Roger Benton began his career as a touring musician. Now, he salvages lumber from fallen trees and demolition sites around New York to create one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture. Roger is the co-owner of RE-CO BKLYN, a small team of custom furniture designers and builders who recover wood from the New York City area. We spoke with him about his transition from music to woodworking, his favorite pieces, and wearing Doc’s in the lumberyard.
How did you transition from being a touring musician to a skilled maker?
The birth of my daughter Charlene had a lot to do with my eventual withdrawal from touring. I began spending less time on the road and more time home working. I was lucky enough to meet some local furniture makers who showed me the ropes. It was easy to fall for woodworking and furniture making and put everything I had into it.
Tell us the story behind one of your favorite pieces.
My favorite piece is a small end table that was the first in a line of furniture I designed in the late 2000’s. The wood was a literal barn find; a Connecticut farmer had milled up a few walnut logs around 8 years prior and had the boards seasoning in his barn the whole time. I learned so much from that one table; joinery, wood finishing, proportions. I got so busy with custom orders based off that piece that I never wound up finishing the rest of the original line. To this day we are a custom design/build company and we rarely make the same thing twice.
One of my favorite chunks of wood is the door handle to our shop; it’s made from a piece of live edge quarter sawn American sycamore. That handle is the only piece of wood I managed to keep from the very first log I ever milled, which was from a storm-felled tree in a public park in Philadelphia.
Where do you envision your furniture? Who is your ideal customer?
I see our furniture in a variety of settings both commercial and residential where a clean modern aesthetic needs a showstopper centerpiece. Our ideal client has an amazing space and can appreciate the natural beauty of our NYC sourced live edge slab material as well as the fact that these pieces are built to last generations.
What is your favorite type of wood to work with?
When it comes to our large table tops I’m really getting into our live edge spalted American Beech and Silver Maple right now. They are visually stunning and rare enough that you hardly ever come across them. When I’m at my bench, I personally like to work with air-dried walnut. Aside from being a beautiful wood, it is such a wonderful material to work with, especially with hand tools. It cuts well, planes well, carves well, and finishes well. Walnut is super popular right now but it just doesn’t get old for me.
Your line of work involves an element of danger. How do you dress for work?
When we are working with logs or big slabs we have to wear sturdy clothing and often gloves to protect our hands. Our footwear has to be up to the task as well. Dr. Martens makes boots and shoes that offer support and grip, that are made to last, and that keep us comfortable during long days in the shop and at the lumber yard.
What is next for you?
What’s next for us is expanding our offerings both in terms of design and in production capabilities. We are excited about prototyping new designs, harvesting bigger and better logs for our slabs, and have been lucky enough to find bright and motivated people to be a part of the RE-CO BKLYN team.