Bret Hardisty's Woodwork is Rough Around the Edges
All three floors of the Lake Charles Civic Center are rocking as the annual Culture Fest kicks into high gear on a recent Saturday afternoon.
There are people representing many countries from across the globe strolling around in colorful, splashy native garb. There are flowing robes and gowns, flashy jewelry, lavish headdresses, long sashes, big metal bracelets and elaborate makeup.
On the center stage is a small but enthusiastic group of musicians banging on drums and cymbals with abandon as three Chinese costumed dragons dance around to the tempo and move in close to groups of children in the crowd.
Through all the excitement and clamor, Bret Hardisty has managed to capture the attention of a steady stream of shoppers stopping by his booth at the Culture Fest. Hardisty, single proprietor of his Rough Around the Edges woodworking business, is there to take in the sights and sounds, but he’s also there to showcase his own works of art.
Actually, don’t call them works of art because Hardisty has a problem with that.
He makes an array of products out of exotic hard wood species that take on fascinating shapes and designs. But he emphasizes that he wants them to be used, not just hung on a wall for viewing.
“I appreciate the fact that some people see the artistic merit in what I do, but I don’t consider myself an artist. I’m maybe more of a craftsman, if anything,” said Hardisty. “If I make something and somebody says they’re just going to put it up on the wall, that bothers me. I want you to use it. I like the functionality of what I make. I like for everything to have a purpose.”
For each of the many festival-goers who stop by, Hardisty holds up his own personal cutting board that he has been using for years to chop up the onions and
vegetables that go into his cooking pot. He lifts it up and flips it back and forth to show both sides. Not a scratch on it, he boasts.
It’s taken a bit of trial-and-error to get to the point of delivering a product that looks good yet also holds up to the rigors of frequent use.
It all started several years ago when his grandfather passed away before completing a home he was building in the Pitkin community. After college, Hardisty decided to finish the house and later relocated there.
While going through his grandfather’s shop, Hardisty ran across an assortment of woodworking and metalworking implements along with an eclectic set of other unrelated items such as a sailboat.
“He wasn’t a woodworker or metalworker as far as I knew. He just liked to collect a lot of things just to say he had them,” Hardisty explained.
He brought the sailboat to Lake Charles one afternoon to try his hand at navigating the waters, but it was the woodworking tools that interested him the most. He bought a couple of boards and started putting the chisels, presses and table saw through their paces.
He liked the challenge of creating something out of
“I pick every piece by hand and if I love it, I love it; if I hate it, I hate it,” he said. “The beauty is already right in the wood. The challenge is to find it and bring it out.” Hardisty said that when he started out he “couldn’t tell one species from the next.” Now he becomes captivated by the mere smell of the various species and can identify the types by their scent.
For durability, Hardisty works strictly with hardwoods including domestic species such as ambrosia maple, walnut, cherry, hickory, beech and ash. He also
works with foreign varieties such as African mahogany, purple heart, andiroba and wenge.
When it comes to craftsmanship, Hardisty said the