Jim Kenyon: Crooks Nail ‘Dead Honest’ Grafton Carpenter
Imagine a violinist without his violin, a surgeon without her scalpel, Dale Earnhardt Jr. without his No. 88 Chevy.
When thieves broke into Dave Tupper’s workshop in Canaan, they took more than electric drills, sanders and saws. They stole his livelihood.
“These are things I can’t do without,” Tupper said. “I lost just about everything.”
Like many of us, Tupper didn’t keep an up-to-date inventory of everything he owned, but he estimates it’s going to cost at least $8,000 to replace the stolen tools.
Tupper, 46, specializes in small remodeling projects. A number of years ago, Tupper, who lives in Grafton, bought a two-bedroom fixer-upper in neighboring Canaan that he’s kept vacant. “I work on it when business is slow,” he said. The house doubles as a workshop and a dry place to store his tools.
On Feb. 14, he backed up his truck to the front door to drop off a load of materials. He opened the door to a shop of horrors. “The place had been ransacked,” he said.
In the dozen years that he’s worked on his own, Tupper had slowly gone about collecting the tools of his trade. When he had few extra bucks after finishing a job, he’d buy another circular saw or drill.
Now, whatever he didn’t have in his truck is gone, including his table saw and chop saw. The thieves cleaned out most of his hand tools. The portable heaters he used on job sites during the winter were swiped as well.
Tupper heard that the property adjacent to his workshop had been hit, too, with thieves apparently pilfering auto parts kept in a storage trailer.
Canaan Police Chief Sam Frank told me that his department is working a few cases at the moment in which tools were among the stolen items. Police have a suspect, he said.
Tools that are stolen often find their way into pawn shops, the chief said. “This is a huge problem as there are very few regulations regarding pawn shops and how they operate,” he said.
Grafton Police Chief Russell Poitras told me that “a lot of times” the people committing burglaries in the area are drug addicts who are turning over whatever they steal to their dealers.“They’re swapping tools for drugs,” Poitras said. “The (dealers) then take the stolen (items) to pawn shops.”
Tupper had painted in green the initials of his company — Granite Woods Custom Carpentry — on some of the tools. But it might not do much good. He’s afraid the tools have been broken into pieces and the metal sold to salvage yards.
He had insurance on his tools, but it only covers $2,500 in losses, and it could take a while before he sees a check.
One thing he can’t get back is his time. “I lost a solid week of work,” he said.
I heard about what had happened to Tupper from David Binger, of Plainfield. Binger and his wife, Jan, have hired Tupper a number of times to work on their 30-year-old post-and-beam house. “He’s the very best carpenter, and dead honest, too,” said Binger. “This whole thing is weighing heavy on him.”
After reporting the break-in to police, Tupper called Lucas Seaver at LaValley Building Supply in West Lebanon. Seaver works with contractors, including Tupper, on kitchen and bathroom project designs. “He’s been a really good customer,” Seaver told me.
Tupper explained his predicament to Seaver, in hopes that LaValley’s would give him store credit for materials he had bought for another job and didn’t use, so he could buy some tools.
Seaver did more than just rush through the paperwork on the materials that Tupper had returned. He made sure that Tupper got his new tools for a fraction of the going price.
“Obviously, without tools he couldn’t do his job,” Seaver said. “It’s guys like him that keep us in business. It’s our job to make sure he can stay in business.”
Tupper has started to take up LaValley on its offer. Last week, he bought a sander.
“I’m buying tools as I need them,” he told me. “I’d like to go out and buy them all at once, but I can’t swing it.”
A few days ago, Tupper was back on the job — remodeling the Bingers’ kitchen. Watching him remove cabinet doors with a new electric drill, I tried to imagine what he’s having to deal with.
It’s bad enough when someone loses a TV or a wallet in a break-in. But when a self-employed carpenter is robbed of his tools?
That’s not just an inconvenience. It’s stealing his paycheck.
Jim Kenyon can be reached