photographs by George Hanstein
Stepping into Russ Gleaves’s workshop, well off the beaten path in the town of Hope, is like stepping back in time. Gleaves is a self-taught cabinetmaker and rustic furniture craftsman who has been building in the Adirondack woodworking tradition for more than 20 years. His shop reflects his love of all things old.
The workshop, formerly known as Allen and Palmer Hardware and Tack, was built by two Civil War veterans in the town of Northville in 1873. Gleaves acquired the building in 2007, after it had been condemned. He disassembled it piece by piece—a process that he says was like opening a time capsule—and rebuilt it where it now stands. It’s filled with antiques that Gleaves has collected over the years. Although beautiful, his collection is not for decoration; he uses the planes and other old hand tools in his craft.
Gleaves learned woodworking skills and attention to detail from his father, a luthier, and his mother, who added mother-of-pearl inlays to guitar necks. The family lived in an off-the-grid log cabin that his father built in Edinburg in the 1970s, a lifestyle that Gleaves says taught him patience.
When you look at his work—which includes everything from side tables to entire house interiors—you can’t help but notice the patience and attention to detail involved. The joinery is meticulous. Gleaves uses a traditional technique called cope and stick, which makes the fit so perfect that the sections seem like they grew together. A single piece of furniture can take six months or more to build.
Much of the material that Gleaves uses is sourced from local loggers, who often bring interesting logs or burls to his shop. “It’s fun to pull into the driveway and see what’s been dropped off,” he says. He also spends hours in Adirondack forests himself, searching for the perfect pieces of wood for his projects. When he finds what he’s looking for, he says he can visualize exactly how it will be used.
Gleaves is known for his twig work, hand-planed surfaces, and the burl veneers that he often uses on the front of cabinets. “I like furniture that has a personality,” he says. “Something unique.”
Much of his work is commissioned by collectors, many who discover him at Adirondack Experience’s Rustic Furniture Fair, which happens in Blue Mountain Lake every September. Some of his furniture is on display at L. Post Rustics Artisan Furniture & Fine Art Gallery, in Lake Placid.
Customers can also visit him at his shop, on his Hope Falls property, where Gleaves says he feels fortunate to be doing what he loves in a place he loves. “I can pop out of bed and go to work in the morning. I love to create. I’m happiest right in the middle of building something.”
Find Hope Falls Rustic (518-863-6927, www.hopefallsrustic.com) at 448 Hope Falls Road.