Armed with a fistful of tools and loads of inspiration, two talented woodcrafters create unique home furnishings.
Story by Gloria Gale
True entrepreneurship stems from sparks of ingenuity.
It doesn’t matter if you have a natural inclination or you’re looking for a hobby, Andrew Webber and Andy Wingert, respectively, found their calling exploring the craft of woodworking.
The motivator: repurposing wine and whiskey barrels into functional home accessories.
East Coast native, Andrew Webber was following a career in hospitality when work brought him to Kansas City. “I liked the vibe and the culture, so I decided to stay.”
Along with enjoying Kansas City, his affinity for woodworking began to perk when he retrieved a whiskey barrel about to become trash. Webber, who hand-sanded his first wooden Christmas ornament when he was just six years old, realized this was an opportunity.
The idea of working with wood brought back vivid memories working alongside his father and grandfather back in Pennsylvania.
Webber found out that working with his hands was considerably more rewarding than his current occupation – a sign he needed to pursue his innate talent for woodworking.
Webber set up shop in a small, 20-foot x 30-foot garage in Westport; then named his business Outland Furnishings for his love of all things about the wilderness.
The next thing he knew, he was making trips down to Kentucky’s ‘Old Bourbon’ region to buy used whiskey barrels from Jim Bean and Maker’s Mark distilleries.
That became the easy part.
After hauling the barrel into his shop, the process becomes more labor-intensive, cleaning the charred interior of the casks and meticulously sanding the staves. The results, “Chairs, tables, wine racks, candleholders, footrests and lighting. It’s great to see the evolution from one specific object into a completely different one all the while improving the environment – also very important,” Webber says.
Using only repurposed materials to build the products Webber joined forces with the nonprofit conservation organization American Forests. As a result, a tree will be planted for every item purchased from Outland Furnishings; helping to rebuild threatened ecosystems.
With the help of social media, craft fairs and web sales, Webber is slowly increasing the demand for his unique barrel product. “People who like the unique quality of the product are the target market. Those with lake homes or mountain and country homes seem to gravitate to my line. We’re about to ship to Singapore so catching the eye of people isn’t just stateside,” he acknowledges.
Webber’s practice of good environmental ecology is refreshing – apparently helping his conscience and dreams grow.
One Man’s Surprising Skill Set
Though Andrew Webber came by his woodworking skills innately, Andy Wingert found his calling nearly by chance.
“The long and short of it was pretty simple,” says Wingert. “I was looking for a hobby. Not really knowing much, if anything, about woodworking, I decided to give it a try.”
Managing partner of Rimann Liquor in Lenexa, Wingert wanted to spruce up the exterior of the Lenexa store.
According to Wingert, “Being in a strip mall, there wasn’t anything noteworthy outside. One day, I decided to cut a used wine barrel in half and turned it into a planter. Customers started noticing the planter and asking for other types of furnishings.”
That led to AW Barrels, “My one-man barrel biz for authentic wine barrel furnishings,” says Wingert admitting that his tinkering has turned into a passion.
Right now, Wingert has at least 15 to 20 products from Lazy Susan’s to candle holders, wine glass caddies to tables – each item crafted with painstaking effort.
“It’s amazing, since I had limited woodworking skills,” he says.
What Wingert likes the most is taking a hulking 59-gallon oak barrel, easily weighing between 125–160 pounds, disassembling it, then creating something utilitarian – something completely different. Not an easy task considering all barrel staves aren’t the same. Some are uneven; often without uniformity.
But that’s exactly what Wingert finds interesting and challenging.
“A toasted or slightly charred wine cask (to produce a particular flavor), has to be sanded to complete the transformation. In that process, I like how the wood reveals itself to me, as the layers of wine stains bleed through.”
From barrel to bench, stave to coat rack, Webber and Wingert’s talents merit a look. Each man producing customized furnishings crafted by hand.