Ray got his first workbench and tools (hammer, saw, brace and bit) at the age of 7 when his family lived in Philadelphia, PA. The first project, with his mom was a set of stilts. But his love for furniture and building came from the furniture they would trash pick or find at estate sales. Anything with potential was repaired, refinished and used in the house. Everything else was used for materials to build a backyard fort. When the Franks family moved to Knoxville, TN two years later, the house came with four acres of woods (and a pony). Being a frequent recipient of extra chores (due to his stellar behavior at school), Ray spent many hours hauling, cutting and splitting firewood. The more interesting logs and branches made their way into his tree houses and hideaways in the yard.
In 1989, Ray moved to Harlem, NYC to pursue his career as a jazz saxophonist. Ray spent many years touring, recording, and performing including a decade long stint with The Lionel Hampton Orchestra and several Broadway pits. But he still enjoyed making things with his hands. With limited tools, space, and money, he furnished his apartment. Friends started to hire Ray to make loft beds, record and audio component shelves, surfboard racks, etc. In 2000, Ray and his wife had their first child and bought a Harlem townhouse. Being a stay-at-home parent meant more time in his small basement shop. Ray immersed himself in the intricacies of designing and building fine furniture.
In 2008, Ray decided to stop taking gigs and turn his full creative focus to furniture making. HarlemBuilt was born. What was just a small room with a radial arm saw, cordless drill and router became a fully equipped shop with quality machines and a wide assortment of vintage and new hand tools.
Ray is still living in Harlem with his wife, three kids, dog and way too much sporting equipment. When he’s not in the shop, you’ll probably find him on the soccer pitch or in the surf.