The Woodshop: Knocking on Wood

06 December 2010
Written by 
Published in Home & Garden
Bob Novak came out of retirement to save old barn lumber from a fiery fate. Today, his store The Woodshop breathes new life into these pieces of the past.
Bob Novak didn’t like the idea of vintage lumber from old barns being put into burn piles and set ablaze – so much so that he came out of retirement to rescue the weary wood.

 “After hearing all the horror stories about so many old barns being burned down, I decided to give new life to old lumber,” he said.

 Passion for Vintage Lumber

Today, he sells furniture and signs made out of repurposed lumber at The Woodshop; the storefront is located in a Dutch Colonial house located on the southwest corner where Route 120 crosses the Fox River in McHenry.  His business partners include Lou Merceiri, a retired cabinetmaker and Joe Handel, who is the scout of the barns and great lumber.

“I never thought three guys could get so excited about seeing a weathered board with the holes, nails and peeling paint,” he admitted. “But when you look at the pieces, they seem to tell you what they should become.”

Each Piece Tells a Story

The trio sells primitive, fine and causal country furniture. “Many of our pieces are one of a kind,” Novak said. “Some of the lumber is from an 1870 sawmill the family did not want. Can you imagine crown molding 12 inches wide – boards 24 to 36 inches wide?

 “Many pieces have a lot of charm, weathered gray with age, or from red barns that could tell stories of what went on in those barns with many coats of paint on them.”

Furniture includes harvest tables, sofa tables, hall trees, benches of all shapes and sizes, as well as weathered benches for the garden. “We have custom pieces, antiques, iron work for outdoors,” he said. “I have a story for just about every piece in the store.”

In the near future, the shop plans on selling lumber for the do-it-yourself market, including yellow pine, oak, cherry, maple, walnut, honey nut, cedar and others. “Some will be from the first cut, so that will make each piece unique,” Novak explains.

 A green approach to business is nothing new to Novak. For 40 years, he operated Petals & Stems Flowers Shop in McHenry where green was a way of life. “I guess I have always been green – before it became fashionable,” he said.

For more information, visit the shop at 3301 W. Elm St. (Route 120) in McHenry or call 815-354-5363.