The Most Beautiful Details

A peek into a master woodworker's shop

The warm scent of sawdust swirls around as you step into Rob Dearing’s workshop. Tables and shelves are stacked with planks and beams of varying lengths and textures, with no two exactly alike. And that’s precisely how Rob likes them best: unique and brimming with character.

With an almost impish grin, he beckons me over to see one of the tables that he is constructing for the Outpost office. “Check this out,” he says, running his fingers over a shimmering chunk of metal embedded in the freshly-sanded slab of reclaimed wood. I examine the anomaly for a moment before he explains: “It’s a bullet lodged in there! It could have been in the tree before it was cut, or shot into the beam later on. Pretty cool, huh?”

 I vividly recall the first time I met Rob. As a brand new recruit on the local fire department, I was required to complete a series of physical tasks to prove my level of fitness. Positively vibrating with anxiety and adrenaline, I silently launched into my tasks, eager to get the test behind me. Clipboard in hand, Rob followed along, documenting my completion. Then, as I am huffing my way up flights of stairs carrying a hose pack, in full turnout gear and mask, he cheerfully smiles asks, “So what brought you to the department?”

In that moment, I was rendered entirely speechless. His inquiry was so genuine and friendly. I was not only completely out of breath battling stairs, but the only words that leapt to mind were strings of utter profanity in my focused fight through nerves and agony. Fortunately, good sense and heavy panting kept me quiet, and I recall shooting him a glance that at once begged for mercy and threatened a terrible outcome for further conversation attempts.

Thankfully, my sweaty hostility didn’t leave a lasting impression, and I had the privilege of serving under his leadership for the next five years.

***

One of a kind, handmade distinctive pieces like Outpost’s new table are truly Rob’s passion. In fact, he exclusively creates custom pieces of furniture, almost entirely by customer request. No cookie-cutter projects here. Many of his materials are reclaimed, lending them breathtaking diversity in color, texture and even shape. What’s more impressive is his ability to see beyond the rough exterior of an old, dented slice and envision the sophisticated piece it could become.

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robd-006His mother an antique expert, and his father enjoying woodworking as a lifelong hobby, Rob was raised surrounded by creative and distinctive furniture. Both of these influences have stuck with him, as he not only designs and creates, but also repairs broken or damaged pieces with remarkable ability. He keeps a portfolio of photos of these projects, an array of broken chair arms, table legs chewed by mischievous dogs and other decorative items forgotten in attics and neglected in garages for decades. The “after” pictures are astounding – his ability to repair and replace down to the finest detail is truly impressive.

Rob opened his own business, Dearing Furniture Workshop, six years ago, after years of honing his expertise at under the guidance of another Jackson Hole antique dealer.

Some of Rob’s favorite projects are those that he’s collaborated on with Grand Teton National Park in their efforts to restore original pieces in historic locations around the park. “I especially love the local lodgepole pine pieces,” he reflects. Something about the deeply local connection of the material and the Western mountain flair of these pieces strike Rob as particularly enjoyable to create and refurbish.

Perhaps his tendency to relish shaping the fruits of the local landscape are related to his one of his earliest jobs in the area: fighting wildfires. While it’s no longer his job, fighting fires still keeps Rob busy. A volunteer captain with Jackson Hole Fire/EMS, he’s expanded his emergency response expertise to include emergency medicine, structural firefighting and more. His favorite challenge, though, is preparing for an incident involving hazardous materials.

Compared to building fires or car accidents, he says, HazMat is more like fighting a wildfire. “Overall, it’s a slower pace. You have to take the time to make sure you know what you’re going into, and that way you do it right.”

***

One frigid November afternoon a few years ago, something terrible happened. Liquid propane, while being transferred from a truck to an underground tank, leaked and ignited. Miraculously, nobody was killed, and the most serious injuries were some minor scrapes and bruises when a few people fled through a broken window. The pillar of roaring, curling flames towered nearly a hundred feet into the sky, snarling from red and orange flame into billowing black smoke.

It’s not easy to gear up and march confidently toward something like that, but that’s precisely what Rob – among others – did. He relied on his education and training, and his cool head brought a sense of calm to the scene. On that icy day, he knew precisely how much worse the situation could have become if not handled properly.

It’s a little less nerve-wracking to climb out of a truck and head into uncertainty with someone like Rob leading the way.

The same patience, attention to detail and genuine care make Rob so talented in his workshop. Every piece is the result of hours of careful work, tailored to fit the space and unique vision of individual clients.

Should you have a project in mind – an old piece begging for new life, or a brand new creation to fit a precise spot – you’ll find him among the stacks of rugged timber, likely coated in a light dusting of sawdust, completely in his element.

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