Doug Clarner had no plans to make furniture-building his career when he was teaching math to 10th-graders at Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont.
But he did incorporate woodworking into his geometry curriculum as a means to demonstrate measurements and equations. "I was really just an outdoorsman who wanted to be in the woods building things," Clarner admits.
Clarner's entrepreneurial edge dates back to the year he spent in Sun Valley, Idaho, after graduating from Middlebury College, Vt. To subsidize his minimum wage salaries from driving a Zamboni and working the graveyard snowmaking shift, Clarner made ski hats out of fleece scraps and peddled them around town during his off-hours.
Just as the former hat-maker recycled scraps for ski hats, he now harvests old wood from broken-down barns. "There are six or eight dilapidated barns right around me, and all it takes is asking some old guy if you can haul away his trash." That, along with some old race gates donated by the academy's ski hill, has supplied him with the lion's share of his building materials.
While sitting in a traditional Adirondack chair that he had built for his wife, Clarner thought of the idea to use discarded race gates. He realized the back slats and the seat could just as well be made from the race gates that he had seen piling up in the academy trash bin.
Aside from the race gate chairs, Clarner has built pine chests, maple sleigh beds and cherry tables. And, though he prefers to use distressed wood for environmental purposes, he will use other wood types upon a customer's request. The chairs have sold for as low as $250, but to keep 11-month-old Jack (and another one on the way) in diapers, prices may increase. Buy now.
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