30 years of professional logging taught Mark Abernathy unique skills when it comes to making his one-of-a-kind rustic furniture: he knows where to go and how to get the BIG ONES – the old growth trees he needs to do this kind of woodworking. He cuts his own, and he uses every inch of his 50” wide Woodmaster Drum Sander!
“I make rustic furniture from big slabs of wood. I do a lot with big maple burl wood slabs. Some of those are even up to 6’ diameter. I crosscut slabs several inches thick so I get big rounds of wood. I do this work on my 50” Woodmaster Drum Sander. It’s been a tremendous help; I just wish Woodmaster would make a 60” drum sander!
“I had no experience making rustic furniture.”
I logged for 30 years. I had my own operation out on the West Coast near Mt. St. Helens. At one time I had 70 employees. I cut furniture grade wood, mostly lodge pole pine. We’d turn it on a big doweling machine for woodworkers in California and Arizona. I’d take wood around and see what they were doing and I finally realized I could do it as well as they could. I hadn’t had any experience making rustic furniture but it wasn’t paying off to take wood around and sell some here and there. I started making lamps and coat racks, then I got into beds, dressers, and tables.
Sanding was such a huge ordeal that I asked a cabinetmaker friend of mine if he knew anything about the Woodmaster Drum Sander. He said, ‘I sure do, I loved it so well I bought one.’ That’s how I ended up getting one. Instead of the smaller 26” or 38” one, I’d get the biggest 50” one. This sander makes production ever so much easier. My chainsaw comes first, then this big sander.
“You can cut a lot of wood with a 48” chainsaw.”
My expertise from my logging experience is going out and getting wood. That gives me a little edge over a lot of people. I cut my own wood; occasionally I’ll buy something. I’ve been making rustic furniture for 17 years now. I’ve got a pretty good feel for what to look for.
I’ve got chainsaws with a 4’ bar, a 42” bar, and a 32” bar. With 48” you can cut a lot of wood. Crosscutting a log that’s wider than your bar takes a lot of experience and you have to have a good sharp chain. You cut down through one side and go around and follow the first kerf as best you can. The ripping I do is the same thing. I eyeball it. You get used to it.
I cut my own wood from private ranches. One ranch has 30,000 acres and a lot of juniper. Another ranch owner asked me, ‘Can’t you take it all?’ That would be 300 log trucks! Another ranch has 80,000 acres with juniper. Ranchers are glad to get rid of the wood. They want grassland.
Custom work – let customers choose their own wood.
We have a rustic furniture storefront and a sign out front on US Highway 93 in Kalispell. I’ve found through the years people like to come in and pick out their own wood. I let them come in and shop. I have nothing to hide. I want them to see what I’ve got. I’ve got some furniture made ahead but pretty near all my work is custom.
Most of the wood I work with goes through the sander. All the slabs go through. I’m making tables, bedroom sets, dressers, night stands, living room furniture, and tables. I also do some cabinetry – islands and bars and all that goes through the sander. I’ve put 30,000 board feet through the Woodmaster – maybe more.
“As fast as a wide belt sander and does just as good a job.”
Here’s another thing people should know: I’ve put wood through wide belt sanders – they’re big, expensive, vertical sanders. They don’t do any better job than this Woodmaster. I’ve used both and this Woodmaster is so simple and good I wouldn’t want to go any other route. The Woodmaster is simple. When you wear out a wrap of sandpaper, you just wrap another one on and go ahead. I can sand as fast as one of those wide belt sanders and I know this one does just as good a job.
If someone’s thinking about getting a Woodmaster, I’d definitely advise them to get one. Depending on what they’re doing, I’d recommend this big 50” one. It’s big enough I can run two grit sandpapers side by side at the same time. I do that a lot, have two grits on at the same time – half and half, up to 2 feet each. It works great. It saves time. Sometimes I even run 3 grits at the same time. Just tell Woodmaster they ought to come up with a bigger drum sander!
— Mark Abernathy, Rustic Log Creations Montana, Kalispell Montana
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