Since an early age, local craftsman Ken Werbach has enjoyed restoring furniture, antiques and woodworking.
He was raised in Denver, Colo.
“My parents and my aunt had a cabin up in the mountains in a ghost town — that was in 1960,” he said. “We would go up there, spend the week or two up there, we would go digging in dumps and searching around in looking at old buildings. Digging around in dumps was exciting to me I thought and the neatest thing I thought, when I was when I was 5 years old, we went up on a mountain there and there is a cabin there. All of the furniture was there, tables still had dishes on them. Upstairs, there was a big brass bed. I guess that was the start of my interest.”
Later on, his aunt became an antique dealer in Denver and showed him some things.
“When I was 16 years old, my dad and mom started refinishing a little bit of furniture and setting up at the dog track at Colorado Springs, Colo., selling on the weekends,” he said. “So I would go and hit the Big Nickel when it came off of the press, run all of the garage sales. I would be quite a bit of stuff furniture and everything, my mom and dad would set up at the dog track and sell it. My mom would do antique shows about once every two or three months. And that is my start of the antique business back in the 1970s.”
Werbach then served in the military, then landed a civilian job.
“What started me doing this again was in 1988, when I went to school in Ft. Scott, Kan., it was supplemental income, when I was going to school, to refinishing furniture for people,” he said.
Werbach built that into a business in Ft. Scott for about 10 years.
“Ft. Scott was declining as far as all of the businesses were kept moving out, and nothing was replacing them,” he noted. “What I did, I worked myself out of a job, I did everybody’s work and friends for what they needed.”
Then one day, he was watching the Furniture Show on the Home and Garden Channel and ran across an episode called Barn Again.
“They would take pictures of some of these old barns they wanted torn down, they would build armoires and entertainment centers out of the weathered wood,” he said. “That hit me like a ton of bricks. That is so cool; I wonder what that wood would look like if you planed it, to get it down to the natural look of the wood. So I went and got hunk of barn wood.”
Page 2 of 2 - Today, he has a business called Hidden Treasures, which is located just outside of Neosho.
“I specialize in making tables and furniture out of old lumber,” he said. “The furniture I make is made from antique pine, oak, walnut, maple, cherry and other native lumber. Every piece is individually crafted using hand selected reclaimed lumber. This rescued historical material is from 100-plus-year-old barns, outbuildings, commercial buildings and houses.”
As far as where he gets his barn wood, Werbach said from a friend in Ft. Scott.
“He tears buildings and barns down and I buy it from him,” he said.
According to his website, www.barnseeker.com, “This lumber dates from turn-of-the-century or older where timber was abundant and big. Logs were taken from forest and sent down rivers to the mill. The material used in these pieces is old growth lumber. The density and tight grain of this wood is unlike the lumber you buy today. The circular saw marks from the old mill, nail and bolt holes and the patina that comes after 100 years of aging makes every piece entirely unique and none are identical except for the design. I spend a great amount of time painstakingly sanding this material to achieve a smooth, luxurious texture without losing the original characteristics of the aged wood.”
He also makes furniture out of new native hardwood lumber, which he has selected, from a local small sawmill.
Werbach enjoys his work.
“I have restored antique furniture for 26 years and have been building furniture for 26 years and have been building furniture for 12 years,” he said.
On his website, there are different items he has worked on that customers can view, including tables, cabinets, bookshelves, filing cabinets, and more. For more information, call 479-616-6622.