Meet Handcrafted America’s Artisan Carley Abner, First Mountain Woodcraft

Carley Abner, First Mountain Woodcraft

Carley Abner has spent more than 40 years handcrafting stunning wood heirlooms, including his award-winning kayaks and canoes. On his website, he tells a story about when he and wife, Shirley, were house hunting.

“When we shopped for a home, we got the workshop laid out first, and then designed everything else around it,” he writes.

Apparently, he had his priorities straight. Over the years, Carley turned his love for woodworking into not only a viable business, but also a successful, renowned and booming family enterprise. Every canoe he creates reflects the beauty of the wood, the skill and vision of the maker, and the uniqueness of its future owner. For custom work, Carley and his team work closely with their clients, ensuring they produce a canoe specific to their customers’ needs and wishes, and when possible, he delivers the finished canoe to its new owner.

“There’s nothing like handing over a canoe or kayak we’ve spent weeks or months building and seeing it hit the water for the first time,” Carley says.

Each piece of wood has distinct characteristics, even if it comes from the same tree. Carley hand-selects every piece of wood he uses to construct kayaks and canoes. Then the pieces are strategically-placed to achieve a breathtaking balance of beauty and function.

While his canoes are built to navigate the waters of lakes and deep streams, some customers buy them to hang, purely as works of art!

Meet Carley…

What drew you to your chosen craft?

I learned the basics of woodworking at an early age working in my father’s cabinet shop. I have always had a passion for building and working with my hands but working with wood seems to come to life when properly cared for and put together. That is why our motto says: “BRINGING WOOD TO LIFE.”

What do you enjoy most about your craft?

“Listening” to each piece of wood.  If you watch and listen carefully each piece of wood has its own special place is every project. Each piece is selected to achieve a special look. Every piece of wood is truly unique and has a character all its own.

Why is it important for people to make things with their own hands?

Making things by hand combines science and art. Handcrafted items are generally produced with a love for their craft that machines can’t produce. Mass-produced items may sometimes be less expensive, but only the artisan, not the machine, can enjoy the look on the face of a satisfied client.

In what ways are handmade goods better than those that are mass produced?

The “imperfection” of a handmade item, in many cases, is what makes the piece special. A smart person once said to me that “If it is perfect it wouldn’t be handmade.” A handmade gift is simply “special.”  Have you ever heard someone who just received gift say, “Oh, it is factory made?”  Probably not. In this mass-produced product world, handmade is simply “special.”

What does the future hold for your type of work?

We believe the future is bright. There seems to be a renaissance of handmade, one-of-a-kind products.  At First Mountain Woodcraft, we pride ourselves on producing quality one-at-a-time, one-of-a-kind products. Woodworking is probably one of the world’s oldest professions, and probably one of the oldest artist mediums. We believe there will always be a market for uniqueness and quality.


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