Craftsmen work miracles at the Upper Mill 'Enough slabs to keep me going': Woodworkers Eric Bufano and Bob Hartman bring out the gorgeousness of the grain
Bob Hartman (left) and Eric Bufano (Photo by Linda Fields)
By Linda Fields MILFORD — It is fitting, although not widely advertised, that the Historic Upper Mill, where a wheelwright and a blacksmith once worked, now houses a workspace for two artisans who work miracles with wood and metal. They don’t have to advertise because word of mouth speaks loudly. Both of them entertain commission work, but also offer unique finished pieces with price tags that could reach thousands of dollars. Eric Bufano operates his shop on Mill Street, across from the actual waterwheel. His expertise ranges from interior custom woodworking to sculpture. After studying at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, Bufano found he had a talent in carpentry. “I started out helping a friend on a project, and found I was better at it than the people hired for the job,” he said. So he formed a partnership to build houses, one prominently featured in the film “The Joy Luck Club." Working out West and, later, in New York City before making a home in Milford, Bufano plied his talent on high-end custom furniture and staircases, among other interior pieces such as stereo cabinets. On display at his shop you will find a mid-century modern walnut table with zebrawood legs and a cherry and ebony jewelry box with sterling initials. His work can also be seen locally at the Fauchere Hotel, where he helped restore the interior staircase handrails. When he isn’t working in wood, Bufano sculpts in bronze and soapstone. His workshop is open by appointment by callinng 570-618-2158 or emailing email@example.com. It starts with a treeBob Hartman — who, with partners, bought and restored the Upper Mill — has a workshop upstairs from Bufano. Hartman has been working wonders in wood for four decades and has a background in high-end residential and commercial furniture. Many of his pieces are made largely from locally sourced well-seasoned wood. His spalted (containing blackish irregular lines caused by fungal decay) copper beech table was crafted from a tree harvested in Milford — in fact, from the yard of Shade Tree Commissioner Valerie Myer. The table has a base that can be turned so the top can sit at three different heights. “The tree had stood dead and had a bacterial infection and that’s what actually causes the dramatic coloration," Hartman said. "Folklore has it that Gifford Pinchot had something to do with the planting of this and another tree in her yard.” Other pieces include a nine-legged walnut chair and an 82-inch long black walnut single slab live edge table with copper inlays. The legs are repurposed inverted soda fountain pedestals taken out of Milford's Forest Hall. Hartman’s walnut slabs have been drying for a quarter century. Hartman says he’s semi-retired but admits, “I’m encouraged by a challenge. I have enough slabs to keep me going for a long time.” For more information, Hartman’s Hardwoods may be reached at 570-296-5141.