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This month, we chatted with longtime DIY Furniture Store customer, Scott Ewine, about his journey to becoming a master craftsman and fine furniture maker by hobby. Scott makes beautiful furniture from his home in Maryland with a commitment to reclaimed wood. Admirably, Scott only uses slabs from trees that come down in storms or have to be removed because they're threatening nearby structures.
It’s not surprising that a mechanical engineer by profession would find success designing and building artistic pieces of furniture. The interesting part is how Scott first got started down the path to furniture maker extraordinaire.
“It started in earnest after I built my house in 2001. It is modeled after the Edward Irving house in Decatur, IL that was built by Frank Lloyd Wright and Marion Mahoney in 1909. When I was done with the house I had some oak left over from the trim and started making furniture with it, mainly Arts & Crafts style.”
As if building a house wasn’t impressive enough (I mean, look at that house!), Scott didn’t stop there. Through the years, he was able to make most of the furniture for the entire house out of his remaining oak trim. He does most of his work from a shop in his basement and has ample garage space for his lumber.
Knowing he had the talent and space at home to continue making furniture, Scott curated an ideal relationship between him and a friend who owns a tree service company. When Scott’s friend takes down a large tree, Scott reaps the benefits of a new inventory of slabs and a sustainable way to create his furniture with reclaimed wood.
“Using reclaimed wood started with hurricane Sandy in 2012. The rain leading up to it followed by the strong winds toppled many trees in this area, including a ~200 year old American Elm that stood on a historic property here in Frederick. A friend of mine that owns a tree service company asked if the trunk would be of any use and after a bit of research, I found a sawmill that could handle a tree that size. Subsequent to that, whenever my friend takes down a large tree, I will have it processed into slabs.”
With an inventory of slabs and a workshop at home, selling his furniture became a natural next step.
“About 75% of what I make lately is commissioned, certainly that is more the case with the larger pieces. I normally have smaller pieces listed on Etsy and a few representative larger tables. Etsy is often a starting place for commissioned pieces, people see a table they like but need it a bit longer or shorter and I will make it to their specifications.
"Since much of what I make is commissioned, the customer is really driving what I create. For example, I made a large white oak table for a local customer, and she subsequently wanted to have a bench with a back to go with it. I used your bench leg kit to make one of my favorite pieces of late."
When Scott isn’t selling his work on platforms like Etsy and Craiglist (for the lower priced pieces, he says), he takes part in about 6 shows a year, including open houses, local seasonal markets, and big flea markets from NY to DC.
Scott says his style is probably best described as what George Nakashima would design for IKEA in New Mexico in the 1950s. The turquoise inlays that are commonly seen in Scott’s work are also inspired by the southwestern desert and serve as a stunning way to fill the voids left in some slabs.
“Speaking of George Nakashima, I made about three very nice, very organic black walnut tables from the crotch of a ~150 year old tree. My favorite ended up being used as the table where women try on jewelry in a very nice store in downtown New Hope, PA, Nakashima’s hometown. On occasion, the lady that owns the store and bought the table will send me a picture of it with a nice note about how happy she is with it.”
While most of his slabs come from the tree service company, Scott also relies on tips from friends and has had some luck with discoveries of his own.
“One of the biggest trees I got came just a couple miles from my house, it had to come down to make way for a new overpass and the construction company had it laying near the road for a couple days. Every time I drove past it I would get a nervous twitch thinking about how tragic it would be if they just cut it up for firewood. Finally, I pulled off the highway and asked to talk to the supervisor and he said if I could get it hauled out, I could have it. It was a ~150 year old white oak that was almost 4 feet in diameter and about 23 feet long. We cut it in half and they used their excavator to load it in the trailer. I have made several nice tables from that tree and still have about 15 nice slabs from it.”
With an ample supply of slabs to create with, Scott’s challenge became sourcing high quantities of table legs to compliment his pieces.
“Hairpin legs were the only thing I could think of that I could box up along with a big stack of slabs and easily haul to a show in my van and quickly setup and then break down. Subsequently, they have grown on me since their simple lines do not detract from the slab, which I think should be the focal point. It helps that the mid-century modern style seems to be making a bit of a comeback lately.”
There are so many online retailers to choose from for hairpin legs these days, it can take orders from a few different stores before finding the right fit. For Scott, quality is of the utmost importance because he ships hairpin legs directly to customers all across the country.
“I continue to use DIY Furniture Store since it is easier to deal with one place and to deal with the same people over time. Also, your quality and consistency are great, so I know what the customer will be getting when you ship directly to them.”
When Scott isn't making furniture, his other hobby is Corvette restoration. Scott has a ‘64 convertible and ‘69 coupe that he completely restored. He is currently working on a ‘75 coupe and ‘92 coupe.
At DIY Furniture Store, we love working with makers like Scott to provide accessible and affordable ways to amplify their art; and, we live for seeing our legs used to create beautiful furniture pieces!
Would you like to be featured as Maker of the Month? Please let us know.