
"I'm a perfectionist. I want people to be able to have something that's unique and that they consider a work of art. I look at its being a craftsman, not a contractor. That's why I do all of my own installations, because I want it to look just right," said Farkas.
Although he's an Ohio State grad, Farkas said he considers New Hampshire his home after living 32 years in the Granite State. And he doesn't follow the Ohio State Buckeyes or college football generally. But when Sunday rolls around during the pro football season, he and Ginny will likely turn on the tube and root for the Patriots.
Lou Farkas of Meredith Bay Furniture with two of his handmade works, a red curly birch island behind him and a tiger maple coffee table beside him. An electrical engineer who helped develop a revolutionary helium ion microscope, Farkas is now concentrating on creating custom built furniture. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Lou and Ginny Farkas opened Meredith Bay Furniture Company last year on Meredith's Main Street and feature custom-built furniture as well as antiques. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
A Shaker-style table made with tiger maple is one of many unique pieces of furniture at Meredith Bay Furniture Company. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun).
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