Gary Benoit, owner of Acorn Wood Products in West Gardiner, ME, makes hundreds of hand-crafted wood items every year: games & toys, trivets, cutting & cheese boards, boxes, tables, and more.
Following many years as a computer programmer, Gary started his business as a full-time venture eight years ago. He does all the work himself, with some help from partner Norma, in the wood shop located in the basement of their home. “I often find that when I’m working on projects, I completely lose track of the time,” says Gary.
He works on multiple pieces at once. It could take three days to make a cutting board, for example, and another two days for it to dry. Inspiration comes from the pieces of wood he has on hand, hence the ability to create many items, no two exactly alike. Gary started out primarily working with oak, and has expanded over the years to enjoy using all hardwoods. His designs include multiple woods, simple yet bold patterns, and butcher blocks.
The work starts with raw wood, which he then planes, creates the general shape of each item, and refines to completion. He employs a variety of joinery methods, and uses glue and screws as needed. Custom work is part of the mix, such as making a cutting board that fits into the recess of a granite counter top. No stains are used, allowing the beauty and color of each type of wood to shine through. Food-safe items get an oil finish; other pieces are finished with polyurethane.
His love for woodworking began as a teen growing up in New York near the Canadian border. He’s lived in Maine since 1979 and is heavily invested in the woodworking community, even belonging to the Kennebec Valley Woodworkers Association. It’s a lively group that meets monthly to share tips and techniques.
Cribbage boards are one of Gary’s specialties, and he proudly reveals that the first one he made, for his brother 30 years ago, is still in use. Cribbage is a popular pastimes in many areas, and Gary has found a niche producing high-quality cribbage boards in a variety of designs.
“I’m thankful to have such a rewarding job that’s also my passion,” shares Gary. “Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but in recent years I’ve gotten busier as more people become interested in my work and having hand-made, long-lasting things.”
This profile written by Ilene Moyher, Marketing Specialist.
Copyright Common Good Market 2010