Preview The Book
Carving a reputation:
Woodworker creates furniture with a craftsman's edge
by Corinne Miller
Chris Cosner at SeasonGates with his bar and five-legged
"his" and "hers" bar stools.
Chris Cosner is no ordinary woodworker.
In fact, he’s been known to have an edge. A live edge, that is. His distinctive style is called live edge, a practice in which entire logs are utilized from bark to heartwood, leaving pieces that boast the natural curve on the wood. The style is organic in look, and it works for clients looking to get back to nature.
The 44-year-old former contractor and master carpenter learned the woodworking trade in the late 1970s from local artisans who taught the Solebury native how to cut rock, make stained glass and create eccentric-looking furniture.
In a twist of fate, Cosner’s life changed when he was rear-ended on I-95 and pushed 63 feet by a driver going 100-plus mph. Cosner admits he’s lucky to be alive. He went through grueling surgeries including getting plates put into his neck, bone from his hips put in his neck and knee operations. His initial recovery took a year and a half, and Cosner still struggles to be fully recovered.
Because of the severity of his injuries, doctors told him he couldn’t go back to his heavy lifting construction work, and with his wife pregnant, Cosner decided it was time for a career change. With mortgage payments and fatherhood looming, Cosner decided to give the woodworking he had learned 20 years earlier a try and convinced his wife to allow him five years to get his business off the ground.
“It was a rough first two years. But things have a way of working out,” recalled Cosner.
After becoming a stay-at-home dad, Cosner balanced parenthood and his woodworking craft. He started working on a couple of commission pieces, and with word-of-mouth references from clients, his business started to take off. It also helped that 100 percent of the wood he used was from the New Hope-Solebury area.
People do like the idea that it’s not mass manufactured, said Cosner. “I always loved the feel of wood, the look of wood, the grains. Something drew me to the wood.
“It takes so long for trees to get the size they are,” Cosner continued, referring to the fact that the fallen or dying trees usually end up in a wood chipper or fire wood. “There’s just something about the beauty of the tree and how long it took to get to where it’s at to see it go to waste.”
Cosner mills all his own lumber. He can slab trees up to 52 inches in width with an Alaskan mill. His wide array of work includes granite sinks, vanities, room dividers, bed frames, large bars, wood countertops, desks, under mount copper sinks, entertainment centers with natural edge and even a dog carrying case that was used for the Westminster Dog Show.
“I’ll do things that people say can’t be done,” the resourceful artisan said, explaining he works with most woods, even weeping willow, which is soft and delicate.
The father of two young children keeps busy while working on three or four projects at a time. “I don’t have any drawn up plans. It’s all in here,” he said, pointing to his head. “I rarely stay on the same piece throughout a week or two.”
That unplanned method allows Cosner to be creative and follow his instincts. When he starts on a project in the morning, he may end up working with a different piece by the afternoon.
“I don’t know until I have the wood in my hands where it’s going,” Cosner explained. “It’s what the pieces are in front of me. I could be two-thirds into a project using a piece of wood and then, all of the sudden, look over and see another piece that’s lying against the wall and say ‘That’s the one.’”
“Nobody ever presses me for time, which is really a beautiful thing. I try to give myself a time frame of about two months for each client,” he said. “Most of the people I’m working with have seen my work and understand that it’s custom.”
A live edge table under construction
Cosner recently partnered with SeasonGates, a home décor shop in Peddler’s Village, to sell his furniture.
“Chris is a genius with design,” Kate Zeiss, co-owner, said. “His joinery is as good as I’ve seen.”
Cosner keeps his work local. “Customers like the fact that a Bucks County artist is using Bucks County wood,” Zeiss added.
Though it took a near-death experience to get Cosner to where he is today, he feels he’s where he’s supposed to be in life.
“With my accident, it turned into a blessing that woodworking became full-time.”
Visit chriscosnergallery.com to view more of Cosner’s work.