Stoughton Army veteran finds purpose through woodworking

STOUGHTON, Mass. (AP) — Nicholas Paicos returned from an Army deployment in Afghanistan and found it difficult to readjust and find his way.

He struggled with alcohol until he sought help. Three years passed and Paicos felt better and wanted to do something that would keep him busy. Woodworking was the answer.

“I love making stuff and it was a great constructive outlet,” said Paicos, an Army Infantry veteran.

Through carpentry, he got his life back and has found purpose. He started Against the Grain Woodworking and began making flags and gun cases for the holiday in his basement studio.

The flags have a charred look and can include custom details, like coloring, logos, or lettering. He recently made one for a Vietnam War veteran with the Army logo and a Puerto Rican flag in the shape of the island.

So far, Paicos has created at least 25 flags and some gun cases mostly for clients who are from the military. He also makes them for first responders and people who like patriotic artwork.

Paicos made his first American flag last year as a Christmas gift for his wife, Lisa. They went to a holiday festival in Boston and she pointed out a vintage flag that she liked.

He later put pictures of his creation on Facebook and someone encouraged him to sell them. The first flag Paicos put up for sale sold within an hour, he said.

“Making something and having someone like it enough to buy it has been nice,” Paicos said.

Paicos takes orders from around the Greater Boston and Brockton areas.

A standard wooden flag costs $195. With custom details they can cost at least $200. Gun cases are $325.

Sales from the woodworking is slated for education for himself and his wife.

Lisa is attending nursing school full time at Northeastern University in Boston and Paicos is completing general education requirements online so that he can apply to a physician’s assistant program at Northeastern.

He also plans to put some of the money aside to update his woodworking equipment.

Paicos also works full time as a sports rehabilitation trainer at Journey Forward in Canton. The nonprofit works with people who have had spinal injuries or disability that cause paralysis.

While balancing work and school, he and Lisa also parent their 2-year-old daughter, Quinn.

Often it isn’t until after dinner, when Quinn is asleep, and the house is taken care of that Paicos can spend a few hours in his workshop to make flags and gun cases.

In the basement, he will cut wood to get the right dimensions for the flags, char the wood with a blow torch, and then glue pieces of wood together and secure with nails. Afterwards, he sprays finishing on the flag.

He uses several machines, like one with fine drill bill to etch logos, letters, and other designs into wood. Paicos also has a table saw and machines to smooth out rough cut pieces of wood that he buys from Rugby Architectural Building Products in town.

Paicos had always done home projects and built a couple of wooden furniture pieces, including a mudroom bench, pantry shelf and side tables.

He learned about carpentry by watching How-To videos on YouTube and by attending woodworking classes.

“It was a lot of trial and error,” Paicos said about the learning process.

Sometimes he will look at some of his earlier pieces and see how much better his work is now.

Paicos enjoys making furniture, but with his current space, that isn’t possible. He also doesn’t have a lot of space in his wood shop or a way to ship finished pieces.

Plus, flags and gun cases are popular, he said.

He is open to trying to make new items, such as cutting boards.

Within the next five years after he and Lisa finish school, they plan to buy a new home. Paicos hopes there can be a space for a wood shop.

“There’s definitely a lot more to learn,” he said about carpentry. “That’s what I like about it. It’s engaging and I could do it for the rest of my life and keep learning more.”

Online: https://bit.ly/2r5HP3y

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Information from: The (Brockton, Mass.) Enterprise, http://www.enterprisenews.com

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