Pull up a chair

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Pull up a chair
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Craftsman or artist?
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Scott Mulcahey loves wood. He can't bring himself to throw out the scraps of wenge, ash, sapele, purpleheart, black walnut, cherry and you-name-the-species he's collected from working custom millwork for more than 20 years. Even on vacation or walking the beach near his home, he finds driftwood and drags it back home, employing the help of anyone with him.

Ten years ago, Mulcahey went to Jackman, Maine on vacation. Even then, he couldn't leave the woodworker behind.

"There was a beach full of beautiful driftwood," he recalls. "I had to convince my friends to carry it back."

Mulcahey, slightly gray through his hair and goatee, has spent his career as a craftsman at top millwork shops. He's built custom kitchen cabinets, office furniture and cabinetry. He even had his own line of children's furniture, which he sold on the craft-show circuit for a few years.

But nothing quite satisfied his imagination. Building custom cabinets, as technically challenging as it can be even when using combinations of exotic and domestic woods, eventually boils down to "building boxes."

Even the children's furniture line eventually bored him.

"You come up with a good design and then, after you've made it four or five times, it just becomes production," says Mulcahey.

So Mulcahey has stacks of wood. Bits and pieces. Beautifully figured domestic woods. Rare exotics. Gloriously bashed driftwoods. Too small to make sizeable furniture. Too beautiful to throw away.

The sum of the parts
Mulcahey also has a career's worth of woodworking expertise. A master of both hand and power tools, production and custom work, finishing techniques and joinery, a practical marketing approach, and a sense of how design and technique affect price point and profit. All waiting to be dovetailed to his imagination.

Scott Mulcahey

Owner of: One-man shop
Location: Beverly, Mass.
Maker of: Chairs from recycled wood
Woodworking experience: More than 20 years
Quotable: "Nature is the best designer. I just reconfigure it to make a piece. I'm secondary to nature."

And finally, Mulcahey thinks he's found the vehicle he's been looking for: The chair. Small enough to use his scraps. Individual enough to satisfy his thirst for design and personal statement. No sets of Windsor's these. Each chair flows with the boards and scraps that create it.

"I got into making the chairs because I had all these small pieces of wood from 20 years of jobs. It was all cracked and old," says Mulcahey. "There wasn't enough of any one species to make even a dining-room table. So I tried to think of something that would be small, but still be significant."

So pull up a chair and relax.

There's the child's stool of recycled pine, with the half moon cut out in the flat back. How about the one made of white pine driftwood? Mulcahey salvaged the wood from the beach at Lynch Park, in his seaside hometown of Beverly, Mass. The chair's jagged top stabs the air. The green paint rubbed into its deepest crevices accents the natural wood and deep grain opened by who-knows-how-many years at sea.