Randy Knight crafts stunning rustic furniture from drab, weathered wood
By Dianna Troyer
Lifelong woodworker Randy Knight sees an inner beauty in weathered trees and gnarled roots that most people would stack for firewood.
He planes the wood at his sawmill and transforms it into home décor and rustic furniture. Randy welcomes visitors at his wood shop on the edge of Jarbidge, a village of about 30 year-round residents in northeastern Nevada’s wilderness, where gold mines thrived a century ago.
“Every piece of wood has its own special grain and natural color,” Randy says of the native juniper, pine and aspen he uses, along with redwood he buys. “That’s what I love about wood—every piece is different and beautiful in its own way. Because of that, everything I make is unique.”
Randy’s love of woodworking was sparked during childhood.
“When I was a kid, I’d work alongside my grandpa, who was a finish carpenter,” he says. “I learned the trade from him.”
Randy, 69, has made furniture and other décor for family, friends and clients for about four decades.
He has built nightstands, sofas, futons, coffee tables, dressers, armoires, entertainment centers, computer desks, baby furniture, mirrors, lamps, book shelves, plant stands, gun cabinets, headboards, dining room tables, end tables and urns.
Randy indulged in his hobby during his spare time working as a finish carpenter on custom homes in Hawaii and the Truckee and Reno areas.
With his commercial workload slowing, Randy has more time to devote to his furniture studio, Bearcreek Woodwork, named for a nearby creek.
He says people hear about him by word-of-mouth or at his website, bearcreekwoodwork.com.
“People give me a general idea of what they want, then I sketch something to make sure we’re on the same page,” he says. “They leave it up to me.”
Known for his perfectionism, Randy has a sign in his shop given to him by a friend. It sums up his attitude about whatever he creates.
“Good work ain’t cheap, and cheap work ain’t good.”
Randy sands his pieces patiently and painstakingly until they have a satin-smooth finish.
His latest project is a dining room table made from 150-year-old redwood signal poles that once stood along the transcontinental railroad near Carlin.
“I happened to talk to some people in Carlin who told me about this redwood, so I bought a bunch and milled it,” Randy says.
He sometimes combines redwood with other wood. He often uses juniper, with its distinct amber and burgundy grain.
“I like working with juniper, which some people don’t because it’s a finicky wood with cracks and knots,” Randy says. “But I think those traits add character, so I work them into the piece.”
For certain pieces, he makes his own hardware.
“I’ve used an old trap and repurposed it for corners on a redwood dining room table,” he says.
Details matter to Randy.
“I’ll take thin copper wire and braid it, then pound it by hand for accents,” he says.
Sometimes he adds antlers for handles on jewelry boxes.
He finishes each piece with clear oils to enhance the grain or a colored stain, depending on his client’s preference.
Randy’s detailed handiwork is evident on his website and in his home and studio, which are century-old buildings he restored. His woodworking studio was once two log buildings that a blacksmith used.
“They were falling down, so I salvaged what I could and combined the two,” Randy says. “When I replaced a window, I found newspapers from 1910 that had been used for insulation.”
His nearby cabin was once a store without running water or electricity.
“I modernized it and turned it into our residence,” he says.
Randy has called Jarbidge home intermittently since the late 1980s when his father-in-law, who lived there, convinced him to buy some property. Randy built a custom log home along Bear Creek—one of three log homes he has built.
He and his wife, Susan, raised their two children there until the local school closed.
“Susan homeschooled them two years, then we moved to Twin Falls so the kids could finish school,” Randy says.
For the next five years, he did the finish work on the Cottonwood Guest Ranch’s lodge about 70 miles southeast of Jarbidge in the O’Neil Basin. Owners of the working cattle and horse ranch offer lodging to summer tourists and hunters.
“The ranch owners’ daughter-in-law, Vicki Smith, taught school in Jarbidge and knew of my work and recommended me,” Randy says. “It took me about five years to finish it.”
The interior of the lodge seems to have a golden glow, with the floor, walls and ceiling all made from pine. It is featured on the ranch’s website.
Whatever he envisions, Randy says his ideas blend the past and future.
“I like a rustic look of the past and also making my pieces heavy-duty to last for future generations to enjoy,” he says. “It gives me a lot of satisfaction.”