Woodworker revels in art of rustic furniture
Partridge ? Seated at an old-time shaving bench where cedar limbs are converted to chair tenons, a wide smile crosses Jay Yoder’s face at the thought he might have been born too late.
“Probably not,” he answered.
But a visit to his farmstead barn-turned-workshop suggests otherwise.
Piles of unshaved pine limbs, stacks of halved pinewood chunks and racks of cedar planks fill spaces once reserved for cows and horses. A corner of the barn and a hayloft space hold an array of finished furniture, branded with Yoder’s “Wooden Anvil Merchant” design.
Two workbench tables sit side by side in the woodshop: One is topped with a chunk of pine flooring Yoder salvaged from the former South Hutchinson bowling alley. He bought the second table for $20 at auction, not knowing he’d find a marble slab underneath a layer of grease. After some leveling, the marble provided a flat surface to ensure the chairs and tables he builds sit even.
A metal machine operator by trade, Yoder’s rustic furniture building began with a hobby collection of primitive woodworking tools, bought at garage and auction sales.
“I decided I better figure out how they work,” he said.
As the demand for his furniture has expanded, he added a drill press, band saw and belt sander to the tool list.
“Using hand tools got me to using a few nice things,” he joked. “Electric tools aim better.”
And they work faster and more accurately than hand-bored holes for arm rests and chair legs.
Along with the finished pieces built for sale at shows, Yoder takes custom orders. A photo album shows the variety of plank dining tables, chairs, stools and shelves that hold the Wooden Anvil Merchant brand.
Among the finished pieces ready for the next show are side tables, footstools, an oversized “The Man” chair and a unique “tipping” chair — not quite a rocker — made from Y-shaped limbs.
“We pretty much use about all the tree,” Yoder said.
Planks from large trees become chair slats and bench backs, which show the grain and contrast in the white layer and the inner red of the cedar. Yoder covers each piece with an outdoor waterproof finish. Rain and snow won’t damage his furniture; it’s UV rays that cause damage, he said.
A man who enjoys transforming cedar trees into beautiful rustic furniture, Yoder also finds pleasure in the challenge of bringing life to other people’s castaways.
He restored the interior of a wrecked 1966 Airstream camper using cedar for cabinets and partitions. A second farm shed holds the results of a hobby that has reclaimed an assortment of nearly three dozen bicycles, transformed into odd-shaped originals that he rides in parades and in the annual October Partridge Pedal Party.