Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My First Trip to Hearne Hardwoods

Since day one of working at the shop, I have heard nothing but praise, excited description, and anecdotes from my fellow Lohr Woodworking staff members about Hearne Hardwoods. After 8 months of building positive, high expectations, I finally got the chance to take my first trip out to Oxford, PA to see it for myself.

Spoiler Alert: I was not disappointed

It all began as a live edge, burl slab shopping mission for a recently commissioned project. Because they are credited as being "one of the largest specialty lumberyards in the world," Hearne Hardwood was the destination for such a purchase. Beyond that, Jeff and Rick Hearne have a friendship dating back to years when I was learning my multiplication tables so, it was just as much a trip to visit an old friend.

The part of the mission to find the perfect material for the project was successfully completed. A selection of incredible slabs that matched the guidelines for our project awaited us in one of the massive hangars that are loaded with collections of stacked and dried material. I can't even begin to tell you how extensive their selection is. The project we were shopping for had specific requirements and, the very patient, Ed let us move all the slabs around, inspect their twists/curves, and photograph every possible book match pair. We settled on the beauties you see pictured. By lunchtime, we loaded up the truck with two beautiful live edge, Big Leaf Maple burl slabs! But, alas, our trip did not end here! The rest of the day was composed of a continuation of the most magical woodworking-related adventures I've had to date.

First, I saw the most massive band saw mill that man has ever created. Although the previous statement may be slightly apprentice-naivety induced exaggeration, it is a 67" vertical band saw mill and, as you can see, it's huge.

The gentleman running the mill sits in a booth and controls the machine as it moves the log around, rolling it this way and that way until it's positioned perfectly. Then, the log is wheeled through the band saw blade like butter through a warm knife. It was incredible.
Next, we were given a tour of the house. Although we were warned of it's status as a "construction zone", it was still more beautiful than I can put into words. So kindly escorted by Brian Hearne and Ric Allison, we were led upstairs to meet this beauty; A Ric Allison sofa nearly complete and as stunning as they come. Behind it, stands a banister with Allison-crafted spindles. I can't even wrap my brain around how objects so breathtaking are made yet but, like Jeff's work, they serve as one hell of an inspiration.
Above the living room hovers a catwalk that sits gracefully atop the ceiling beams. An equally-as-beautiful staircase led the way to the catwalk that curved it's way toward a bedroom. The lighting, the ceilings, the walls, the floors; everything about this house was just astounding.

As I had the chance to sit and chat with the man-in-charge, Rick Hearne, as well as Ric Allison and, of course, Jeff Lohr over lunch, I felt surrounded by sheer woodworking genius. As I ingested my chicken ceasar wrap, I listened to these inspirational men just chat over lunch. What was so humbling though, was that they are so kind, personable, and dare I say 'normal'. The idea that such beautiful art and master knowledge of the craft can come from the hands and minds of these gentlemen makes the intimidating woodworking world in front of me seem so comfortable and accessible. Needless to say, my motivation is on an exponential incline.
Then, it was onto the offices. Naturally, every desk in the place has a gorgeous live edge top and a flawless base to match. Every corner as something wooden to admire. Upstairs, we found a George Nakashima table surrounded by seven matching chairs. I had to be reminded that although this a piece of sought-after art, it is also a piece of furniture and furniture is meant to be sat on, eaten off of, and used in a functional way. Let me tell you, that chair is the most comfortable sitting apparatus I have had the pleasure of sitting in (and I have crashed a few quality beanbag chairs in my day). Full disclosure: Even with my huge stature and whopping 113 lbs, I still sat and stood very slowly and carefully as I was self-convinced I would ruin something.

It seemed as though everything I saw throughout my visit was more incredible than the last. It was truly an honor to meet the Rick, Brian, Ric, and all the Hearne Hardwoods staff. I am happy to have snagged this photo with Rick in the office beneath the head of a deer that his son took down with his bare hands in self defense. That statement alone should be some insight into the level of awesome my day reached on Monday. I had built up some high expectations from the flattering words of my co-workers but, my expectations of Hearne Hardwoods were met and exceeded.

I want to thank everyone that took part in my first trip and was so kind to me. My interest, passion, excitement, and inspiration for woodworking continues to grow daily because of people and places like this. I can only hope that in the near future I will get the chance to take a another trip out to this woodworking paradise tucked into the hills of some Pennsylvania Amish country.

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