Barney Gambrell was born in Greenwood and his family has been in South Carolina for many generations. He is retired and dedicated to taking care of his cattle farm and woodcarving. Barney learned woodcarving from his grandfather “papa Jones” when he was a little boy in Greenwood. He watched his grandfather make rustic furniture with just sticks that have had the bark removed and later papa would show him how to make them, which is an activity that he still remembers fondly. Barney uses mortise and tenon joinery. These are typical tools used by woodworkers. For around twenty years, he has taught his son and grandson the tradition of making rustic furniture. It takes Barney an average of three days to make cabinets or benches. He also makes candle holders from whiskey barrels, which have high demand among his customers.
Rustic Furniture is a woodworking traditional art with deep roots in South Carolina. It was very typical for parents to take their children into the woods, get as much materials as they could into their homes, first make their own furniture, and then sell the rest. Rustic furniture was very popular in the 19th century since people could make them out of any kind of wood found near their surroundings and is now in high demand. This is because many customers want replicas of rustic furniture from a hundred years ago. It is part of a back to nature movement.
Barney’s quality of work is well known around Abbeville and many carpenters come to him for help because of his unique joinery style. Barney’s rustic furniture is sold at local stores in Abbeville and Maggie Valley in North Carolina.
Barney participates at local festivals and show crafts. He also enjoys showing his traditional art and, in this way, he is preserving his craft for future generations to come.