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Unique exposed-bulb lamps / Image courtesy of Ohio Valley Reclaimed // Published: 8.24.17

Ohio Valley Reclaimed Imbues Handmade Woodworking With Family Heritage

Keith Knapp is the Founder and CEO of Ohio Valley Reclaimed, a company built on the premise that old, discarded objects can be reformed and given life anew. But Keith isn't your regular woodworker using secondhand material to create new works of functional art. He's a sentimental family man who has imbued his company with the teachings and spirit of his late grandfather, a man whom he lovingly calls Papa.

After meeting Keith over coffee, we wanted to interview him about his business, its backstory, woodworking, and the true soul of Ohio Valley Reclaimed.

Cincinnati Refined: Who are you, and what do you do?

KK: My name is Keith Knapp. I'm a family man, born and raised in Greater Cincinnati, who rolls up his sleeves to create the foundations for new memories from that which has been forgotten. Basically, that's a fancy way of saying I handcraft small batch furniture and home decor with reclaimed and salvaged wood. I also have the pleasure of working for P&G Ventures where I have the privilege of building new businesses for the company. Whether I'm in my garage or at P&G's general offices, I'm building.

Cincinnati Refined: What is Ohio Valley Reclaimed?

KK: Ohio Valley Reclaimed is the name of the company I founded at the beginning of 2017. It's been a long time in the making and has been inspired by many people and experiences. It's a humble reclaimed woodworking business that generates a lot of sawdust and a really memorable piece of furniture or home decor item every once in awhile.

Cincinnati Refined: How long have you been doing woodworking? How'd you get into it?

KK: I've been creating and using hand tools since I could walk and pick them up, but it wasn't until I made two small step stools/benches for my mom and mother-in-law for Christmas almost four years ago that I considered myself a "woodworker." I made those stools so they would have something to sit on when they were playing with our oldest daughter, who had just turned two. When they turned out really well, I decided to keep making things. It truly became a passion.

Cincinnati Refined: How do you go about creating? Where do you create?

KK: My process is pretty on-demand. I get a lot of custom orders and work with my clients/customers on the design before I start building. Pinterest is generally pretty helpful in the process, but I interpret the existing design my own way to create something from the piles of salvaged and reclaimed wood I have in inventory. My shop is in our three-car garage.

Cincinnati Refined: What inspires you to create every morning?

KK: My inspiration is the people I get to work with everyday. Folks call with all kinds of ideas, and figuring out how to delight them is what gets me out of bed way before the sun comes up. It's also really exciting to be able to see how my work has rubbed off on my daughters. They're still a bit young, but I hope that seeing me work twice as hard (this is a side hustle after all) as everyone else while skipping things like sleeping in or weekends off will inspire them to learn a craft and dedicate themselves to working hard, too.

Cincinnati Refined: How does it feel to complete something?

KK: One of the things that I love about woodworking is that it has a beginning and end. In my big boy job, sometimes it seems there's never an end -- it's rare in the corporate world to touch the final product you started. There's a sort of romanticism, maybe, to the cycle when you're actually making, though. I talk to a lot of people in the woodworking and builder community, and it seems we all appreciate being able to take that step back at the end of a project and just admire the work of your own hands.

Cincinnati Refined: What are three of your favorite projects you've completed?

KK: I've been blessed to have worked on some pretty cool things.

  1. The steps stools are kind of the first chapter of the OVR story, so I'll always look back with fondness on them.
  2. I built a table for the sister of my best friend from childhood out of a beam that held up the stage of a church.
  3. I built a hollow wood stand-up paddleboard that I still use today. It helped me prove to myself that I could make just about anything I put my mind to.

Aside from finished projects, I appreciate the process. Many of the tools I use were inherited from my Papa (grandfather on my mother's side), so there are many times I'm working alone early in the morning, absorbed in the quiet chaos of the shop, and a flood of memories washes over me when picking up one of his tools.

Cincinnati Refined: Do you have a current project?

KK: Right now I am in the process of working very closely with Tony Tausch of Coffee Emporium to build some new tables for both their Hyde Park and OTR locations. I can't share too much about the project yet, but suffice it to say, it was a big win for me to build that relationship with Tony and his design team.

Cincinnati Refined: What's a project you hope to do one day?

KK: I really appreciate being able to translate a vision into a space that elicits a certain kind of emotion and helps tell a story. For example, I collaborated with the fine folks of Northside Distilling Co to build their bar with salvaged oak (the same wood used to age bourbon). That being said, there are few more rewarding experiences than delivering something that I know will be at the center of the memories a family will create together, things like tables, frames, cutting boards, and other pieces.

Cincinnati Refined: How does Ohio Valley Reclaimed differ from other reclamation-based furniture companies?

KK: At Ohio Valley Reclaimed, we take pride in managing the work end-to-end. We reclaim and salvage the materials ourselves, we concept and design pieces with our customers and clients, and we create in our small local shop. Also, the spirit of our brand is infused with our heritage. Papa, whom I mentioned earlier, is our foundation. He was born on January 2, 1917. Our website launched a hundred years to the day of his birth, and our logo is done in his handwriting. He would've appreciated that.

Cincinnati Refined: Knowing what you do today, what advice would you give past-Keith about this whole process?

KK: I might recommend establishing some processes earlier in regard to proposals and fulfillment. I might also recommend enrolling certain partners or buying a planer sooner rather than later. But if I had done those things, I doubt I'd know now that those might be good ideas. For other would-be maker entrepreneurs, though, I'd just recommend getting after it. If you're already building or making and know you have the capacity to keep doing it, get started. And don't feel like you have to quit your day job. You don't. You just have to be willing to work hard. That's free!

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Scroll to the top for photos of Keith and his work, and don't forget to visit Ohio Valley Reclaimed online.

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