Add Event My Events Log In

Upcoming Events


    Print this page

    “Those are barrel staves from Maker’s Mark,” Chelsea Hackbarth says. “But today we’re working with wood from Whiskey Row” — the historic stretch of buildings on Main Street soaked in bourbon history. She holds up an eight-foot-long wood plank that’s two feet wide and four inches thick. “This is a 150-year-old floor joist,” she says.

    Hackbarth works at StoryWood Bowties, the company founded in 2016 by Ali Muhammad, who’s in his mid-20s. StoryWood produces and sells bow ties, cufflinks, pocket squares and belt buckles made from salvaged wood, including spindles from Churchill Downs (the result of a 2011 remodel), a wooden roof shingle from John Wayne’s birthplace in Iowa and a small piece from DuBois School in Mount Sterling, the last school in Kentucky to integrate.

    To begin, Hackbarth takes wood to FirstBuild at U of L, where she can use “all the big power tools.” A table saw slices the wood into foot-long strips as thin as five millimeters. Back at StoryWood’s 800-square-foot workshop on Myrtle Street in Old Louisville, Hackbarth places a wood strip inside a hefty laser-cutting machine that she calls “Betsy.” “If you give them a name, they like to work with you better,” she says. On a computer, she selects one of the 14 designs ranging from fleurs-de-lis to horses. “This cut will take about 20 minutes,” she shouts over an industrial humming noise. Clamps, wood glues and aerosol cans clutter a plastic folding table. Hackbarth uses three different kinds of sandpaper to smooth and polish each lasered piece. A lime-green toothbrush removes residual dust from crevices. Then she glues pieces together. “Sometimes I use Super Glue on the tiny pieces. I also use Wood Fusion or, if it’s a really tough piece, contact cement,” she says. She seals it with polyurethane on the back, shellac on the front. “Then they go in the drying box,” she says with a laugh, pointing to a Louisville Slugger cardboard box with a purple UV lamp sticking out of one end. Each piece gets five to seven coats.

    Hackbarth makes the no-tie straps with a sewing machine, stitching a metal clamp to a brown piece of ribbon. “Luckily my mom was a seamstress or I would have no idea what I was doing here,” she says.

    This originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.


    Share On:

    Katie Molck's picture

    About Katie Molck

    Loretta Lynn is the best country music singer of all time and if you don't like pickled foods, you can leave.

    More from author:    

    Upcoming Events

      Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or RSS

      Event Finder

      Louisville Tickets