Knabe Woodwork turns scrap into treasure

Knabe Woodwork turns scrap into treasure

Knabe Woodwork turns scrap into treasure
January 30
12:49 2019

In a small, blue-trimmed, gray metal building in Sanger, Texas lies the workshop of Knabe Woodwork.

Married couple Nick and Caitlin Knabe started Knabe Woodwork after asking a builder in a neighborhood if they could look for scrap wood in the trash bins for a headboard they needed for a new bed. The personal project of upcycling wood into new home decor eventually turned into a business with about 12,000 followers on Facebook.

Full-time woodworker Caitlin Knabe and her husband, GIS analyst Nick Knabe, pose in their Knabe Woodwork workshop in Sanger, Texas on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. Image by Emily Olkkola.

Caitlin and Nick knew they had reached an audience when they put the headboard on social media and people began asking for headboards of their own.

“Everybody [was] like, ‘Oh, my god,'” Nick said. “‘Love it.’ I looked at Caitlin and was like, ‘Want to make some money?'”

Learning to do the work

“We [at Knabe Woodwork] do more of the farmhouse look, so [working on] barn doors, your farmhouse tables and signs,” Caitlin said.

Through trial and error, Nick and Caitlin have taught themselves how to woodwork.

“I’ve always been hands-on, good at visualizing things, and [Caitlin] had the craftiness,” Nick said. “Between both of us, I taught her how to use tools.”

Caitlin said learning how to woodwork and run Knabe Woodwork with Nick was “overwhelming at first.” Now, she does 90 percent of the projects at Knabe Woodwork and continues teaching herself as she goes.

“People would send us things when we got started, and we would be like, ‘Number one, there’s no way I can do that,’” Caitlin said. “Now I look at things and I’m like, ‘Maybe I could do that.'”

For about a year, Knabe Woodwork focused solely on making headboards. After collecting a lot of leftover scrap wood too small for headboards, Caitlin introduced a new aspect to Knabe Woodwork — creating signs.

“I’m super crafty, and I was like, ‘I bet I could paint things on these,'” Caitlin said. “I had a baby shower to go to, and I was like, ‘I’m going to paint the baby’s name on it.'”

Caitlin Knabe poses in Sanger, Texas on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019 in front of a barn door she and her husband built. Image by Emily Olkkola.

Two years into Knabe Woodwork, Caitlin’s mother came up to her and asked her and Nick if they could make her a barn door. Despite not knowing what a barn door looked like or how it worked, they agreed to build her one.

The first barn door Caitlin and Nick built took them hours.

“We messed up everything we could,” Nick said. “It was just a bad experience, but then we put it up [online], and everyone wanted one.”

Now Caitlin and Nick pride themselves in making custom signs and barn doors for people.

“Yes, our barn doors are huge [business], but our signs are kind of like our bread and butter,” Caitlin said. “Everyone’s always looking to get a custom sign made, and we are really, honestly some of the rare people who still do custom signs because you can’t really buy a ton of truly custom signs from other sign companies. They don’t like to do them.”

So far Nick and Caitlin have built 302 barn doors, 102 headboards, more than 1,000 signs, 14 tables and eight entertainment centers. They have also worked with people like family blogger and mom Amber Massey.

Nick and Caitlin have been upgrading the tools that help expedite their woodworking process.

“We used to do things [in] an archaic way,” Nick said. “Now we’ve invested money into tools.”

The Knabes plan to further expand projects by adding windows and glass to their barn doors and building non-custom furniture items.

“My overall ten-year goal would be to have some kind of storefront or a huge online store that I have inventory for,” Caitlin said.

Merchant processor Chad Jacobson has been a fan of Knabe Woodwork for more than four years and has ordered multiple projects from them, including barn doors, custom signs, a table and bar stools.

“Their creativity in just [being able] to walk into the space, seeing the color scheme and what needs to go with it allows them to really do what they do best,” Jacobson said. 

Jacobson’s wife owns real estate company DFW Legacy Real Estate Group and has made Knabe Woodwork its preferred barn door vendor.

“[They are our preferred vendor because] they’re upfront,” Jacobson said. “They’re honest. They make the room really complete by putting in the perfect barn door.”

Nick and Caitlin have had times in which they still “butt heads” during work.

“I always joke that I’m the kind of person who says the glass is overfilling,” Caitlin said. “I don’t look at it half-filled. I look at it like, ‘Oh, my god. We can do that. We can totally do that. It’s overfilling,’ and [Nick’s] my guy who steps back and looks and is like, ‘No, we can’t do that.’”

The new computer numerical control router engraves a name on a piece of wood in Sanger, Texas on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. Image by: Emily Olkkola.

Even though there are times where Caitlin and Nick disagree, they still maintain a professional relationship.

“If we both run into a problem and we both see it different ways, we have learned how to talk to each other not like we’re at home, but in a professional way,” Caitlin said. 

Before the couple’s daughter was born and before they upgraded to a workshop, Nick and Caitlin would come home from their day jobs and work on projects in their garage until 1 a.m. each night. When Caitlin got pregnant, Nick had to take on more of the woodworking responsibilities.

“I would go to work, come home, make sure [Caitlin] was OK, go into the garage until one or two, get up, go to work, literally every day,” Nick said.

Caitlin said that owning a business with her husband has not been a detriment to their relationship but has nourished it.

“[Working together] has strengthened our relationship to another level that I don’t think anybody can ever compare to, unless you own a business together and have made it this far without killing each other,” Caitlin said. “If it weren’t for Knabe Woodwork, sometimes I think our marriage wouldn’t be as strong as it is.”

To see pieces from Knabe Woodwork, check out its Facebook page, website and Instagram page.

Featured Image: A sign woodworker Caitlin Knabe paints in Knabe Woodwork, her and her husband’s joint workshop in Sanger, Texas on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. Image by: Emily Olkkola. 

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Emily Olkkola

Emily Olkkola

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