Bob Brewer stands in front of his artwork at In The Woods in Bar Harbor. PHOTO COURTESY OF BOB BREWER

Brewer gets constructive during pandemic

Brewer’s celebrity wood art collection. PHOTO COURTESY OF BOB BREWER.

BAR HARBOR When Air Force veteran Bob Brewer moved back to Bar Harbor from East Hampton, Conn., he got a job at In The Woods, which is a locally hand-crafted gift shop specializing in wooden creations. Working there inspired Brewer to work with wood. 

The pandemic could have ushered in a whole new level of boredom, but instead gave Brewer more time with his new hobby: wood fretwork. Little did he know at the time that one day his hobby would develop into something profitable. 

Brewer now sells his products where he works, but before he was able to create any sort of product, he had to start somewhere. “I first started with a hobby saw, then I moved onto a topical line saw,” he said. A topical line saw has a string-like blade, otherwise known as a spiral blade,’ that can move around, cutting wood. The specific saw is very useful for fretwork, he said 

Wood fretwork produces an interlaced decorative design that requires a pattern to be cut out with a saw. To avoid copyright infringements, Brewer buys specific patterns from vendors. He then prints the pattern and glues it to Baltic birch plywood, which is a very thin wood. When he is ready to cut his design, a hole gets injected into the black part of the pattern glued to the wood and the saw’s spiral blade weaves around those darker pattern portions.  

After the design is cut out, it is ready for display. Brewer enjoys placing the cutout on top of a surface that will contrast with the wood color. “Any type of wood or colored board that helps the design pop [out] will work,” he said. It is then ready to be framed. 

Fortunately for Brewer, the owners of In The Woods have allowed him space in the shop to showcase his wood cutouts of celebrities, cartoon characters, politicians and superheroes. People have even asked him to do custom family portraits, which he plans to do at some point. 

“You can make all sorts of things with fretwork, the possibilities are endless,” he said. Brewer has plans to make his own patterns from submitted photos as well as make handmade frames for his cutouts. He is determined to go custom and eventually create boxes, shelves and other specialty items.  

“There has been a controversy about the difference between ‘handmade’ and ‘homemade’nowadays people use laser cutters, just press a button and label it for sale online as ‘homemade, but that’s no fun,” he said. Brewer said someday he will sell his products on third-party websites like Etsy and Facebook with hopes he won’t be competing for sales with those who aren’t as authentic as they claim to be. 

Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers news and features in the Bar Harbor area. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.
Ninah Rein

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