Tony Derricotte of Greenfield uses liquor-soaked wood to craft fine furniture

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  • Tony Derricotte, owner of Wood & Barrel Company of Greenfield, says he admired the Adirondack chairs made from used wine barrels that he had seen in California and taught himself to make them. He also makes bar stools, tables and wine racks and other products from the liquor barrels. GAZETTE STAFF/AMANDA DRANE

  • Derricotte also makes bar stools, tables and wine racks from the liquor barrels. GAZETTE STAFF/AMANDA DRANE

  • Because the barrel pieces are all curved differently at different angles, Derricotte carefully measures each piece, marking it with a pencil. GAZETTE STAFF/AMANDA DRANE

  • Derricotte says coming up with the right design was a painstaking process. As he assembles the pieces, he refers to a sheet of yellow paper with hand-scrawled measurements and formulas. GAZETTE STAFF/AMANDA DRANE

  • “The rules of normal carpentry don’t apply,” Derricotte says of his craft. “There’s a lot of weird cuts and weird angles.”

  • “The rules of normal carpentry don’t apply,” Derricotte says of his craft. “There’s a lot of weird cuts and weird angles.” GAZETTE STAFF/AMANDA DRANE

  • Derricotte turned to making Adirondack chairs from liquor barrels when he was seeking a change from his career as a musician. He needed to devote more time to caring for his teenage daughter who was ill. GAZETTE STAFF/AMANDA DRANE

  • Derricotte has shipped his furniture to the Midwest and as far as California. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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Staff Writer
Published: 1/12/2017 8:35:13 PM

When his teenage daughter fell ill with a rare autoimmune disease five years ago, Tony Derricotte of Greenfield put his recording studio in a box in the closet.

Weeks turned to years as his daughter moved on and off life support. Time away from his gigs teaching music accumulated, and eventually he had to resign. But Derricotte, 55, says he didn’t move away from his music career begrudgingly. “It just felt like a past life for me,” he says. “I wanted to do something new.”

He found a new passion that enabled him to work on his own terms as his daughter mended: barrel-made finery. Now, as the owner of the Greenfield-based Wood & Barrel Company, he crafts furniture from reclaimed wine and whiskey barrels.

Derricotte says he’d fallen in love with the Adirondack chairs made of wine barrels that he saw around the vineyards of California. Two years ago, he put his decades of carpentry experience to use crafting a birthday surprise for his ex-wife.

“I just decided that I would figure out how to do it, and there was a market for it,” he says.

From the beginning, says Derricotte, the curved barrel pieces proved challenging to work with. He wanted the chairs to be both attractive and luxurious to sit in — not just “a pretty face with zero comfort.”

Though designing the first chairs was a grueling process of trial and error, Derricotte says he finally achieved what he sought. “I was surprised to find it was the most ergonomical, luxurious chair,” he says. “It just sort of became a weird obsession.”

‘Weird cuts, weird angles’

Now Derricotte orders shipments of barrels — hundreds at a time — housing them in a trailer smelling of booze outside his shop. To craft the reclaimed products he uses “everything but the glues and screws” from the barrels he orders. Alcohol fermented in the barrels gives the staves varying hues — red wine patinas offer a lipstick maroon, white wine gives a warm nutmeg color, and whiskey provides a blackened char.

One 50-gallon barrel yields one Adirondack chair, his signature item. Among other products, he uses the barrels — which range from 45 to 90 gallons — to make barstools, tables and wine racks.

To begin the process, he rolls a massive barrel off the stack and over to his workspace. Using a hammer, he peels back the metal framing and splays open the barrel from the top. Then he sands the staves down slightly to reveal their “inner character” and leaves some of the distressed wood finish. Because the resulting pieces are all curved differently at varying angles, he then carefully measures each piece, marking it with a pencil.

“The rules of normal carpentry don’t apply,” he says of his craft. “There’s a lot of weird cuts and weird angles.”

As he assembles the pieces, he refers to a sheet of yellow paper with hand-scrawled measurements and formulas. Without the pre-established formulas, Derricotte says he spent “forever” getting the designs right. “This is non-dimensional lumber,” he says, laughing as he inspects the disparate measurements. “It doesn’t know what it is.” Once he’s assembled the staves to his liking, he finishes it with a water-based biodegradable seal.

Branching out

He’s only a year into the business, but Derricotte says all signs are positive. The health of his daughter, now 19, has improved drastically. He says “she’s taking off on trips and doing stuff with friends that we wouldn’t imagine she would be doing two and half years ago.”

Still, he says her illness — Wegener’s granulomatosis, a condition which restricts blood flow to the organs — is life-long, and she requires regular treatment. While she’s healthy now it gives him peace of mind to know he can easily take time off from work if her illness flares up.

Most of his sales to date have gone to customers in the region, though some shipments have gone farther afield, to the Midwest and to California. Locally, his work is on display at Beerology in Northampton and at Lefty’s Brewing and Artisan Beverage Coop in Greenfield.

After an exhausting year spent making products he loves, Derricotte says the positive feedback has come rolling in. “At this point we’re really moving through a lot of product,” he says. “I feel really, really good about the potential.”

Amanda Drane can be reached at adrane@gazettenet.com.




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