Matt Thomas mixes blacksmithing and woodworking at Thomas|Works, his 950-square-foot studio in Schock, WV, where he fabricates contoured cherry wood home furnishings inlaid with hand-forged iron.

On one piece, curving iron vines adorn the sharp angles and austere lines of a cherry wood bench. Blending wood and iron in functional beauty, Thomas forges like a blacksmith, with hammer, fire and anvil.

“Bending iron requires a temperature in excess of 2,000 degrees. Obviously, heat this intense would scorch wood,” says Thomas. “With each piece of wood furniture that requires ironwork, I have to make a prototype in steel first. Wrapping an iron vine around a wooden leg requires a metal ‘stunt double.’”

To fabricate twisting, climbing vines, Thomas creates metal table legs identical to the wood legs. He takes the metal vine hot off the forge and, while it is still malleable, forms it around the metal leg. When it cools, he removes the vine from the metal leg and installs it on the wooden piece.

Thomas refined his production process to a tight sequence of steps, using specialized jigs with dedicated machines.

“My woodworking business is very production oriented,” he said. “With my wholesale product line, I know precisely how much money I have in materials and how many minutes it takes me to make each piece. While it may be monotonous to complete 100 sushi sets at a time, I enjoy the dependable source of income they represent.”

A former contractor, Thomas suffered a 16-foot plunge in July 2011 that fractured his vertebrae. The experience led him back to his woodworking roots..

Thomas recently developed 200 media kits. Aided by West Virginia Depts. of Commerce and Agriculture grants, he exhibited at the Buyers Market of American Craft. Now, Thomas|Work pieces are found in art galleries coast to coast.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.