Bart Haigh moved from Connecticut to Savannah two years ago where he launched a custom furniture design shop, Haigh Wood Shop, out of his garage on Wilmington Island.
“I’ve never actually used a garage as a garage anywhere I’ve lived,” said Haigh. “I love woodworking.”
For over thirty years, Haigh has been a woodworker and also worked as a scientist. Today, Haigh works fulltime in woodworking and has been retired as a scientist for five years.
“[The woodworking process] is so much fun,” Haigh said. “It’s nice to be with nature and see the things that nature makes. Sometimes you’ll cut open a board and it will be spectacular. The grain and the color will be totally unexpected. It turns out to be something exquisite.”
Haigh handcrafts many species of lumber, which he can source or the client can provide.
“Something incredible is when someone has their own tree and it’s been in their yard for a hundred years and their family has been there generations,” said Haigh. “For instance, I have a pecan tree we got from a client. We’re making a table for them. It’s so special because the wood came from their yard.”
Haigh creates custom live edge and finished tables, beds, desks, among other pieces out of the lumber.
“The fun part is the creative stage — when you put the finish on the piece perks up,” continued Haigh. “After a couple coats of finish, you begin to see what the piece looks like.”
Haigh prefers that his business stays local because there are many decisions to make in the process of making a custom piece of furniture.
“Being nearby to our clients ensures a good client relationship because there are so many decisions to make, even in a simple dining room table,” Haigh said. “I want people to look at it as we go through the process. This isn’t going to Ethan Allen. Everything we do is custom.”
For one client, Haigh crafted a walnut coffee table that was cross-cut from the butt log of a 187-year-old walnut tree.
“The difficulty for this project was in getting a uniform thickness across the piece,” Haigh explained. “It was first cut with a five-foot chainsaw, then hand planed and sanded. The tapered legs and frame were also made of walnut and rollers were added for mobility. This piece is most striking in that you can count all 187 rings for the years the tree was alive.”
Haigh also described a Red Oak table with machine legs he made for another client.
“This farm table incorporates metal legs from an Atlas lathe made in the late 1800s,” he said. “There are two red oak boards that have an outside edge that is live edge and are connected with a metal strip running down the middle and along both ends.”
A big challenge, Haigh said, is the physical challenge in getting the tree to his Wilmington Island shop.
“There was an American Elm down on Maupas Avenue, and a gentleman called us about it. The tree was lying across the street and was five to six feet in diameter in the base. It was massive. It was sad they lost the tree, but it was an amazing tree.”
Haigh continued that he called his friend who had a truck that could lift it.
“We cut an eight-foot piece of wood,” he said. “The wood was purple, red, and green flame all through it. It was an absolute perfect piece of wood. There are cracks and voids normally, but this piece of wood didn’t have one defect. That was a day to celebrate! Every slab will be a table, or a vanity, or a chair.”
Haigh continued, “The whole process can become quite artistic.”