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  Comments (0) Total Friday Apr. 18, 2014
Beauty in the Potential
Kalispell craftsman uses local barnwood for his furnishing creations
CRESTON – Oftentimes, and especially in this corner of Montana, the beauty of this world is obvious and immediate, but there are other times when it takes an artist to drag the beauty out into the light for those of us who cannot see it in ordinary objects as plainly as they do.

It can mean taking a lump of formless clay and turning it into an ornate vase, or releasing the statue inside a hunk of marble. Seeing the potential is what compels creation, and Kalispell's Katch Hadley is a prime example of those who mine for diamonds in the rough.

Last week, Hadley and Rene Gardner stood on the snowy floorboards of a Creston barn's hayloft and started what would likely be a long day of removing the rafters under a steady barrage of snow. The tin roof was already off the building, which Hadley found on Craigslist.

The owner wanted to get rid of the building, and Hadley could have all the old wood used to build the barn in the 1890s if he put in the labor to remove it. Most of the barn is made from old-growth fir, likely put into place while it was still green, rendering the pieces that have never seen the sun a dusty shade of red.

Up close, the wood shows the clear paths of circular saws used to form the planks and the old-growth hardwood has tight grain patterns, a significant difference from the boards made from young trees carved up with bandsaw mills.

Hadley, 25, recently started his new business, Big Sky Barnwood Furnishings, after discovering he has a knack for turning old barn wood into furniture, picture frames, hardwood floors, chairs and more.

It started three years ago, when his father-in-law needed to remove a barn from his West Valley farm. Hadley kept the old wood, seeing its potential.

"I saved all that wood and started building picture frames," he said.

Then he crafted tables. He gave one to his wife, Breann, and gave other furniture, including a vanity, to other family members.

Katch Hadley inspects beams in the roof of barn in Creston on Jan. 29. Hadley uses the wood he removes from old barns to make custom furniture for his company, Big Sky Barnwood Furnishings. For more photos visit www.FlatheadBeacon.com. - Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

They suggested he should sell them, which he has; Hadley recently built 11 refurbished barnwood tables for Tamarack Brewing Company in Lakeside. He builds them big and solid, with a typical table weighing 300 to 400 pounds and costing more than $2,000.

But it's hard to put a concrete price on what his future furnishings will cost, Hadley said, because everything he has made so far is custom.

"I don't mass produce anything," he said. "I can build anything custom."

Hadley said he builds because it's in his blood; his dad is a contractor who builds custom homes. But when Hadley isn't tearing down old barns or crafting in his 30-by-40-foot workshop, he's working full time at Flathead Electric Cooperative.

Seeing table tops in old doors or thinking a lineup of old wall studs would make a handsome vanity might not be his primary job yet, but Hadley will keep searching for and polishing up these hidden gems.

"It's just fun for me," Hadley said.

For more information on Big Sky Barnwood Furnishings, call 406-253-1373.
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