BUXTON – It’s a curious object – a discolored and dinged-up metal bowl, shallow, 30 inches across with a wide brim. You could use it as a birdbath, or wear it as a hat if you are inclined to broad comedy.

But Joe Brien and Jane Hamilton Davis are inclined to a higher purpose. As owners of and partners in Buxton Barn Board, they reclaim and reinvent and repurpose barn boards, scrap metal and other materials to create furniture and whatever else strikes their imaginative fancy. (Or is requested by a client.)

The bowl, which Brien hand-picked from the South Portland dump off Highland Avenue, turned out to be copper. Brian says he can only guess at its original purpose. But refurbished by him, it will soon be the face of a large clock. Custom clocks are among the items the young business plans to produce as it grows, Davis explains. Church pews, too.

So far, the range includes night stand, coffee table and other tables, birdhouse, mudroom organizer, various benches, and more. The business was launched several weeks ago when Davis asked Brien to make a simple bookcase to fit a niche in her daughter’s bedroom. Brien obliged with a rustically handsome, perfectly-fitting piece of all-recycled wood, and the idea for Buxton Barn Board sprung up.

Brien, a Portland native who’s been working with wood off and on since in boyhood he learned the craft from his father, Ernie, does most of the building. Both Joe Brien and Davis design, and salvage barnyard and stuff wherever they can, often from local “burn piles” (the remains of tumble-down structures) whose owners are happy to have the materials hauled away. Davis can saw and hammer, too – she recently made a deck for her house, out of wooden pallets.

Ernie Brien, a much-decorated World War II veteran now age 94, observes the workshop activity as his son and Davis show some of their products, such as a coffee table accented with pulley-metal from a garage door, and “Easter Island” table legs, and discuss the three-step, “secret formula” process for finishing the wood, which may be pine, fir, oak, hickory, or maple. Or perhaps it won’t be given a finish, depending on the degree of rusticity desired.

Exactly like its products, Buxton Barn Board’s prices are “custom,” i.e. matched to each individual piece’s cost of materials (low, obviously) and labor (reasonable). The business has been operating out of a workshop in town, while storing its boards in a barn in the White Rock section of Gorham, and is looking hard for a permanent home.

The work will gain greater exposure as early as next week: Schiavi Custom Builders has ordered a seven-foot kitchen island and an eight-foot farmer’s table, which will be displayed at the Schiavi showroom in Oxford.

Until its Web site is complete, more information about Buxton Barn Board can be found on Facebook.

(Note: if Brien’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he’s been one of Portland’s best-known musicians since the late 1970s, fronting both the Kopterz and the Troubles as singer/guitarist. The Troubles will headline the Rally for Recovery at Deering Oaks Park on Sunday, Sept. 20.)


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