Get it done / Bring new life to old wood
Scott O’Dell of Wolf Lake Restorations
Photo by kc kratt
“My favorite thing to tell people is, “I’m saving Buffalo’s history,” says Scott O’Dell, who most days can either be found in his Black Rock workshop or in one of Buffalo’s many historic churches, homes, or businesses, scrapping, sanding, and clear-coating long neglected or painted-over woodwork.
O’Dell has been in the restoration business for almost thirty-six years; what started as a fluke job to make a little money when he was twelve has turned into a career. “The owner of the Furniture Hospital on Hertel was a family friend. My older brother was working there, and I wanted to make some money. Because it was right around the corner from our house, I started working there too.”
While O’Dell started out repairing furniture, his job eventually evolved to repairing woodwork in old homes—everything from windows and interior doors to mantels, trim, paneled walls, staircases, and front doors. Many pieces, like the interior doors and mantels, can be taken back to his shop for finishing, but much of the work, things like large staircases and wall paneling, is done onsite.
O’Dell says that many people could do the work on their homes themselves, but the time and patience required is what eventually prompts them to call him. “A lot of my jobs are from people who started them and decided to call me,” he says. “The last house I did was for a lady who had a hallway, a staircase, and eight doors. She called me and said, ‘I’ve been working on this for six years!’ We ended up getting the job done in two weeks. It’s easy; it’s just tedious.”
While O’Dell might say the work is “easy,” his customers would agree that it requires a certain level of skill and experience, especially to do it right. Some of the more challenging parts of his job are wood beams in older homes (“You’re looking up the whole time!”) and trying to match new wood with old woodwork, a task that can take a bit of creativity.
When asked if he had tips for those wanting to try restoring woodwork, O’Dell says, “Stripping is the hardest part. You can’t rush it. I used to try to do a whole wall and now I just do small sections at time. Otherwise it gets sloppy and messy. You have to take small steps. Oh, and know where you are going to start and end. You need to know your end point!”
Last spring, O’Dell took a step away from his nickname “that furniture guy,” which he has been known by for years, and established Wolf Lake Restorations on Amherst Street in Black Rock. “It’s where I grew up,” he said. “I wanted to stay in the neighborhood.”
Wolf Lake Restorations
259 Amherst Street
Buffalo, NY 14207