Born from Sweat and Sawdust
Hernando native Bubba Black talks furniture, dreams and hard work.
By Natalie Troutt
Talented local craftsman Bubba Black has been working with his hands since he was a child. The son of a frame carpenter, Black began an apprenticeship under his father around the age of 10, eagerly accompanying him to work in the summers and learning all that he could about the trade.
Black took to the work and eventually began his own career as a frame carpenter. His career spanned 20 years before he says that he simply got burned out in the hard line of work. Black had always been into woodworking, so he transitioned into building kitchen cabinets for people’s homes. Around that time, he also began a hobby of building furniture. This hobby evolved over the course of about 10 years and Black now builds furniture full time for a business that he has dubbed Bubba Black Originals.
While he does not have a store or even a website, Black gets more than enough work just through word-of-mouth. He says he has considered opening his own furniture store but always ultimately decides against it because, as he laughingly puts it, “a lot of headaches come with that.” He added, “I mean, everybody has dreams. I’ve thought of building what I want to build and putting it in a store, and seeing if it sells.” It helps that Black has resided in DeSoto County his whole life, primarily in Hernando where he lives now, so he is well-known in the area and always has plenty of orders rolling in.
Black can build pretty much anything a customer would want, including dining room tables, bedroom suites, china cabinets, desks, armoires and plenty more. He does not consider any furniture hard to make, but does say that his most challenging piece thus far has been the recently-completed swing bed he made for a customer. He also pointed out that he has never built the same thing twice. Each piece is unique, with different finishes and other small details making it different from the rest. When he sketches a piece of furniture before beginning to build, it is drawn in a very basic way, with few details to distinguish it. Then, after he begins building, he says, “Most projects take on a life of their own and kind of tell me what they want.”
He gets the wood from a supplier in Memphis but says that sometimes, customers also bring him reclaimed wood to work with. He personally prefers the rustic style of furniture but can do whatever a client wants. Presently, his favorite wood to work with is Knotty Alder because of the way that it stains and also because he says that it just has character.
The wait for one of his pieces can be anywhere from six to eight weeks, depending on several factors. Although most pieces actually take around two weeks to build, that process may be spaced out due to a heavy workload. Black also mentioned that it can depend on the finish and says that a lot of the finishes that are done can take as long as it takes to actually build the piece. Price-wise, it all depends on the piece, as each one takes a different amount of time and effort.
Since Black is such an amazing craftsman, one might assume that the home that he shares with his wife Monica and his daughter Sydney, the youngest of his three girls, would be filled with furniture of his own creation. Black says that is not the case, however: “I do have a few pieces but usually when I have time, I don’t have the materials or I start getting into it and then a job comes along.”
He is okay with mostly crafting pieces for others, though. He says that delivering the finished work to a client is very rewarding to him. He loves the excitement that a customer has when they see how he has brought their ideas to life. He is very confident in his work and very proud of each piece that he creates.
Black does all of his furniture building at his shop out in the country. He keeps the radio tuned to a country station and busies himself with creating unique pieces for his customers. Although he has built hundreds of pieces over the years, he does have his favorites. He likes a couple of kitchens that he has worked on, as well as the large desk that he built for one client. He has been a frame carpenter and a cabinet builder, but he loves making furniture best because of the design element and the creativity that it requires. He still occasionally builds cabinets, although he prefers to make them look unlike normal cabinets. The big thing now, he says, is making everything look like pieces of furniture.
Black works in his shop every day of the week, from around 7:30 in the morning until he feels that he has done all he can do in one day. Although his work takes up so much of his time, he is quick to point out one thing: “When your job is your hobby, you don’t work.”