As the sawdust settles in a woodworking studio just south of Cleveland, Tenn., Jared Erwin guides a weathered piece of red oak through his planer, revealing unique textures under the wood. Toward the front of the shop a handful of longboards, complete with wheels and the artist’s signature, are propped up at an angle.
“Longboards are like skateboards, only longer and easier to ride,” Erwin explained.
Erwin, owner of Erwin Renovation and Renovate Longboards, went to school at the University of Tennessee for architecture and has been working in construction since 2006 with a focus on custom kitchens and cabinets. A few months ago he was asked to build a kitchen out of barn wood for a client on Signal Mountain. After searching for the right wood, he found it would be easier to buy an entire barn than individual sticks of wood. So he did just that. When he finished the project, he began thinking about what to do with the leftover barn wood.
“The barn wood starts in a really rough form and becomes something beautiful,” said the 30-year-old woodworker. “It has a story. It’s neat to be able to bring that back to life.”
Some might think that 100-year-old wood would be brittle and a poor choice for a vehicle you stand on, but according to Erwin, it’s just the opposite. Since the wood has been exposed to the elements for over a century, it is almost petrified. He goes through numerous blades working with the wood. A polyurethane topcoat containing reclaimed glass and sand finishes off the piece.
“It started as a personal project. I built one for myself, then decided it would be an eye catcher at the Chattanooga Market. So it has just sort of taken off from there,” Erwin said.
The business is in its infancy; the website just launched last week. Erwin has an order going out to Memphis and plans on setting up an Etsy.com site but until then he plans on selling the majority of the boards locally at the Chattanooga Market. Cabinets, furniture and tables still pay the bills but the longboards are fun to create and allow a different demographic a chance to own a custom, handcrafted item.
“They’re just sort of a neat piece of art that is also a fun cruise around downtown,” Erwin said.
— Story, photo and video by Dan Henry
Dan Henry, a native of Atlanta, Ga., graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s of fine arts and a minor in journalism in 2001. Dan worked as a photojournalist in Atlanta and North Alabama before joining the Chattanooga Times Free in 2005. While in Chattanooga. Dan has received numerous state and national awards on a multitude of platforms including still imagery, video, and multimedia projects. Contact Dan at 423-757-6693 or firstname.lastname@example.org.