The ingenuity and creativity of people never ceases to amaze me. Case in point, Alex Schoeppner of Templeton. He can look at a Templeton Rye whiskey barrel (“The Good Stuff”) and see the staves, barrel heads and metal bands as the raw materials for stunning, handcrafted furniture pieces.
After graduating from Iowa State University with an art degree, Alex moved back to Templeton and opened up Schoeppner Designs. (The former car dealership has been affectionately known in town as the “white elephant.” Why, you might ask? Because it’s huge and always been white. Fair enough.)
Alex receives about 250-300 Templeton Rye barrels every few months. After allowing them to dry, he turns them into clocks, bar stools, pub table sets, Adirondack chairs, coffee tables and more. Though he had some interns over the summer, the business is basically just him and his meticulous woodworking.
The inside of each white oak barrel is charred black. This adds to the flavor and color of the whiskey as it ages and also to the character and uniqueness of Alex’s furniture.
Very little of the barrel goes to waste. The wooden staves, obviously, are the basis of his pieces, but the metal rings are also used. They’ll appear either as accents on wooden pieces or crafted into decorative balls. (When I visited in October, there were some pumpkins fashioned out of the metal rings on display in the showroom.) Even the smallest scraps of wood are available for people who want to use them while barbecuing.
The larger furniture pieces take Alex about three weeks to construct. His clocks, fashioned from the barrel heads, are one of his most popular pieces. He has also crafted a couple of skateboards, just for fun, that are on display. (He doesn’t even skateboard!) His most unusual request came from a son wanting a casket for his dad who had just passed away. Alex declined due to the time a project like that would have taken.