Story By Denice Patterson
Photography By Jason Hudson
Jason Rogers and Scott Schmidt are hunched over a workbench in the woodshop at Rogers’ home in Nakina. One is feeding a century-old attic floor plank through the planer, the other is bracing it. As the scent of pine and sawdust fills the air, the two men smile at their find — old heart pine.
“That’s the way we can tell it is heart pine,” Rogers says. “Smell that — it still has lots of pine sap in it.”
Rogers is a native of Mooresville, N.C., and a graduate of N.C. State with a degree in Horticulture. Schmidt, a native of Rock Hill, S.C.,
is a UNCW alum with a degree in recreation and
tourism management. They have known each other for five years, and both had admittedly “piddled” with wood in their garages, but it wasn’t until a year ago that they merged their talents into starting The Old Dock Woodshop.
Schimdt had needed some weathered wood for a project and Rogers knew just the right place — an old barn that had fallen down near his home. The two started picking wood and haven’t stopped since. Now they get requests to tear down old structures. One is waiting on them in Calvert County, Md., and two more are here in Brunswick County.
“When we tear down a barn, we get paid in wood,” laughs Schmidt. Old tobacco barns, houses, cottages, packhouses, any old structure is fair game. The recycled wood is stored in an old barn about 15 minutes from their Nakina location.
“The barn is only a third full so there’s room to grow,” Rogers says.
Both men are fascinated with the history of each piece of wood and both can name exactly where each board or plank came from.
“That’s part of the fun,” Schmidt says. “We enjoy the history as much as the art.”
Recently, at a farm in Clinton, they sat with a local farm owner and heard stories about how his grandfather built the barn they were about to deconstruct. That was moving for the young entrepreneurs.
“Now when we pick wood, we ask the owner to write down the history and we keep it,” says Schmidt. They take pictures as well. When they build something from that particular place, they attach a card with information about the wood. “The history of the wood goes with the new owner,” Rogers says with a smile.
The two recently completed one of their largest custom orders to date — a dining table and benches for clients in Sunset Beach. “It was old heart pine that was the flooring out of an attic in Lowland, N.C., on the Pamlico Sound,” Schimdt reveals. “My wife, London, found the old place — she was born and raised there.”
The soft wood of pine and cypress were the main materials used in barns and farm houses in Brunswick County because of the native forests — the swamps were full of cypress and the savannahs were full of pine. Although heart pine and cypress are the mainstays of their wood supply, Schmidt and Rogers are often surprised with cedar and cherry that they find stored in barns.
Once the pair determines the use for the wood, they plane it to be stained and finished. For the weathered, aged and rustic look, a board is hand-sanded to hit the rough spots, then left natural. “Then it is just as we found it,” Schmidt says.
“It is just as it was on the barn,” Rogers adds.
Rogers is always searching and brainstorming new ideas for projects. He ran across a photo of a unique hall tree, and he and Schmidt built it in a weekend. The back is an old door that came out of a nearby farmhouse, and the trunk base is made of heart pine from a barn out of Clinton. The inside of the trunk is lined with cedar from a local tree that fell during a storm.
Orders are rapidly increasing. Barstools, toy boxes and headboards are in the pipeline. Often with custom orders, clients provide the wood and an idea for a project. That is not a problem, because Rogers is an intuitive woodworker.
“If he sees a picture of it, he can build it,” Schmidt says.
However, Rogers admits that working with old wood is more time consuming than working with fresh lumber. “He’s a perfectionist,” his wife, Chris, teases.
Right now, their inventory is displayed in the woodshop and in the Rogers’ living and dining rooms, which are bursting to the seams with occasional tables, end tables, benches and shelves. The guest bedroom houses mirrors and picture frames, and upstairs there are wine and wineglass racks, footstools, shadow boxes, key hooks and a coat rack. The largest and most unique piece waiting for a new home is a pub table with hand-hewn cedar limb supports.
“Everything is for sale!” Chris says with a laugh.
In the living room, Rogers describes the construction of a pair of “live-edge” cedar tables. “The trunk of the cedar tree was cut into a four-inch slab,” he says. Then they hand scraped the sides, leaving a bit of bark for contrast, and set it on a base of another cedar trunk. Glass tops will be added to both for the big finish. Each cedar slab is unique, enormous and incredibly old.
“Jason counted the rings on one of them,” Schmidt says.
“Over a hundred,” Rogers adds.
These men put their hearts and souls into each project from start to finish, and it is evident as they share the stories about each piece of wood. They renew the spirit of the old wood as well, whether they build a headboard out of a door or a table out of bleachers from an old high school gym. As a matter of fact, they have a huge piece of driftwood that is waiting to be reborn into an exquisite light fixture.
Duck’s Unlimited of Brunswick County was the recent beneficiary of their craft. The men built a rustic, standing outdoor cooler and several frames for professionally matted prints that were then donated to the group for a recent auction.
The Old Dock Woodshop has included festivals and local craft shows in its sales repertoire. Debuting at the 2013 Ocean Isle Beach Oyster Festival, they completely sold out of their signature railroad spike coat racks. This year, they add the Cape Fear Wildlife Expo, the Little River Blue Crab Festival and the Fourth of July Festival in Southport.
In the near future, the pair hopes to have a storefront with a woodshop in the mid-county area.
“We would like to showcase the items that we build and what we are capable of doing,” says Schmidt.
“We are more than just furniture makers. We can install wood ceilings, wainscotings, mantels, decks and more, as well as upfit man caves, cellars and entertainment areas,” adds Rogers.
They would also like to work with local interior designers and builders to provide handcrafted wood products to new or existing homes. Right now, they are focusing on turning out as much inventory as they can for the upcoming shows and keeping up with custom orders.
The motto at The Old Dock Woodshop is “reclaimed, recycled and reborn.” You will find them online at theolddockwoodshop.com or by telephone at (910) 640-2810.