“Where do you get your wood?”
The lumber for our furniture is all native to this area, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and we get most of it locally, within the three counties surrounding Floyd. We don’t use any imported or exotic woods. We are always on the lookout for large trees, mostly Black Walnut and Cherry since they are getting so rare. Our arborist friends call when they’ve had to cut down a tree that’s really big. The largest specimens are yard trees, which often have metal inside (nails, horseshoes, etc.) which is hazardous to sawblades. Often we get trees that commercial sawmills don’t want, with curves and rot in them, which adds to the character of our furniture. All our slabs are cut with our sawmill, and we buy most of our straight lumber.
“What is the difference between hardwoods and softwoods, and what is hardwood veneer?”
Our furniture is made from solid hardwoods, using the natural color of the wood, we don’t use stains for coloring. Hardwoods we use are Black Walnut, Cherry, Maple, Ash, Oak, Elm, Catalpa, Sycamore, and the only softwood we use is Red Cedar. Most furniture today is made from softwoods such as pine, (stained different shades of brown to imitate hardwoods), or from plywood, with a thin slice of hardwood veneer glued to the outside to give the impression of solid hardwoods. (We only use high-quality plywood in drawer bottoms, the backs of our large pieces, such as dressers, are solid hardwoods panels)
“Do you do custom orders?”
We’ll try anything within our simple style, (no fancy moldings, router, or scrollwork). We do many big pieces,such as dining tables and chairs, entertainment centers, desks, dressers, and armoires. Send us a photo or sketch and measurements, and we will give you an estimate.
“What kind of finishes do you use?”
Cutting boards have a mineral oil finish. We've been so pleased with a "green" oil finish from Earthpaint.net, that we're using it on all our new slab stools, and offering it as a finish on custom orders. Earthpaint.net is a company in Asheville, N.C. that gets all its materials from the Southeast USA, including pine resin recycled from Georgia paper mills & citrus oil solvent, a by-product of the orange industry. Though "green" finishes are much more expensive, we want our customers to have that option, and we want to use non-toxic finishes for our sakes, as well as our customers. An oil finish shows off the wood better, but since it is only water-resistant, it’s more practical to have a waterproof finish on dining tables. For these we use a mix of Tung oil and satin polyurethane, or a dull lacquer on some pieces due to its quick-drying properties. We've also experimented with Waterlox finishes, which we use on some countertops. We used Polyureseal, a "green", water-based finish on the tables at Local Roots Restaurant in Roanoke, VA. We just discovered another "green" oil finish, Landark Oil, that is made a couple of miles away from us, using citrus oil solvents.
For those of you that do woodworking, or use oil-based finishes, we're now distributors for Bloxygen, a "green" product that is used to seal opened cans of oil-based finishes so they don't skin over or dry out. Stop by our woodworking shop if you need a can!
“Why is your name ‘Phoenix Hardwoods’?”
The Phoenix was a mythical bird who burned itself in a fire and rose again fresh from the ashes. We started this furniture business at the same time we got married 15 years ago, in 2000, beginning a new life together and blending our family, (we had five children between us). Quite a transition in both our lives, much like the Phoenix. We found we had very similar ideas about design and what we considered beautiful, though Bill would rather be using a chainsaw, and Corinne loved using fine chisels to cut a dovetail. Our partnership has been very rewarding, its amazing to find how much we can accomplish together.
“How did you get started working with wood?”
Bill used to take care of people with traumatic brain injury, and he started drying lumber over 25 years ago as an activity to keep them busy. We still have a man with traumatic brain injury, Bert, who lives with us, and is a great help in the shop. Bill’s great-grandfather was a furniture maker, and his dad a builder. Corinne was the first girl in her high school shop class, and her great-grandfather was a trunk maker. Working with our hands is something we both have always loved to do.
“Do you both do woodworking, or is Bill just the pretty face around the shop?”
Both of us (Bill & Corinne) do the actual woodworking, and we have our own sawmill we run together. As our business grew, we hired our son and his friends, and one of our daughters. Right now we have been blessed with four full-time young men, Abe Goorskey (our shop foreman), Bradley Lawson, Eric McDaniel, & Henry VanGunten, (with Caleb Johnson, part-time), who are so talented, hardworking and dependable, that this business couldn’t run without them. We keep our business intentionally small, since we both want to be in the shop working, rather than being managers.