Going with the Grain
Brad Miller nerds out when asked about the tables he created for the Bronx Brewery’s tasting room.
“The wood was sourced from the structural beams of an old brownstone in Harlem. It’s old-growth-forest wood, meaning it’s original American forest, not planted, and the wood is much stronger and more durable,” Miller says with reverence. “It’s a tighter grain. It’s beautiful.”
If you’ve ever been to Bronx Brewery you’ve seen them (and if you haven’t been, it’s time you got down there), the aged tables complement the space’s industrial vibe.
Miller has been business for three years officially (there were a few years when it was hobby). His workshop, Bronx Woodworks, is basically next door to the brewery and when they were opening up it was a natural fit for Miller to make the tables.
Individuals and business can commission Miller to make all sorts of products: wine racks, dining room tables including a farmhouse table with wood salvaged from Hurricane Ike, a captain’s bed. He even uses the wood scraps from projects to make cheeseboards and cutting boards. Most people, he says, have some sort of idea of the design they want when they come to him, sometimes a picture, and he works from there to create what the finished design will look like, figuring out if it can actually be made, and then making and delivering it.
Not bad for someone who has no formal woodworking training.
“When my wife and I got married, we didn’t have any furniture,” Miller says. “We did what many do: We went shopping and I was appalled by the prices and thought I could do that, so I turned a second bedroom into a workshop.”
There was a lot of trial and error involved, Miller admits. When he was first starting out, he said yes to every product request: trying something out, researching it online, trying again.
“The most challenging thing I made was a conference table. It was before I had a shop and it was 13 feet long and the living room was 15 feet long.”
He still says yes to most requests. Last year he made a captain’s bed, a loft bed with room for storage underneath. Building it in their home was sort of like building a ship in a bottle: The bed was in one room with the headboard and footboard going to wall-to-wall; under the bed a whole table was stored that could swing out from under the bed into another room, to become a 10-top table.
He sources most of the wood from Rosenzweig Lumber, a 100-year-old shop a block away from his Port Morris studio, and gets most of his other materials such as metals from other area businesses.
“I love working with wood. Every piece of wood is different and when you’re going through the milling process you never know what you’re going to get,” he says. “I’m always adapting to what the furniture is going to look like based on the wood I can find, which I really enjoy.”