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Brendan Carpenter in the Greenville News

The recent Brendan Carpenter interview with the Greenville News portrays Brendan’s background and his vision.

Read the article featuring Brendan Carpenter in the Greenville News.

The text of the written article by Michael Burns of the Greenville News is shown below:


The simple, modest chest of drawers was mass-produced about 50 years ago. Its value isn’t economic.

A grandmother once gave it to her daughter, and now she wants her granddaughter to have it, bearing refinished beauty for new life.

It’s similar to the man who’ll give it rebirth.

Greer’s Brendan Carpenter spent one professional existence in the world of finance, an accountant who left the Marines to graduate from East Carolina University and help start loan and credit companies from Colorado and Texas to Tennessee.

A crossroads came about six years ago for the native of Travelers Rest. He was going through a divorce. He was looking to do something new, so he turned to an old hobby he picked up collecting scraps of wood while working on construction sites as a teenager.

He’d cobble together what he could.

Now he masters all he can.

The 48-year-old furniture maker has built booming business since initially working out of his garage. Brendan Carpenter Custom Furniture and Refinishing is turning out twice the work it did just a year ago.

It’ll likely never provide the cash compensation Carpenter collected in finance, but it has riches all its own. And it’s carving out a place in the landscape of its industry.

He’ll be featured alongside other leaders in the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum beginning Aug. 1, in “A Compass to Guide: South Carolina Cabinetmakers Today.” The exhibit aims to explore contemporary cabinetmakers, their regional differences and similarities, and the roots of their respective traditions.

Among the items Carpenter plans to display is a wooden secretary inspired by 19th century Pennsylvania pieces. Organizing correspondence as those secretaries did originally wouldn’t provide the same usefulness today, so he’s modified his piece into a gentleman’s bar. Maple wine glass holders, glass rack, wine rack and bottle storage are housed behind the walnut drop-down, slanted desk lid and tombstone doors.

Handmade cock-beading and holly-inlay striping dress the solid walnut-maple drawers built with dovetail joinery above hand-carved claw-and-ball feet.

It’s a new spin on an old tradition, and it, too, is kind of like its maker.

With re-imagination and craftsmanship, Carpenter and his secretary are finding rewarding new uses.

“Ironically I’m working as much or more than I’ve ever worked, which is a lot,” Carpenter said as a wood-burning stove warmed his sawdust-covered shop in a repurposed storefront in Wellford. “I probably work 70 hours a week, but I’m doing something that I enjoy, so it doesn’t feel like 70 hours a week.”

With years of on-the-job training and special experience under the tutelage of woodworking masters such as Lonnie Bird, he’s made a comfortable place far removed from the corporate world.

“There you can work for 10 years and do a million things right and never hear anything, but if you do something wrong you’re going to hear about it, whereas in this job, if you do your job right and you do a good job, you hear about it immediately,” Carpenter said. “On a personal level it’s very rewarding to create something or restore something that means something to that individual. The personal benefits and rewards and satisfaction you get from that is so dramatically different than what you get in the corporate world.”

Still, it’s a business now, more than a hobby. While the sale of a company he founded, FlexCheck, enabled him to venture out of finance, Carpenter wasn’t prepared to pour his assets into a bottomless trunk.

So he adapted skills he honed pushing paper and filling spreadsheets to provide opportunity to sustain his sanding and staining.

Online presence and social media has enabled him to take his old-world-style craftsmanship into the new marketplace.

And he’s been met with applause.

“He does excellent work,” said Tiffany Newkirk, who enlisted Carpenter to refurbish her kitchen cabinets in Simpsonville with new trim and finish to resemble custom work without completely rebuilding them. “He’s very true to what he says he’s going to do. He’s very honest.”

“He’s done some beautiful work for our clients,” said Barbara Dalton of Greenville’s Dalton Interiors, who first met Carpenter when he was still in the corporate world but building furniture on the side. “He’s very meticulous with his work. He’s very detail-oriented. He knows furniture design and construction, but he also is very knowledgeable with different woods, and he helps us with how they’ll take finishes and how they’re going to react to different things.”

Reaction is what makes his work rewarding.

“For me, it’s not about the money,” Carpenter said. “It’s the delivery. You’ve got to kind of be a little bit of a nutcase to like to stand around and sand wood all day. Nobody likes to do that, not even me, but that’s what we do. It’s seeing the customer’s reaction. It’s knowing that they love this piece.”

The museum exhibit marks another notch in the growth of his new, personal, literally handmade company.

“I think back to the pieces that I made when I first started and think those were just gosh-awful, terrible,” he said. “My pieces now are pretty nice. I still have a long way to go. I want to get so much better than what I am now, and I’m going to be that way the rest of my life, but it is nice to see a milestone along the way, to see I’m making pieces people want.”


Furniture refinishing – Is it the right thing to do?

“Furniture refinishing – Is it the right thing to do?” is a question I get asked by my clients on a regular basis and in this article I’ll explain my general approach to providing practical answers to whether or not you should consider furniture refinishing.  Please know that this won’t be an article on how to identify antiques, but rather will explain the  general approach I use when recommending for or against investing money to refinish a piece of furniture.

Furniture Refinishing
Example of a china cabinet I recently refinished


Question # 1  –

The first thing I consider when determining whether to recommend furniture refinishing is are you dealing with an antique?  Any reasonably qualified furniture refinisher can quickly identify the general age of a piece being considered for refinishing. If you find yourself with a piece of furniture that has aged enough to become an antique (some use 25 years as a general rule of thumb) then you need to answer the second question.

Question # 2 –

Does the piece of furniture being considered for refinishing have any value or will it be expected to have value in the future? Understand that just because a piece of furniture has age doesn’t make it “valuable”.  A good example of this is the old pedal Singer sewing machines we all love so much.  While I routinely refinish these machines that are 100 or more years old, rarely do they have any significant monetary value. This is because they were mass produced by Singer in plants all over the world and the market is full of them.  Once again if you are working with a reputable refinisher they should be able to give you general guidance on whether an older piece has value or not.  If the piece of furniture potentially has value then further research should be done before committing to refinishing.

You can do this in a variety of ways including Google searches,  talking with local auction houses, local furniture makers or even furniture/antique appraisers.  For more information on identifying antiques see this article article.  If you do determine that the piece has value then in most cases leaving the piece undisturbed and as close to its original condition is generally the way to maximize it’s future appreciation value.  In some cases making minor repairs (if done by a qualified furniture repairer) can enhance the value.

furniture refinishing
Hoosier cabinet fully restored

If you find that you are not dealing with an antique or a piece of furniture that has or will be expected to have significant value then furniture refinishing is a good option (see next paragraph).  

Given technology enhancements and the ability for furniture manufactures to mass produce furniture, most of us have many pieces of furniture in our home that are of sound quality and were purchased at reasonable prices. However, the “value”  of that piece of furniture may not be significant if you were to try to sell it.   Again, that is simply a function of the fact that there is so much quality, mass produced furniture on the market.  However, if you were to consider furniture refinishing you can extend the life of that piece by another generation.  This makes sense in lots of situations because we all have great pieces we love and we want to continue to use them.  While high quality furniture refinishers are expensive furniture refinishing is generally less expensive than buying a new piece outright.

When painting old wooden chairs makes sense

The effect that a professional has when painting old wooden chairs (or any piece of furniture for that matter) can be dramatic.  In fact, if done properly painting chairs can totally alter your opinion of the furniture piece both in terms of the appearance and your opinion of the quality.

I’ll use a set of chairs that we refinished recently as an example of how painting old wooden chairs makes sense.   These chairs were purchased at a flee market by a client and brought in for refinishing.   Understand that there was nothing inherently valuable about these chairs but they were soundly built and sturdy.   The previous owners used green when painting chairs and made them look horrendous.  Not only did the paint look bad but it made the chairs look inferior in quality.

painting old wooden chairs

Painting old wooden chairs

This is the before pic…. I suspect you agree with my opinion.

As with all furniture we refinish, we take great care in the prep work. These chairs were stripped of all the ugly green mess.  We then sanded the wood surfaces to achieve a smooth surface to apply the new finish on.  We sprayed a couple coats of primer then sprayed the color.    We finished it off with a couple coats of clear lacquer.  Again, sanding between coats to ensure the smoothest finish.   Lastly we recovered the seats.

Here’s the result…

painting old wooden chairs

Notice how the new color and finish totally changes ones opinion of the chairs. They now look like a much higher quality chair.

The total investment by the client  for our portion of the work was $95 per chair.  This fairs well when compared to what the price of new similar quality chairs would be.

As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover….

Additional links on painting old wooden chairs:

  • Supplies at Lowe’s when painting wood furniture: Click here
  • 5 Biggest Mistakes When Painting Furniture (Country Living): Click here
  • Buying Old Chairs on eBay: Click here

Custom made pantry shelving

Converting Empty Wall into Pantry Shelving

In a previous post I showed pictures of pantry shelving  we were building to enhance the client’s use of an empty wall.  Here is the finished product just prior to the client loading it up which demonstrates that even a pantry cabinet can be attractive when done properly.  Prior to this being installed, it was simply an empty wall serving as a mud room between the garage and kitchen.  In filling this wall with pantry shelving the client created significantly more kitchen storage space with a minimum impact on the overall footprint of the room. The shelves only protrude 12 inches outward from the wall.

Al of the shelving was made such that it can be adjusted to accommodate a variety of size items.  Additionally, we added a little flair by breaking the piece into a top and bottom and trimming out the middle with some nice molding.  This breaks up the large piece nicely and takes it from the ordinary to an attractive addition.


Custom made pantry shelving
Pantry Shelving example

Cedar Chest Restoration

Here is the cedar chest restoration job we recently completed.  We’re quite pleased with the results.

How we approached the Cedar Chest Restoration…

We started by stripping off all the old finish.  This chest had been “loved” on for many years and what little of the original finish that was remaining was in rough shape – so we had no choice but to take it down to the bear wood.  Since we’re a professional shop, we have an overflow system that allows stripper to be pumped through a fluid hose with a brush on the end.  The piece sits in a shallow tub while we gently scrub and rinse it down with stripper.  This “washing” off of the finish is very efficient and not harmful to the piece.

After we had all of the old finish stripped off we wiped it clean with lacquer thinner and left to dry for a day.  Once dried there were a few areas of veneer that were damaged so we repaired these areas prior to staining.   In this case we used one our own stain colors which is similar to the color Minwax’s English Chestnut.   After staining with our own stain, we air brushed some black stain around some of the edges and crevices. This enhances the details and assist in bringing back some of the patina that was removed when stripping.

Notice in the picture  below we saved the advertisement that was attached to the inside of the chest and reapplied once done with the restoration.  Lane must have had a collaboration with an insurance company that offered insurance. How cool is that??  But given inflation you’d probably need a bit more than $100.00.

Finally we applied several coats of lacquer, rubbing out in between coats.  The final result is a nice soft luster on a piece that will last another couple generations.

Lane cedar chest restoration

Kitchen Cabinets Refinished

Kitchen Cabinets Refinished

We completed this project recently and the kitchen cabinets refinished have a new light color that totally changes the whole look and feel of the space. Oak cabinets were very popular 15 years ago, however these days most consumers seem to want a cleaner fresher look.  That’s were we come in.  Below is the first before and after shot of this modest kitchen.  The client chose a soft off white that tied in with the wall colors.   As you may know oak is an open grain wood and in this instance we did not fill the grain pores.  So once painted you still see some of the texture of the wood coming through.  Other clients like for the wood grain to be filled which achieves a much smoother look, but that wasn’t the look we were aiming for in this case.
Kitchen Cabinets Refinished

We also removed the old outdated face mounted hinges and installed hidden soft close hinges.   This takes the old bras color hinges off the face of the cabinets which gave it an dated look.  While it’s hard to see in the pictures we also added a soft oyster gray glaze pinstripe on the doors around the grooves.



Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets is an affordable way to dramatically improve the appearance of a kitchen.  Additionally, it is significantly less expensive than replacing the cabinets. If done by competent professionals the finish, when redone, is often much better and more durable than the finish originally applied by the cabinet manufacturer.  When choosing a refinishing company ensure they use high quality lacquers and paints such as the ones offered by Gemini.    Most companies that refinish cabinets can also make modifications to existing cabinets, such as additional drawers, pull out shelves, etc.  Add in a few modifications here and there and you end up with a much improved kitchen that you fall back in love with.

Custom Built Pantry Cabinets

Custom Built Pantry Cabinets

This is what floor to ceiling custom built pantry cabinets look like in their early stages.  Yes, I know this isn’t the most attractive part of building cabinets but it is the most important. Quality cabinets all have good “bones” and these do.  I thought I’d show you these cores and point out a few of the details that make them higher quality.

First off all pieces – tops, bottoms, sides and backs are “dadoed” into each other.  If you don’t know what this means follow the previous link for an explanation.  Once you’ve seen that you’ll understand why these are such high quality cabinets.  Rarely will you see this done in cabinetry, but its something we make standard as part of  the building process at our company.  They aren’t just glued and nailed.


Starting with custom built pantry cabinets

In this case we decided to break the cabinets into an upper and lower.  We did this for several reasons. One – we had to get them in the house!  But also, by breaking them into a top and bottom we can add on some nice molding in the middle that breaks things up and allows visual appeal. Notice on the taller cabinet (which is the bottom section) we also built a toe kick. This allows the owner to stand very close to the unit when reaching up on the higher shelves.  Plus you don’t see all the kick marks from shoes.

Check back on later blog entries to see the finished, installed product.

Refinished French Country Table Top

The Refinished French Country Table Top project

This table top had been in use for a couple generations and was completely worn out. Furthermore, because of the heavy use and accumulation of oils, grease, furniture polish and who knows what else, the finish had become soft and gooey.

Sooooo… As a starting point we had to sand the top all the way back to bare wood. In this case we didn’t chemically strip it because we were saving the original hand painted skirt.  Yes it was all heavy sanding and elbow grease. After we sanded it back we wiped it down many times with lacquer thinner to ensure we’d gotten any remaining chemical residue off the wood.  This remaining residue can wreck havoc on a new finish.


Refinished French Country Table Top

Building the brown base color was fairly straightforward and we sealed this in with a couple coats of lacquer.  However the slightly blueish/gray haze that was originally on the table proved the most challenging aspect to reproduce.  After experimenting with various methods we finally were able to tint our lacquer such that we achieved the desired affect. After getting the haze just right, we we then covered the entire surface with a few more coats of lacquer.

Simple Steps for Painting Doors

Achieving a high quality, painted finish when painting doors does not have to be complicated. Here are the simple steps for painting a front door. In fact depending on the condition of your door, it may not even be that much work.  However, there is a process…… and if followed correctly you’ll have less trouble and will get great looking results.

This article will not be a chemistry class on the various types of  paints, finishes and their compatibility which each other.  There is tremendous amounts of information readily available on this subject and I will not repeat it here.  Rather, I will describe a Process you can follow to get the desired result. Read more