For about a decade, Ron Bolan worked for high-end cabinetry companies in the area. He says he learned to be handy from his stepdad, who would regularly use his skills to transform the cheap rentals Bolan lived in growing up.
And while Bolan is clearly skilled in his craft, he says working for big companies felt like getting taken advantage of. He recalls seeing bosses make big bucks for work he couldn’t feel proud of, or seeing those same bosses fire his friends when they struggled to find childcare.
All of it led to his departure from the industry. He put in his two weeks’ notice this month.
Now, he hopes his new business — Bolan’s Barrels of Fun — will be an outlet for his passion. Down the road, he hopes to employ others looking to leave the industry like he did.
“I want people to come, be happy, enjoy what they do and go home happy instead of bummed,” he told The Chronicle. “I want people to not get taken advantage of.”
Bolan had his “grand reveal” this Tuesday, showcasing his handmade wine barrel fire pit tables to the public. The pieces — which come in three sizes, the “hang out,” the “Bolan barrel” and the “grub hub,” — are made from reclaimed wine barrels and industrial spools.
The Boistfort Valley resident finished his first one as a birthday gift to his wife last month. The tables are rustic yet glossy, with pieces of recycled glass that glimmer in the fire, fueled by a hidden propane tank. It was a departure in some ways from the chop blocks, spatulas and lazy Susans he’s been pumping out throughout the pandemic. And the community took notice, with several people on Facebook asking how they could acquire their own.
“You just became a millionaire,” one user commented.
That was just a few weeks ago, but Bolan and his family are dead set on keeping the ball rolling. The 50 wine barrels Bolan now has on hand are expected to last him a few months, and he’s already planning to build a new workshop at his 16-acre property to streamline the process.
Family members joke that this year’s birthday gift to his wife didn’t upstage what he made last year — a massive bed frame made from plumber pipe, mason jars and 30 varieties of wood, all reclaimed from pallets.
But this year’s gift of the fire pit table will hopefully be the gift that keeps on giving, in the form of a successful business.
With everything Bolan makes, his philosophy is to reduce, reuse and recycle. Hence the pallet bed frame. He remembers working at cabinetry companies and throwing away significant amounts of wood at the end of the day.
“These are literally just getting smashed and getting thrown in landfills,” he said of the industrial-sized spools in his backyard. “A lot of different stuff gets thrown away, and I don’t like it.”
He now pays a local electrician to save the spools, which are used to wrap up things like fiber optic cables, but now serve as finished table tops.
The sustainable model has other perks, too. While the material to build one fire pit table can run hundreds of dollars, most of Bolan’s scraps are saved to use for other projects. The tops of the barrels, for example, are turned into dog beds, which Bolan can customize with pets’ names.
Even the branding iron used on some of Bolans’ pieces is reused in some sense. The “R” brand was first used by relatives in the 1800s to brand cows in the Big Hanaford area. Bolan’s father-in-law, Rod “Hot Rod” Rector, who used it on cows decades ago, had the idea to revive the branding iron for Bolan’s woodwork.
Bolan says the next step in his business is to learn how to make things like chairs — adjustable adirondack chairs with wine glass holders — and to start collaborating with other local artisans, like leather workers. He’s also looking to incorporate some art from his family members, who belong to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.
“Everything about it feels good,” Bolan said. “Everybody’s been receptive in a really good way.”
Learn more by searching @BolanBarrelsofFun on Facebook. Bolan can be reached at 360-515-1441.