Craftmasters -Spring 2020

by: Joshua H. Balling

photography by: Nicole Harnishfeger

It’s not the first place you’d expect to find a busy woodworking shop, this quiet dirt road a few hundred yards from the water in Shimmo.

But tucked back amid the scrub brush is a two-story building where power saws, routers and hand-tools fill just about every square inch of space. A thin layer of sawdust coats the concrete floor and the smell of freshly-cut wood permeates the air. A pair of surfboards is suspended from the rafters and natural light fills the room.

Beau Barber, left, and his brother Nate care for benches they made for Nantucket Cottage Hospital from trees on hospital property that were taken down to make way for new construction.

In the corner is a kitchen cabinet of rough-hewn barn board sourced from an Amish community in Pennsylvania. It’s destined for a sprawling summer house overlooking Nantucket Sound, where brothers Nate and Beau Barber have been working for over a year, installing their custom-made cabinetry and hewing massive beams that accent the soaring cathedral ceilings.

The brothers, who grew up helping out in their parents’ construction company, founded their own woodworking business more than a decade ago after graduating from college. Today, both businesses employ about 10 men in the shop and on the job site.

There is something about a hand-crafted piece of furniture, a timeless elegance and ingrained attention to detail that can only come from hours of work and years of practice, that sets it apart from the mass-production available online and in chain stores. This kind of workmanship is a dying art.

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