This Alabama Maker turns waste into wooden wonders

This Alabama Maker turns waste into wooden wonders
Harry Dearing had been storing wood for 50 years. When he retired in 2013, he began turning it into beautiful handcrafted pieces. (Mark Sandlin/Alabama NewsCenter)

Harry Dearing Woodworking, Greenville

The Maker: Harry Dearing

When some folks retire, they go home, put up their feet and take it easy. Harry Dearing went home, found some fallen trees and went to work.

“I retired in 2013 when I was 75,” he says. “I realized I’d better get busy doing something.” So Dearing, who had worked in the lumber business and with preserved botanicals for nearly 50 years, turned his knowledge into works of wooden art.

“I’ve always done woodworking as a hobby,” he says. “Now it’s become a full-time occupation.”

Alabama Maker Harry Dearing brings beauty out of difficult pieces of wood from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Using mainly lumber salvaged from old buildings and trees downed by storms or cut by construction crews and loggers, the Greenville artisan creates one-of-a-kind tables, benches, bread and cheese cutting boards, serving trays, gun racks and more from found materials such as discarded wood and shed deer antlers. He leaves the bark on the edges of his pieces, which gives them a more natural look.

“It’s called ‘live edged,’” he explains. “Leaving that on is harder, and takes a little longer, but I try to make what hits me when I look at the lumber. My pieces are never the same. They’re always evolving.”

A Birmingham native, Dearing served in the U.S. Army, then moved to south Alabama to work for the Union Camp Corp. and the Knud Nielsen Co.

“I collected pieces of wood for 50 years or so, stacking them in my closet, under the bed and keeping them at friends’ places,” he says. “Eventually, I started repairing furniture and making small items.”

Two years ago, his wife, Mary, and his children took some pictures of Dearing’s handmade products and wrote a description of his pieces to submit to the annual Southern Makers show. Dearing was selected as one of the show’s 100 “Makers” and exhibited his art to the public for the first time. His appearance paid off, and soon the talented woodworker was cutting and carving items for customers across the South.

Now he works in a former auto repair shop he shares with a local judge, a priest and several business owners (one of whom specializes in putting on crawfish boils). “We’re all good friends, and folks are always coming and going,” Dearing says. “It’s almost like a party atmosphere.”

While Dearing repairs and creates items from wood, his wife crafts her own pieces from parts of old fence posts and bits of wire for Shadow Catchers, a Greenville company that makes framed artworks for homes and businesses.

“She also designed my Facebook page and keeps it up to date,” Dearing says. “Mary’s basically my biggest supporter and helps me stay focused.” He also credits much of his success to local woodworker Larry Lehman, who Dearing calls “a mentor and friend to me.”

“I’ve been lucky, I’ve gotten help from so many good friends,” he says. “I can’t turn things out as fast as I used to and sometimes I take on too many jobs at once. So I stay pretty busy.”

For him, that’s better than just sitting at home with his feet up.

The Product: Handcrafted tables, benches, serving trays, bread and cheese cutting boards, foot stools and gun/fishing rod racks.

Take Home: A walnut bread cutting board ($35 to $75 depending on size)

You can find Dearing’s pieces on his Facebook page,, at The Roost Gift Shop (next to the Bates House of Turkey Restaurant), 1003 Fort Dale Road, Greenville, 334-371-1003; Shadow Catchers, 598 Industrial Parkway, Greenville, 334-382-3929; Black Belt Treasures Cultural Center, 209 Claiborne St., Camden, 334-682-9878; and the Gallery, 905 Water St., Selma, 334-878-1905.

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