While many lament the general decline of craftsmanship, Shannon McMahan sees evidence of resurgence among people his age and counts many craftsmen with varied skill sets as friends. A salesman for a medical supply company, Shannon has been associated with the medical industry since becoming a medical technician at the age of 18. He enjoys his work and the people he encounters on a daily basis, but at the end of the day and on weekends he welcomes the solitude of his shop and the space it provides to work with his hands and create something special and uniquely his.
Francis of Assisi said, “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
Shannon incorporates his hands, head, and heart beautifully to craft attractive, unique rustic industrial furniture at his shop, Iron and Axe, in Kevil. According to Shannon, his father was a mechanical genius and his mother was artistic. Luckily, Shannon was endowed with special gifts from both. “My dad taught me to learn by doing.”
Speaking lovingly of his parents, Shannon recalls, “ My parents refinished furniture together. My dad shored it up structurally and my mother preserved and beautified the pieces when she refinished them.”
With his mother’s artistic flourish and his father’s mechanical aptitude along with an eye for detail and the standards of a true perfectionist, Shannon lovingly and painstakingly restored a 1952 Ford truck his father had owned. He presented his father with the impeccably restored truck before his dad passed away.
Sometime during the five years the restoration project was underway, Shannon and his wife, Lisa, began the search for the perfect entertainment center for their home. After traveling hundreds of miles and investing countless hours in a futile search for the right piece, Shannon decided to try his hand at making a piece of furniture meeting his wife’s specifications and fitting their needs. Barn wood and raw metal stock were the building materials of choice. Unrestricted customization was achievable because the materials didn’t have size restrictions.
The design and creation of the piece was to be the first of many and the beginning of Shannon’s business.
Shannon’s father instilled in him at an early age the importance of never being wasteful. “We never threw anything away because it was not just wasteful but it cost money and more importantly it might save a trip to town and time is the most precious commodity. Time is more important than money,” Shannon emphasizes. Growing up with this philosophy fostered Shannon’s love for repurposing which led to utilizing old red and white oak barn wood for the basis of his furniture.
Maybe even more significant than the quality of the wood is the wood’s ‘”story.”
“Barns are local history. If I have an opportunity to preserve history, I’m going to do it. When I use wood from a family farm, the legacy of the family will continue…the legacy will live on,” he explains.
The old barn wood is kiln dried to kill insects and prevent changes in the shape of the wood. After it is kilned, Shannon lightly planes it leaving saw marks and knots for character. Next the wood is stained, coated with polyurethane, and waxed to enhance and maintain its beauty.
Locally purchased raw metal stock is an integral part of the design. He uses wire cloth, flat iron, angle iron, flat stock, sheet metal, and round stock to achieve the needed stability and desired appearance of his pieces. Only casters and hinges are prefabricated.
Fueled by enthusiasm and driven by a passion for repurposing, Shannon skillfully crafts the old wood and metal to create his rustic pieces destined to propagate legacies.
“I want my pieces to be heirloom quality and to last for generations. A man only has so many years to leave a mark but I hope to leave mine with these pieces I am creating to hand down through the ages. I love to work with hot rods and restoration but it is a slow process that takes a lot out of you mentally and physically. This way you can pass hundreds of things down to other people and they can pass them on to their families.”
Shannon McMahan’s work can be accessed at ironandaxe.com