John Duffy, owner of Stable Tables, applies a resin to a table top in his shop in Flourtown. Duffy and his business partner , Chris English, give reclaimed wood from old barns, horse stables, bowling alleys a second life by turning them into tables. (Photo by Christine Wolkin)

by Christine Wolkin

John Duffy, 56, the owner of Stable Tables in Flourtown, has an eye for wood, although he is quick to tell you he’s no expert woodworker.

“There are a million guys out there that can do better woodworking than I can, but I just focus on what I know,” Duffy said, humbly.

Duffy and his business partner, Chris English, a carpenter by trade, own a furniture business that is different from most; since 2006 they’ve been building tables from reclaimed wood, giving the lumber a second life. From old barns and horse stables to bowling alleys, Duffy and English search, leaving no log unturned when searching for unusual pieces with which to work.

“After initially using exclusively old barn wood, we now incorporate wood from old houses and reclaimed, rough-hewn lumber,” said Duffy. “A lot of other woods come from logs that are milled by local saw mills and then kiln dried.”

Duffy was previously an executive telecommunications operator, but he was looking for something more fulfilling at the same time he ordered a table from a carpenter in Maryland and then had to wait for 14 weeks before receiving it. You might say he followed the “Shark Tank” mantra of looking around for a need that the marketplace is not filling adequately and then figure out a way to fill it.

So Duffy came to the conclusion that there is an endless supply of wood that can be reclaimed from trees that collapsed due to old age, disease, insect infestation, weather calamities, etc. In fact, there are so many trees dying of natural causes that there is really no need to buy the wood from a company that is tearing down healthy trees. So it is a win-win for the environment as well as for their business.

Stable Tables works with several contractors and a Tacony trash transfer station, which supply them with old wood from local buildings and houses, which would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. In fact, it also turns out that the best tables tend to come from the trees that have been the most damaged.

Reclaimed wood typically requires more work, explained Duffy, but those imperfections are typically what he (and his clients) are looking for.

“It just requires more work. They’re old floor joists, and they typically have knob wiring running through them, nails running through them,” he said.

Duffy will go through the wood he acquires and handpick logs he finds aesthetically pleasing, he explained, as he motioned toward one of his table tops with tiny black grooves in it.

“This one had some bug damage on the outside, and then there were also mushrooms growing on the outside. So I look for stuff that’s unusual that you can’t get anywhere else.”

The end result is beautiful conference tables, side tables, coffee tables, desks and benches, etc.

While Stable Tables has gained a faithful following of clients over the years (the business’ portfolio features restaurateurs and designers, as well as regular old folks just looking to furnish their home), Duffy stressed that he is not an artist, just a businessman with a passion.

“I’m not an expert woodworker by any means. I know how to make a table. I have an eye for pretty wood. The wood’s the art. I know how to put it together, how to present it the best, but that’s just nature.”

Stable Tables is located at 113 Azalea Way in Flourtown. Visit StableTables.net for more information.

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