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Chickamauga’s Randy Hallman turns recovered wood into beautiful cutting boards

June 30, 2016 GMT

Five years ago, Chickamauga resident Randy Hallman bored a hole through a log and wired it to make a primitive lamp. After making one for each of his grown children, he got to thinking the lamps would sell. But they didn’t do so well.

In the meantime, Hallman had his regular work — cutting grass. One day he was mowing a lawn and a fellow from the next house over asked if he’d do his lawn, too. The man had a woodshop and introduced Hallman to some of his methods, including the use of patterns.

“Woodworking is really in my blood,” says Hallman. “A lot of my ancestors were loggers and pulpers.” Hallman says his grandfather was an old-time sawyer — someone who assesses a log to determine how to get the most usable board out of it, then saws it. Modern sawyers, says Hallman, have computer technology to help determine the best way to cut logs, but in his grandfather’s day, they had to develop a keen eye and feel for the wood.

Inspired by what he learned from his new customer, the next thing Hallman tried his hand at was Adirondack furniture made from cherry, oak, walnut and cedar logs he harvested when local trees succumbed to storms or other forces. “That was profitable,” says Hallman, “but hauling it from show to show to sell it was a lot of work on top of my regular job.”

Hallman had a lot of wood scraps left over from his furniture making. “A neighbor asked if I would make him a cutting board from scraps he picked out. I made it and it looked awful.”

But when he ran the board through a planer, Hallman says it turned into a pretty piece of work and he started thinking about switching to the smaller items, in spite of a couple of people who discouraged him from going that route. “They said cutting boards were an item of the past.”

Hallman decided it was worth a try. He made around 40 boards, mixing woods to give them a unique look, and took them to a show in Blue Ridge. Within three hours he’d sold all of them. It was a two-weekend show, so he came home and worked double-time to make another 50 boards, all the while mowing his clients’ lawns.

Back in Blue Ridge, he sold his second batch of boards by noon Saturday. “That’s when I knew I was onto something,” says Hallman.

Hallman’s boards range from $15 to $130. The most popular ones — a 22x17-inch cutting board and a 22x10-inch cheese board — run around $22. He also makes rolling pins from mixed woods.

Using local recovered wood is what Hallman says enables him to keep his prices reasonable. When he’s collected enough wood, he hires someone to come to his home with a portable sawmill to cut it.

Hallman says he gets excited about trying new designs. While he does some custom work, he prefers not to. “I’m kind of a free spirit,” he says. “I like to do what I like to do, and if someone wants to buy it, that’s great. If not, that’s okay.”

“Everyone has a God-given talent,” says Hallman. “You just have to keep searching to find it. I’ve found mine.”

Hallman will be set up with his cutting boards and rolling pins at Camp Jordan in East Ridge, Tenn., July 30-31.