An Interview with Paddy Collins
We interviewed Paddy Collins, an Atlanta-area specialty carpenter and customer of Hardwoods Inc., about the modern Adirondack chairs he recently built out of thermally modified ash.
How did you come up with the design for these chairs?
They’re a take on two different style chairs that when the designer hired me to build them, she said, “Can you make them look like this?” One she showed was by a guy in north Georgia that decided he no longer wanted to make chairs anymore and the other was a set of plans she found on Pinterest. I put my own spin on it, because as a guy who makes things, I don’t like making other people’s things. As a gentleman, I put my heart and soul into these things, and I wasn’t going to try to steal any part of his design, so I made it my own.
What are your favorite things about the design?
Being a specialty carpenter, I’m really not into the design as much as the finished product. I’m a big fan of the clean nature of mid-century modern, and taking the expectation of your material and ramping up a notch. The design really isn’t that on my mind as I’m making things. I just want my clients to be happy.
One of the reasons is that obviously these were going to be an outdoor project. The price of outdoor wood goes from regular pressure treated pine, which is its own thing, to something special that will last longer, like teak or ipe that’s specifically out on the market for that sort of thing, but when you look into those exotics, they’re expensive as all get out.
I’d heard of thermally modified wood before, but I’d never worked with it, and I was in Atlanta Hardwood getting some material for another project and got talking about it with two guys behind the desk, and they suggested I take a look at it.
What I liked about the ash is that it’s super dense; they make baseball bats out of it. It’s real tight and straight-grained, real sturdy, and it wears well, but like any other natural wood it has to have a finish on it. But with this new product they were telling me about, you could get the same strength that regular ash provides and the thermal modification allows it to sit outside.
So they are the ones that really talked me into it and I’m glad they did because I think it really made the difference as far as the overall look, and as the chairs age they’re just going to get even better. It gets a little black to it when it ages in the sun, and I told the clients if they don’t like it, we can just sand it and go right back to the start and it’ll be fine. The color is another reason I went with it because it really is just pretty.
Tell us a little about your business.
I’ve been a carpenter/contractor/jack of all trades for about 20 years now. In the beginning, I’d take on anything. I’d do your floors, your cabinetry, your roof. I just tried to do a lot of different things in the construction business to see what I was good at, what I liked, and it boiled down to specialty type things. I made a pretty good niche for myself. I work on referral only; I don’t advertise. Within the last five or six years, when I got involved in television, is when the specialty stuff really took off. I was hired to work on a show filmed here in Atlanta for HDTV as their specialty fabricator and the host would come up with crazy weird ideas for moving walls or who knows what; we did a lot of moving things. What was great about that was that really solidified my confidence level so that I knew I could build custom, cool, weird, crazy things. I still have a lot of private clients and I get to dip my toe in the high end celebrity market occasionally.
If you have a product or a brand that you’re trying to promote, having your word mean something means something to me. That’s where referral business is great, because I have a reputation that I’m going to do what I say I’m going to do and I’m going to do it to the client’s satisfaction. If you can be a good person and do quality work, you’re always going to be in business.
Visit his website to learn more about Paddy Collins’ work.