Master of the Shaker box
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Wood Magazine

Master of the Shaker box

As an artisan, Brent would describe himself as a simple woodworker--he loves to make things that are useful and functional.

Fascination with woodworking
Brent Rourke 1
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Brent Rourke
Brent Rourke 2
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Made from cherry wood with
copper rivets, this dory basket
is based on the design used for
hundreds of years by Atlantic
Canadian and New England
fishermen on their "dory boats".
Brent Rourke 3
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Shaker Oval Boxes

Fascination with woodworking

My fascination with wood began over three decades ago in junior high school shop class. That's when I first discovered the pleasure of taking a shaving from a piece of pine with a freshly sharpened hand plane. My interest grew, and I went on to study cabinetmaking and woodworking at community college, later to become a master woodworker. I spent several years honing my skills working for others before becoming self employed in 1997.

I grew up in Hampton, a small New Brunswick town in Canada well known for its artists. In 2008, my wife of 22 years, Susan, two sons, Thomas and Benjamin, and I moved to the nearby rural community of Bloomfield. There, I converted a 107-year-old barn into an interactive, interpretive manufacturing and retail facility that is part of the New Brunswick Ecomuseum network. And now, in my spare time, I'm renovating our 1901 farmhouse.

When I went out on my own, I tried marketing several products; but the Shaker oval box became my signature piece. My interest in this unique piece began in the early 1980s after I saw a photo of a Shaker box. Most woodworkers will tell you they are always looking for something to challenge their talents and for me it was the Shaker box.

Originally designed as a dry goods storage container, these boxes are simple in their design while being functional and elegant, traditional and contemporary, all at the same time. Over the years, my company, now under the name The Barn in Bloomfield, has made more than 40,000 oval boxes. They are more than a wooden container and I am always trying to find more uses for them. I have had success selling them as urns, corporate gifts, and memory boxes.


 

A timelessly designed product
Brent Rourke 4
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Jewelry Box

A timelessly designed product

In addition to Shaker boxes, I make and retail furniture and an assortment of functional items, such as serving boards and candle holders. I offer educational workshops on basic woodworking, how to make Shaker oval boxes, and how to make Shaker stools. I sell the parts as well as kits for people to make their own oval boxes, and host with Rob Cosman (another New Brunswick woodworker) an instructional DVD on how to make oval boxes. Today I sell products all over North America and Japan, and am working on breaking into the Australia and New Zealand markets.


Brent Rourke 5
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Sushi Board

I work with some of the finest woods available, including cherry and birds-eye maple from New Brunswick. Cherry is particularly nice to work with as it bends very well and makes a beautiful box.

I am fortunate to run a business and be successful producing a timelessly designed product. At the end of the day, I'm happy to say I created something that's practical and beautiful.

--Brent Rourke
Bloomfield, New Brunswick

See more of Brent's Shaker boxes and uniquely designed furniture at his Web site, then try building your own Shaker Oval Carrier using the plans available at the WOOD Store.


 

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Wood Magazine