Ken Wheeler, a woodworker based in Saluda, NC, creates one-of-a-kind birdhouses and furniture from reclaimed wood. A longtime “green” artist, Ken prides himself on repurposing local materials to create items of beauty, duration, and function.
After a long career in physical education, Ken decided to focus his time and attention on his passion for woodworking. He was introduced to the craft by his father and took some woodworking classes in college, but most of what he knows was learned on his own through hands-on experimentation. He’s now been designing, cutting, trimming, nailing, gluing, and polishing wood for 40 years.
Sourced from his 5-acre property, Ken uses the limbs of mountain laurel, a native Appalachian shrub, to adorn his signature birdhouses with a faux “chimney” and a small forked perch. Every birdhouse comes from Ken’s home studio, being entirely unique and handcrafted from start to finish. He averages about 200 birdhouses per year.
Although wood naturally ages when placed outside in the rain and elements, Ken suggests spraying a coat of marine polyurethane on your birdhouse once or twice a year to help preserve the colors. He also designs them so the bottom of each birdhouse can be easily removed for cleaning. “I have some that have been outside so long they have moss and lichen growing on the roof,” he reports. “But the birds still use them. Who knows? Maybe they even like them better that way.”
In addition to his birdhouses, Ken also makes furniture from reclaimed wood. Pieces include stools, tables, beautiful high-backed rocking chairs, and funky, odd-shaped cabinets. Not all of his work is functional. For his quirky figurative wall sculptures, Ken will “find an interesting body form” and add in vintage ephemera. “I collect old crystal, brass, and silver doorknobs and put the knobs on the arms or use them as an extension of the decorative legs,” explains Wheeler.
When the figures are finished, he calls them “fallen angels.”