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Barreling right along

A Christmas tree made out of wine barrels.
A Christmas tree made out of wine barrels.

When Paso Robles neighbors Mark Gabler and John Carlisle decided to pursue a hobby together, it wasn’t to improve their golf game or take up kayaking. They decided to start abusiness, building furniture from used wine barrels.

Their joint venture, Over a Barrel, started early last year and took off quickly. To date they have produced about 350 pieces, including chairs, bar stools, tables, wine racks, pet beds and kitchen accessories.

Gabler and Carlisle source their barrels from Paso Robles wineries. The barrels are made from high-quality, knot-free oak, which is either American white oak or one of two similar species that grow in Europe. Most have been used to store wine for five years, during which time they have absorbed about six bottles worth of wine each.

“The exterior is avery nice oak color, and the interior varies depending on the toast of the barrel and the color of the wine that was inside it,” said Carlisle.

The furniture-building process takes about two weeks. They begin by disassembling the barrels and removing the steel hoops that hold the staves together. The wood is cleaned and sanded. Each stave is a unique shape, so they are sorted and selected for the various parts of the furniture.

Although Over a Barrel offer custom-stained furniture, most pieces are left unstained to highlight their unique coloration. They are finished with several coats of a high-quality oil-based wood sealer.

“We chose oil because it looks good, feels good, and stands up to UV and moisture,” said Gabler. “With polyurethane, it initially might look good, but once it begins to dry out you can’t put oil on top of it.”

Carlisle is a retired cardiologist. Gabler is a retired mechanical engineer and longtime woodworking hobbyist. With their respective backgrounds, they put a premium on how the furnishings feel to the body and how structurally sound they are. Each new piece goes through an extensive process of design, testing and rebuilding to get the combination right.

“We stand by our quality and workmanship,” Gabler said, noting that when a leg broke off a chair, “I personally delivered a replacement chair to the owner in Waco, Texas.”

Wineries themselves have been regular clients of Over a Barrel, as are wine tourists who have latched onto the idea that they can literally take home a piece of the Central Coast wine industry. To underscore this connection, Gabler and Carlisle include information with each piece of furniture stating the name of the cooper who originally built the barrel, the type of wood, the winery that used the barrel, and the last wine aged in the barrel.

“It’s a very holistic experience when you can drink the wine made in the chair you’re sitting in,” Gabler noted.

Over a Barrel is taking orders for wine barrel Christmas trees that come in three sizes and fold flat for storage.

Furniture is sold at trade shows and festivals as well as directly from their workshop.

The owners are in the process of opening up a Paso Robles showroom. Contact Over a Barrel by visiting its website at www.overabarrel.us   or calling 226-9782.

Reach Rebecca Juretic at rajuretic@sbcglobal.net .