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Wood waiting for transformation

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Bear Claw Designs

Local Physician Branches Out into Woodworking

When Joe Vitale of Franklin Lakes isn’t practicing family medicine, he kicks up a little sawdust by creating live-edge tables, benches, and other pieces from black walnut, cherry, and spalted maple under his trade name, Bear Claw Designs.

Having grown up in Franklin Lakes, Joe understood “getting your hands dirty” by watching his dad, also a physician, cultivate his love of gardening. Joe’s grandfather had a dairy farm in Franklin Lakes and his uncles have farms in upstate New York. “As a farmer, you have to fix or create everything on your own; during my visits, I saw great examples of self-sufficiency,” says Joe.

“Three years ago, we were shopping for furniture and I kept gravitating toward the rustic-looking pieces,” says Joe. “I figured I could make them on my own, and it started from there.”

He visits lumberyards and board and beam reclaimers to choose the pieces that will translate into amazing pieces of art. “All you need to do is sand it and stain it to bring out the grain,” he says.

Joe appreciates woodworking as a hobby that is fun and stress-relieving--and he really appreciates his wife, Diana, for her patience and understanding of the time spent woodworking on his days off from work. "If she wasn’t so awesome I wouldn’t be able to do any of it," he says. “Woodworking provides a value for me that’s not money related, there’s something great about working with your hands.”


  • Joe and his jigsaw
  • Wood waiting for transformation
  • Branding supplies
  • Live-edge hallway table
  • Pet Projects
  • A polished look