About 15 miles outside Colfax sits a collapsed barn. This is where, and how, Asher Cousins turned his woodworking hobby into a business.
Cousins, 17 and a soon-to-be Pullman High School graduate, uses the barn’s wood to create many of his handmade products. He said the wood’s uniqueness and the fact it didn’t cost money were some additional benefits.
His favorite thing to make, he said, is cutting boards.
“The cutting boards I make, they’re end-grain cutting boards. They’re really fun to make because it shows off the characteristics of the grain of the wood,” Cousins said. “And the barn wood, it’s super diverse, (with) different types of grain patterns and colors and stuff. Those kinds of woods really show it off and they’re really easy to make.”
Cousins described the process as taking something that looks like trash, then doing the impossible, turning it into a cutting board. Cousins said a large part of the process is removing nails from the wood. He then removes the layers of dirt and sometimes reshapes the boards so they are not bent.
If the boards are weathered, Cousins said he uses epoxy and glue to fill holes or cracks. He also adds multiple layers of mineral oil and beeswax as the wood is quite dry and the oil and wax are needed to finish the boards.
“I really spend time coming up with the designs and combining power tools and hand tools and using reclaimed wood and making really unique pieces that will last a lifetime, if cared for properly,” Cousins said. “(They) stand out from a lot of other woodworking products that are out there.”
Cousins became interested in this craft when he was 13. He said his father and grandfather are hobbyist woodworkers. In middle school, Cousins said, he found himself practically living in the garage working on small projects. So when Pullman High School offered the opportunity for him to take woodworking for credit, he took it.
“The first year of high school woodshop was really great,” Cousin said. “I had a great teacher. I learned a lot. And from there I kind of made the decision like, ‘OK, this is something I really enjoy,’ and I also knew that you can make some money selling coasters and cutting boards and such.”
Cousins has been able to sell his handmade coasters, cutting boards, and more at the Moscow Food Co-op, Moscow Farmers Market and even online at his Etsy website, WoodworkingByAsher.
Cousins plans to maintain his hobby after graduation, though the business side of things will be a little different come fall. He plans to attend Montana State University and major in mechanical engineering.
“I’m not planning to continue as a business but — it’ll be a lifelong hobby,” Cousins said. “I’m thinking about, like, merging engineering — and even material science — with woodworking and in the future coming up with a career that could be a combination of those two. That’d be ideal.”
Alex Brizee is a news clerk for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Have a story idea you’d like to covered? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.