By Chais Gentner
From building his own skateboard ramps as a kid to owning his own lumber shop here in Phoenix, 36-year-old Thomas Porter has always enjoyed working with his hands to build something from the ground up. Porter’s local business started after taking extra wood from his friend-turned-business-partner Craig Suiter, who had brought it back from Pennsylvania to put on his own property in Colorado. Porter quickly realized the high demand for reclaimed barn wood – which is sustainable lumber that is gathered and reused in new projects. He started selling it to architects and builders for their projects and eventually needed more hands on deck. Thus, Porter Barn Wood was formed in 2012.
Porter’s goal is to responsibly use resources like wood instead of throwing them out, inspiring people to do great things with them. Porter Barn Wood has been able to source some of its slab materials locally after forest fires, controlled burns, and even after bark beetles have killed the trees. “By supporting reclaimed wood, we change the face of what it means to be environmentally conscious,” said Porter, who emphasizes that every piece of salvaged wood at his shop is one that was saved from the landfill.
Something unique about the business is that they don’t shy away from working with other materials, such as metal. Additionally, customers can even bring in their own wood and materials to have made into a new piece of furniture. “Arizona is kind of a melting pot – people end up here, and they bring a piece of their history with them. So a lot of the time people bring us in old pieces from their grandparents or other family members that they want to integrate into a piece of furniture,” said Porter.
Porter and his team are big on building the community and supporting the people who are in this business with them, as well as their customers. With that in mind, they provide do-it-yourself tutorials and classes for those who wish to take on their own projects. Generally, all of the work demo classes are free.
In addition to offering free woodworking classes to the community, Porter has recently started a nonprofit called Porter Industrial Arts Corporation with the intent to provide education to the general public with a focus on the industrial arts. The goal is to bring more attention to the skills of industrial arts, design and manufacturing. Those classes will be sponsored or paid classes where people can come in and leave with a project. The pricing will go toward material cost.
The trend of making something new from something old and discarded comes with a major environmental impact. By supporting the reclaimed wood business and integrating reusable materials in our homes, we limit the need for new materials made from unsustainable sources. This simple idea is not only environmentally conscious, but also beautifies homes with furniture that is personal, meaningful, and built to last many lifetimes.
For more information, visit porterbarnwood.com.
Chais Gentner is a journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School at Arizona State University. She enjoys using her voice to write about issues pertaining to climate change, sustainability and politics.
Photos by Jesse Fitton Smith.
For more business profiles, go to greenlivingaz.com/bizprofile.