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The functional art of Lovettsville’s John Bestwick

John Bestwick plays his guitar while lounging in one of his Adirondack chairs crafted from wine barrels. Times-Mirror/Ed Felker
Just north of a low-lying stretch of land outside Lovettsville known as Jumbo Bottom, John Bestwick makes unique furniture, beautiful music, and easy conversation in a 294-square-foot roadside shop. The clean, quaint, well-organized shop is home to Jumbo Bottom Barrel Works. Inside, two of John’s works of functional art sit at one end – large, extraordinarily comfortable Adirondack style chairs made entirely from the wood of wine barrels.

Bestwick, a second-generation woodworker, grew up working with his carpenter dad as a kid. He has since built barns, worked with restoration crews rebuilding older homes and learned finer carpentry skills building cabinets. For a while he even built and installed custom wine cellars. He toyed with the idea of building something from wine barrels, and when he came back to Virginia’s wine country, he set out to do just that.

He started by buying nine local barrels, and began figuring out what he could yield from a barrel to justify its cost.

“The first thing I built was an Adirondack chair. As soon as I did that I realized that the potential was endless for barrel furniture,” he said. “And I realized how comfortable these things can be.”

The chairs quickly became popular, and Jumbo Bottom Barrel Works was born.

“They just got so popular so quickly that the rest is history,” he said.

Taking the basic Adirondack format, which is quite comfortable to begin with, and building it with gently curved boards throughout makes for a lounging experience you must experience first-hand. “Everything just fits you,” Bestwick said.

All wine barrels are different. It’s a craft to build a barrel and select the right pieces to make them water tight. Accordingly, no two wine barrel chairs are the same. If Bestwick gets an order for multiple chairs, he must carefully select barrels with similar height, curve, and color on the outside wood.

The small shop and the nature of barrel furniture means that each piece is crafted one at a time, receiving full attention from start to finish. He cuts one chair out entirely before assembly.

Business is good, but all small businesses have challenges. There is increasing competition for local wine barrels, for instance, because the growing brewery industry here wants them as well. But Bestwick looks for end user, retired barrels. “Ultimately I would like to have the end result, and then turn them into something useful for the rest of its life,” Bestwick said.

Jumbo Bottom gets business from roadside traffic, from festivals and events, and online sales. Visit www.jumbobottom.com for information on upcoming shop tours or other events, or to order your wine barrel furniture.

And if you’d like to experience Bestwick’s other creative outlet, catch the Short Hill Mountain Boys playing at a restaurant, brewery or barn party near you. An evening of old time music from John and his friends is as comfortable as a Jumbo Bottom wine barrel chair.


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