Dewitt Harrison: Loblolly Woodshop

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by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace

When visiting his home, it’s hard to imagine that at one point in his life, Dewitt Harrison didn’t enjoy woodworking. In fact, he came rather close to hating it. His father built houses for years, and as Harrison puts it, he was a bit of a perfectionist; so when he was growing up, he said working on projects with his dad was too torturous of a task to be enjoyable. About 25 years ago, that feeling changed.

“He’s hard to work with – he’s such a perfectionist,” he said. “Growing up, I didn’t like doing that. But now, now I enjoy it. We work together a good bit now.”

His house, which Harrison began building with his father in 1997, started off as a weekend retreat. He and his wife, Kathy, were living in Corinth with their two daughters. The cabin was built in the couple’s hometown, Coffeeville, directly behind Kathy’s parents’ place. Originally, the cabin wasn’t all that large: it had a kitchen, a living area, and enough rooms for their family.

After completing their home, they eventually moved in 2007. In the next two years, he added on the next addition – more bedrooms and a large living area with a custom entertainment piece. He rearranged the first portion of the home to make it all flow: changed a bedroom into a dining room, swapped a window for a door. Later, he built his woodshop, too.

Though he just retired in April of 2019, the 56-year-old has already found he needs to keep himself busy.

“If I sit still I get so bored,” he said. “If I’m not doing something I’ll go nuts.”

He worked for a gas pipeline company for 27 years, and said it was a pretty fast-paced gig. Though a self-proclaimed busybody, Harrison said as long as he has a project he can tinker with for two or three days each week, that’s enough to keep him occupied.

“I don’t want to work every day doing it, but I like staying busy,” he said.

Two outdoor chairs, which Harrison makes by tracing and cutting patterns on planks of wood, takes him about a day and a half.

He built their home, his garage, the outdoor furniture, the kitchen cabinets, the entertainment center, birdhouses – he does a little bit of everything. Aside from his own home, his daughters probably have the second-largest collection of his work, as he makes several pieces for them.

As far as commissions, he does a little bit of everything for those, too. Harrison said his customers will often bring him two photos, say they like different elements from each, and he will “mash” the two together.

From dining tables, outdoor chairs, benches, baby cribs and outdoor side tables with coolers in them, it all seems fairly cut and dry, but each piece keeps practicality in mind. For his grandson, he crafted a toy chest with a sliding tray inside to keep the small toys at the top of the box, instead of getting lost in the mayhem at the bottom. However, there are a few outliers and oddball requests. He’s crafted chicken tractors, cabinets for hatchlings, and a possum pin – a pin his daughter uses to rehabilitate possums.

As far as materials, Harrison says he has about everything he could need in terms of equipment. He loves to recycle wood. While he’ll get pine, cedar, cypress, or other specific woods from local lumber mills, he tries to use planks from old barns, furniture, or whatever else he can get his hands on.

Maybe it’s because of his tinkering nature, but he personally prefers painted furniture over stained. He joked that stain is more fickle, so paint is easier to work with; but mostly he said he gets tired of looking at the same thing, so he likes having the option to repaint various pieces.

“Measure about five or six times, and then cut once,” he said, sitting in his kitchen surrounded by the cabinets he built – currently painted white. 

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