Seven years ago, as a wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, Stevie Hull was catching passes from Drew Brees. Today, you’ll find him in his workshop using epoxy and wood burls to create beautiful river tables, trays, serving boards, and other unique pieces. Though woodworking is not the career path he planned on, it’s one he’s thankful for.
After a series of injuries ended his football career in 2014, Hull joined a police tactical unit because it mirrored the structure and discipline he was accustomed to during his decades as a top-notch football player. However, after sustaining a serious injury in the line of duty, he found himself searching for another new calling.
Stevie never planned to become a woodworker, but you might say woodworking found him. Like a lot of DIYers, the sticker shock of a new kitchen table gave him the idea that maybe he could make his own. There was no question that he was good with his hands, he just needed to learn how to use the tools.
Hull started with a simple project – carving the letter H out of a piece of scrap teak wood, which he then filled with epoxy. This seemed like a fun hobby, and the positive reaction he got from his family after creating a personalized piece of art for his home gave him a new purpose during the trying time of his recovery. After receiving more compliments on his work from friends and family, Hull started looking at woodworking as more than just a hobby.
As he gained more experience, Hull found that he gravitated toward burls, which he says, people think of “as waste pieces. The big, nasty knots on the sides of trees everyone wants to get rid of.” A burl is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner, protruding from a trunk or branch. Typically, burls are not highly valued in woodworking due to their unusual shapes and the difficult nature of cutting the grain.
One question he gets asked a lot is “Why burls?” Why would he want to use the pieces that are normally considered cast-offs or rejects? “I started to see myself in these burls. I had a rare injury and needed to find a way to become something new. Give them a little love and elbow grease, and burls come out totally different, and beautiful.” His family and friends agreed, and it wasn’t long before he was receiving commissions from clients who also shared his creative vision.
His recent olivewood coffee table became a transformative piece for Hull. Not only did the clients trust him with the largest piece he’s created so far, it came out exactly as he envisioned, confirming that he can tackle bigger tables, bar tops, and tabletops. “The serving boards are basically practice for these bigger pours. I knew I had to test my skills and it ended up working out.” Talk about a big pour! Hull used a bucketful of TotalBoat Penetrating Epoxy to seal the wood first, then poured 14 gallons of TotalBoat ThickSet Epoxy for this showstopper of a table.
Hull likes working with epoxy because it’s so versatile. You can use it to repair broken things, or combine it with other materials to make one-of-a-kind objects. He learned about TotalBoat from his friend Greg, of Smoke & Sand Woodworking, and now considers TotalBoat the one-stop shop for all his woodworking projects because of the variety of epoxies and finishes. He loves how TotalBoat Penetrating Epoxy seals the porous wood of burls, and he uses TotalBoat ThickSet Epoxy for deep pours. TotalBoat TableTop Epoxy is his go-to for getting a nice, shiny finish, which you can see on this stunning burl table with tinted epoxy inlay.
While Hull plans to continue working with burls and making serving boards, his next goal is to focus on larger pieces, and partner with a friend to start a mid-century modern furniture shop. Of course, he’ll be using TotalBoat along the way. And while Stevie Hull will be the first to tell you his story is hard to believe, he’s happy to say he’s now making a name for himself as a woodworker.
Stevie was so excited the first time our Instagram shared one of his pieces, he exclaimed, “That’s like being shared by Nike!” To follow Stevie Hull on his continuing creative journey, check out @sh_woodworks on Instagram! ■