You may not have heard of Chris Gleason yet, but in the world of wood working, this up-and-coming Salt Lake City craftsman is an amazing local success story.
by Heidi Grieser
Master woodworker Chris Gleason picks up a banjo he recently made for a friend and plays a song. He’s wearing sandals and talking about his band, Bueno Avenue Stringband. “30, 40, or 50 people, of all ages come and we have a bonfire out back.” Chris adds that they all come and enjoy square dancing and beer.
Leading me to the wood shed behind his downtown studio at 630 West Girard, I see it’s stuffed with reclaimed wood and materials. His earth friendly designs are much lauded for not only the use of recycled materials, but also Chris’s commitment to using non-toxic paints and finishes. “It’s also the cheapest—Lowe’s Olympic Line,” says Chris.
In just 12 years as a custom furniture and cabinetmaker for home and commercial settings, Chris has won numerous design and craftsman accolades, and he has just finished writing his eighth book of projects, this one on chicken coops. His goal is to write 10 books in 10 years. Chris was fortunate enough to recently land a book deal for two additional books after his current project. His next book will be available at every Lowe’s and Home Depot in the country.
Chris can now focus solely on designs and writing, but Chis tells me exclusive design and writing “would get boring.” Chis says he enjoys the back-and-forth collaboration he has with his custom woodworking clients.
Chris has mastered many aspects of the woodworking trade. He says, “I put my focus where I can do my best work. Some days I wake up and I want to build cabinet doors— so I do. Then I won’t want to build the drawers—so I won’t. Because I know in the near future I will wake up and desperately want to build the drawers. ‘Know thyself,’ I think that’s key.”
Never intending to pursue a career in woodworking, Chris got his start after receiving a challenge from a friend.
“I was just out of college, and I happened to need a massage table for some other work I was doing. They were like $500, but it could have been $5,000 to me. I just didn’t have the money.”
“Then my friend said, ‘I bet you could make that.’” Chris humbly reports that his first massage table didn’t turn out too well. “It was horrible,” he says. “But I guess not really, because people started ordering them.”
Chris’ first shop was located in half of a red barn in upstate New York, which he found by chance while driving to the countryside. “So I quit my job with $200 to my name and no tools. I sold my mountain bike to buy a table saw, and I started building these massage tables.” He says he has built so many that he’s shipped them to almost all 50 states.
To contact Salt Lake City’s famed craftsman, teacher, father, banjo player, recycler, and square dancer Chris Gleason, visit: chrisgleason.squarespace.com