Making Merry: Black Hills Woodworks

By Denise DePaolo

Images by Elizabeth Lucille Photography

Black Hills Woodworks owner Adam Horton was never interested in shop class, which makes his new venture as surprising to him as anyone. But after 8 years in the Navy, and some time spent in Seattle, Brookings-born Yankton-raised Horton found himself taking over his family’s Hot Springs bison ranch, and surrounded by one prominent material.

“I noticed there was a lot of wood,” he explained. “Some old buildings, some old barns sitting around the property. My dad said, ‘Why don’t you pile it up and burn it?’ And that’s what a lot of people do, especially West River. But I thought it was great old wood, and decided to build myself a coffee table.”

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That table led to others, and shelves, desk accessories, toolboxes, and much more – all created from the cedar and ponderosa pine found on the property. When he needed to replace the old fence with a new eight-footer, he dug out the posts and made floating shelves. Although the self-taught maker has been building furniture for just over a year, his work already bears distinctive hallmarks. First and foremost, the natural character of the wood remains prominent.

“The legs here are original true 2x4s,” said Horton, pointing to one of his desks. “You’re not going to see them like this anymore, because they’re 110-plus years old. They don’t cut lumber like this today.”

Another important element in Horton’s work is the absence of visible screws or bolts. This means he has to essentially build each piece from the inside out. And lastly, each piece is incredibly durable.

“I stand or lay on all of my furniture,” he said. “Sometimes I use old pieces of iron I found out in the pasture for extra strength.”

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Read the full article and meet the other makers in the December issue, or click here