In his 16-by-30-foot basement workshop in Hurt, woodworker Mark Covington can be found running electricity through boards of wood.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” Covington said. “I’ve been woodworking quite a while, and it’s more or less a hobby that is becoming fulltime.”
Covington, owner of Coventry Carpentry, creates custom, one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture and art, through a unique process called fractal burning. Fractal burning is an art form in which high-voltage electricity is run through pieces of wood that burns figures that look like lightning or trees into the wood.
“It’s dangerous, people have been killed from it,” said Covington. “Electrocuting the wood is dangerous, you have to be very careful. It puts the designs in the wood itself. You can’t control, and you can never produce another one just like it,” he said.
Covington uses his own process of connecting a transformer to the wood.
“It’s got about 1000 volts of electricity going through the wood,” he noted.
Covington uses a special technique, “because wood breathes, and opens up,” he said, so he electrifies the wood, and then uses a special pigment, mixed in with epoxy, to add color to the design.
“Epoxy is not that fun to work with,” Covington said. “You look at it all you want on YouTube but it’s not the same, and it has a long drying time.”
Covington started out making a table for his daughter when she bought a home a few years ago.
“My wife loved it so much that I made her one for a Christmas present one year. And I just kept making things,” he said.
He is able to see the finished product sometimes before he even starts a project.
“I saw this old hand cultivator out in the barn, and when I saw it, I knew I was going to turn that into a wine or liquor table. When I saw the cultivator, I could already see this table,” he said.
Currently, Covington’s work can be found in his booth at Wood Lane Antiques and Crafts in Altavista.
“I can’t keep enough stuff to sell, it goes fast,” according to Covington.
But even with his business picking up, he likes to take time to give back to others in the community.
Coventry Carpentry just sponsored a raffle, selling one of his hand made tables, to donate proceeds to a local man in the community with special needs.
He said, “I’m trying to give back a little bit, and having a good cause gives me inspiration.”
Giving back is very close to his heart, especially when it comes to his local community or his family.
Covington said, “I am working on a cedar live edge table now for the Monacan Indian Nation, in memory of my wife’s family. They’re members. The Monacan Nation is about to move into a new building, and I am donating the table. I always have my mother-in-law in my mind as I am working on it.”
Covington will be giving a live demonstration of his table art at Wood Lane Antiques and Crafts, 105 Wood Lane, on Saturday, October 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.