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April 1, 2003

Woodwork After Dark: A Philly trader has a hobby that'll perpetutate his name.

By Gregory Bresiger

There is an escape from the daily trading madness for Kevin Fischer.

By day, the 40-year Fischer works the hectic Philadelphia Stock Exchange. He is a veteran trader and floor manager for Timber Hill, which has 200 specialist books and some 15 market makers in Philly. It is a large equity derivatives firm.

By night, Fischer sometimes retreats to the quiet of his workshop, which is in suburban Philadelphia near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. There he creates beautiful furniture for friends and family. The products of Fischer's hobby - most of which he gives away - have become very popular.

Today, he has trouble keeping up with all the requests from neighbors and relatives.

"I've had more and more people asking me to make something for them," according to the veteran trader, who joined the securities business straight out of college. Fischer worked for Prudential Securities before turning to trading.

Unusual Gift

Fischer's hobby started some four years ago. He received an unusual gift from his wife - a woodworking course that he enjoyed. Fischer was hooked on an avocation that grew and grew. His first piece was the kitchen table in his home - a harvest table made out of curly maple wood - that is used every day by Fischer, his wife and his daughters. He says that it is not a perfect piece; that he is often tempted to take it apart and re-do it.

Nevertheless, he has a sentimental attachment to it because it was the first thing he created. "It has a certain amount of dings and dents in it, but it is still a gorgeous table," said Fischer.

The process of creating, of working with his hands away from the hustle and bustle of markets, helps to rejuvenate him, Fischer says.

"This is just a nice way of having a little quiet time, maybe once or twice a week," Fischer said. He wants things as quiet as possible, he adds, because he must be careful in working with his tools. Also, the absence of noise is part of the charm of woodworking, Fischer notes. The stressed out trader has a time in which no one is screaming at him.

"It's nice to have a hobby in which no one is talking to you and you're sort of building something," Fischer said.

Whenever Fischer hasn't engaged in his hobby for a few days or a week, he says that it is inevitable that, "I always find myself wondering down into the shop."

Fischer, who uses some of the hand tools that belonged to his grandfather, tries to keep his woodworking as simple as possible. Fischer wants no big tools, just a few hand tools are enough, he says. And he believes that they are often better than power tools because the latter often require "a lot of set up time."

And one must be exceedingly careful if one uses a lot of power tools, Fischer warned. "You can't have kids or pets running around because you can't sew something back together once a power saw gets a hold of it," he said.

Most of his creations are in the Federal or Shaker style, he explains. For example, recently he was working on a sideboard. It will have a curly maple top, surrounded and bordered by cherry. "The top of the sideboard will be the star of the piece, he said.

A Long Life

The contrast with his professional life, Fischer notes, is stark.

"A lot of times, at the end of the day at the market, other than a dollar p & l, there's really nothing to say that you were here. But with this pastime, if you've done it right, it should last for two hundred odd years," Fischer said.