As the price of furniture rises, so, apparently, does interest in do-it-yourself carpentry.
People who want to build their own furniture have several small companies to turn here for raw materials and instructions for relatively simple construction. Two of the newest are Woods On Earth Inc., in Old Town Alexandria, and The Ships Hatch, in Fairfax City.
Jamie MacVicar knew little about making furniture when he and his wife, Charlene, and partners William and Margaret Harper started Woods On Earth six months ago.
He said that he is "living proof that you can create these things." tables, clocks and mantlepieces made from slabs of Florida cypress that cost from $40 to $200.
Cypress, a wood once popular for ship building, is also ideal for furniture because it is light and resists rot and warping, MacVicar notes.
"To be quite candid, we anticipated, starting off at a loss," he said. "But we broke even the first month and this month is turning out to be profitable. Most businesses take two years."
Dan Byrne, manager of the Wisconsin Avenue NW branch of the Hechinger hardware and lumber company, says that when the economy tightens, "people turn to making their own home projects." He said people are increasingly interested in pre-cut furniture they can assemble themselves. "It's more expensive than making it from scratch but less expensive than new furniture," he said.
Hatch covers off Liberty Ships, the Navy's workhorse vessels during World War II, are also being turned into rugged and attractive furniture.
What began as a cottage enterprise for Mary Beth Cox two years ago has grown into The Ship's Hatch, a store specializing in unfinished and finished hatch covers and other seaworthy artifacts.
Cox says she knew she was on to something five years ago when she bought 18 hatch covers and sold them all in a week. Now she is selling about 300 a year at prices ranging from $75 for a sanded but unfinished one to $200 for a finished hatch cover table.
In addition to The Ship's Hatch, Sub-Sea Artifacts Inc. in Annapolis and some Heachinger stores in the area also sell the nautical relics.
The supply of authentic hatch covers is limited. The Navy built about 4,300 Liberty Ships and those that weren't destroyed during the war have been stripped and sunk since then. CAPTION: Picture 1, Jamie and Charlene MacVicar's store sells cypress for furniture. By Michael F. Parks for The Washington Post; Picture 2, Mary Beth Cox opened her hatch cover store in Fairfax City two years ago. By Michael F. Parks for The Washington Post.