Bradley Stahle (left) with Andrew Divoff, owner of the Three Marm Brewing Co., behind the bar Stahle repurposed. He inserted the Three Marm logo into the bar and backlit it (inset).
Bradley Stahle created these lanterns with magnetic faceplates that feature seasonal designs or custom ones like this bear scene.
A barrel fire pit like this one was one of the first products Bradley Stahle showed at a fair.
Teak house signs are a popular Rusty Nail Heritage Woodworks product.
Scrabble anyone? These tiles can be taped up on a wall.
This A-frame cabin bed would delight any youngster.
This craftsman put his passion to work
By Mary-Justine Lanyon
It was his high school wood shop teacher, Bob Haggart, at Clakamas High School near Portland, Ore., who instilled a passion for working with wood in Bradley Stahle.
Years later, Stahle has turned that passion into his life’s work.
Stahle had been commuting back and forth to China for his work with contract manufacturers. His apartment in Marina Del Rey, he said “was the most expensive storage” as he spent up to 10 months in China.
He was pining to get back to four seasons and wanted to escape the noise and crowds of China. What he discovered were the mountain communities, where he moved in 2003.
“I was looking for elbow room, space, something that was an easy commute to LAX,” Stahle said.
His sister was living and working in Tokyo, teaching English. Stahle would fly to Tokyo on a Thursday, visit with his sister for the weekend, then take the four-hour flight to China for work.
And that was how he met his wife, who was one of his sister’s adult students.
In 2004, Stahle started his own company, manufacturing products in China. He continued doing that until 2009, when the factory where he was working was locked down and the building chained. He was not allowed in to retrieve his injection molding equipment, which mysteriously disappeared.
The first company he had worked for called him back to run their product development division. That meant fewer trips to Asia and more time on the mountain.
Finally, Stahle was able to turn what had been a hobby into a business – Rusty Nail Heritage Woodworks.
“My cousin,” Stahle said, “invited me to participate in the Brewery Art Walk in Los Angeles.” He showed his whiskey barrel fire pit, a farmhouse dining table, a dog bed made out of a wine barrel – “artsy woodworking projects,” he noted.
“I met the owner of the Andy Warhol museum, who asked me if I wanted to do some stuff for the museum.” The first project was a storage closet – “not glamorous at all,” Stahle said. But then he got to create a movable wall in the middle of the studio. He did additional projects for the museum but tired of commuting into Los Angeles.
In 2021, he got into a conversation with Andrew Divoff, the owner of Three Marm Brewing in Crestline. “He asked me what I did,” Stahle said. “I showed him my barrel fire pits, which he liked but we never did them for the brewery.”
What Stahle did do was repurpose the existing bar. “Andy gave me some reclaimed redwood pickets from his fence. I filled the knotholes with resin and arranged them so the grain of the wood fans out.” He also cut a hole and inserted the Three Marm logo into the bar and backlit it. In addition, he built the wall behind the bar where the taps are located.
As the project was finished, people took notice and started calling Stahle. That led to him deciding to participate in local farmers and artisan markets. The first was the Friday night market at Lake Gregory, where he took his lanterns and signs. He also was at the Fall Festival in Top Town, the winter festival at Havenwood in Running Springs, the Sunday craft fair in Blue Jay by the cinema and the Christmas market that took place during the run of A Christmas Carol. He hopes to be in the Running Springs farmers market and artisan fair this spring.
The lanterns are one of his best sellers. The front faceplate is magnetic and so can be changed out with the season. Some designs he cuts out of the wood relate to holidays, like Halloween. He has even created a bear scene and one of the Chicago skyline for a customer.
Much of his work now is custom signs for houses. The sign may have the cabin’s name or the family name and address. “I design them with the client’s direction,” Stahle said, “and come up with two or three options.” The size can vary, as can the species of wood.
But Stahle’s passion is for custom furniture. “I’m putting my product development skills to work,” he said. He is currently working on developing a line of patio furniture – folding Adirondack chairs and folding tables – which he hopes to take to farmers markets in time for next summer. Why folding? “You need to store the furniture inside, given our winter weather,” Stahle said. “I see a problem and create a solution.”
He also makes live-edge tables, bar tops, shelving, mantels, resin river tables in a variety of sizes, even wine racks. “I’ll make anything the customer wants me to build,” he said.
He has made several themed beds for children, including a Jeep with reclaimed ATV tires that has been on consignment at Country Furniture. He also created an A-frame cabin bed with a trundle that slides out.
Thinking back on his high school wood shop, Stahle recalled that the program was on the chopping block his sophomore year. “We had already lost the auto and metal shops. Our teacher used this as an opportunity to create a student-run business.”
What Mr. Haggart said to his students was, “If you want a wood shop, you have to pay for it.” The students learned how to frame a room and how to do electrical work and created an office for their business. “We manufactured Adirondack furniture,” Stahle said, “and saved the wood shop.” And the wood shop students donated some of their earnings to other threatened programs at the school.
“I credit that experience with why I enjoy the trades – for my passion for woodworking.”
Stahle is happy to hear about the wood shop at Rim of the World High School. “I wish we put more emphasis on the trades,” he said. “We are losing skills. And not everyone is cut out for the university track.”
Stahle works out of his wood shop in Crestline. He does not yet have his own retail space but hopes to one day. In addition to taking his work to farmers markets, Stahle creates gifts for real estate agents to give to their clients as closing gifts – personalized charcuterie boards, cutting boards, house signs. The agent, Stahle said, buys a batch of 10 and then he personalizes them when the sale takes place.
As for the name of his company, Stahle said he wants to build furniture that is not disposable but will last for generations. “That’s where the ‘heritage’ part of the name comes from,” he said.
To contact Stahle about creating a piece of furniture or to find out where his products will be on display, call or text him at (408) 685-4087, email him at [email protected] or visit Rusty Nail Heritage on Facebook or Instagram.