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    “Those are barrel staves from Maker’s Mark,” Chelsea Hackbarth says. “But today we’re working with wood from Whiskey Row” — the historic stretch of buildings on Main Street soaked in bourbon history. She holds up an eight-foot-long wood plank that’s two feet wide and four inches thick. “This is a 150-year-old floor joist,” she says.

    Hackbarth works at StoryWood Bowties, the company founded in 2016 by Ali Muhammad, who’s in his mid-20s. StoryWood produces and sells bow ties, cufflinks, pocket squares and belt buckles made from salvaged wood, including spindles from Churchill Downs (the result of a 2011 remodel), a wooden roof shingle from John Wayne’s birthplace in Iowa and a small piece from DuBois School in Mount Sterling, the last school in Kentucky to integrate.

    To begin, Hackbarth takes wood to FirstBuild at U of L, where she can use “all the big power tools.” A table saw slices the wood into foot-long strips as thin as five millimeters. Back at StoryWood’s 800-square-foot workshop on Myrtle Street in Old Louisville, Hackbarth places a wood strip inside a hefty laser-cutting machine that she calls “Betsy.” “If you give them a name, they like to work with you better,” she says. On a computer, she selects one of the 14 designs ranging from fleurs-de-lis to horses. “This cut will take about 20 minutes,” she shouts over an industrial humming noise. Clamps, wood glues and aerosol cans clutter a plastic folding table. Hackbarth uses three different kinds of sandpaper to smooth and polish each lasered piece. A lime-green toothbrush removes residual dust from crevices. Then she glues pieces together. “Sometimes I use Super Glue on the tiny pieces. I also use Wood Fusion or, if it’s a really tough piece, contact cement,” she says. She seals it with polyurethane on the back, shellac on the front. “Then they go in the drying box,” she says with a laugh, pointing to a Louisville Slugger cardboard box with a purple UV lamp sticking out of one end. Each piece gets five to seven coats.

    Hackbarth makes the no-tie straps with a sewing machine, stitching a metal clamp to a brown piece of ribbon. “Luckily my mom was a seamstress or I would have no idea what I was doing here,” she says.

    This originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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    About Katie Molck

    Loretta Lynn is the best country music singer of all time and if you don't like pickled foods, you can leave.

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