“Things Always Seem to Fall Into Place”: Larry Reaves Interview

“Things Always Seem to Fall Into Place”: Larry Reaves Interview

Credit: Reaves Woodworks

Credit: Reaves Woodworks

I remember my first day on a building site as an apprentice carpenter. I spent the morning stacking timber onto a makeshift bench for my boss. He then cut these into uprights for stud partitions in a house. Each offcut was no more than four inches in length. But they were all headed for landfill. I remember feeling a pang of guilt that I was contributing to this waste. I’d never thought about this when I signed up to be an apprentice. A lot of woodworkers have this awareness that wood is to be cherished. And anything that can use up waste and prevent more landfill is to be encouraged.

I think this may be one of the reasons that I’m drawn to skatewood. This process creates objects that are truly beautiful, from something that would otherwise go to waste. One of my favourite makers that works with this material is Larry Reaves.

Larry is a father, skateboarder, and woodworker based in Columbia, S.C. He always seems to get the colour and pattern just right, and turns out some amazing work. I caught up with him recently to find out a little more about his story, and to get some insight into his woodworking.

 

 

Dónal Moloney: Larry, thank you kindly for your time in answering these questions. Your work really stands out to me. In particular the stuff you do with the recycled skate decks. The patterns you achieve always look so elegant and well designed. What was the first piece you made with recycled decks? Where did the idea spring from? What is it that you like about working with this particular type of material? And what are the challenges of working with it?

Larry Reaves: Man, I appreciate the kind words for sure.  I’m not the first to use skateboards in my work by any means, but I feel I have a certain “style” to it if you will.  I think the first thing I made out of old boards was a tap stand for homebrew dispensing, this was probably around 2010.  From there I discovered the Japanese artist Haroshi, who makes the most amazing sculptures from old boards.  Another huge influence at this time was George at Iris Skateboards. George makes skateboards from recycled skateboards, pure genius. So I guess around 2011 I started gathering boards from the local skateshops, then I just started tinkering with layouts and different glueups. 

What I like about working with “skatewood” would be a few different things for sure. I’m saving stacks of useable material from going to a landfill each time I gather old boards. I know that it really stands out as something different in the woodworking world, which to me makes me smile when other woodworkers are stumped by the bright colours in my work. The material can be difficult to work with, you’re basically dealing with laminated hard maple that could have cracks and other hidden flaws.  So milling and turning can be tricky at times.

 

Credit: Reaves Woodworks

Credit: Reaves Woodworks

 

DM: I love how you show your work, particularly on Instagram which is where I came across you first. Lots of us woodworkers can be guilty of jamming in loads of hashtags and trying to “promote” more than to simply “share”. But with you, it seems like you have a nice, laid-back approach. The style of your posts is a short comment, one or two hashtags, and then you often just let the work speak for itself. When you started Reaves Woodworks, was this a conscious philosophy you had? A type of “build it and they will come” approach, where you just put your work out there into the world to share what you do as opposed to going for the “ hard sell”?

LR:  That’s pretty funny you notice how I post! I really like the Instagram platform, I think I switched from a personal to a business account when they first started offering it a few years back.  One thing that annoys me on other accounts, is when a post description takes up more room than the photo.  I was a photographer earlier in life, so my draw to Instagram was that is was photo driven not so much the verbiage. So I guess my posting style is just me being a stickler for a good photo with a brief description.  I’ve met some really great people on there, who have influenced my posting as well as how I do business. Shout out to Andy Vasquez @andyvasquezfurniture and Chris Patton @pattondesign for inspiring and being great friends!

 

Credit: Reaves Woodworks

Credit: Reaves Woodworks

 

DM: It’s great to see the pictures you post of your kids out in the shop with you, picking up the tools and learning to develop their hand skills. Is this something you actively try to encourage, or have they just picked it up and developed an interest from watching you?  What would you like the legacy of Reaves Woodworks to be? What would you like your kids to remember about your woodworking career?

LR: Yeah kids are awesome.  My wife and I really try to instil good values and self esteem in our children.  Having them in the shop is cool, no pressure really, they mostly like to make things from my cutoffs.  Occasionally they’ll ask what tool does what and I’ll let them have a go at it.  So I think they see Dad or Mom working in the shop and want to “help” when they can.  It would be super cool to see my children be craftspeople later in life, but that’s really up to them.  Hopefully they’ll have fond memories of playing in sawdust! 

 

Credit: Reaves Woodworks

Credit: Reaves Woodworks

 

DM: What does a typical day look like for you running Reaves Woodworks?

LR: It can be all over the place at times. Getting kids out the house is first and foremost! Some days might be doing design work/quotes for jobs on the computer. Others would be straight into the shop to crank out orders, or work on what ever was left off the following day.  Usually a post office run! 

 

Credit: Reaves Woodworks

Credit: Reaves Woodworks

 

DM: How do you define success in life and in work? Do you consider yourself successful?

LR: I suppose success to me is a happy and healthy family, in that aspect I am successful.  Always wanting the business to grow for sure, I always enjoy the bigger jobs!

 

 

DM: What advice would you give a young Larry Reaves embarking on a woodworking career?

LR:  Oh man ha! Maybe just don’t stress about money and such, things always seem to fall in place.

 

 

QUICKFIRE:

DM: What was the best tool you bought for under $100?  

LR: Harbor Freight 1” belt sander

 

DM: What are you not very good at?  

LR: Drawing

 

DM: It’s 9pm on a weeknight, what are you doing? 

LR: Couch with the wife, glass of wine.

 

DM: What is something you haven’t done yet that you would like to do? 

LR: Segmented bowls with skatewood

 

DM: What’s your favourite tune to blast out in the workshop?

LR: Run the Jewels – DDFH

 

THANKS

Huge thanks to Larry for taking the time to share a little more about his work with me. I love his style of woodworking and his philosophy surrounding the use of his materials. It’s a very different type of woodworking to the normal work that many woodworkers do. But it is beautiful and contemporary. Working with certain materials such as skatewood has helped Larry to express his creativity and personality. And this is something that many woodworkers aspire to.

To find out more;

http://reaveswoodworks.com

https://www.instagram.com/reaveswoodworks/

 

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