Photos by Hillary Ehlen
Grafton native Tony Ward founded custom furniture business Ward and Weston in Fall 2017. After five and a half years living in various locations across the globe while serving in the United States Marine Corps, Ward was medically retired. He returned to North Dakota to be near family and decided to pursue woodworking and carpeting professionally. This new career wasn’t unfamiliar though, Ward has had a lifelong passion for the trade. He now specializes in modern, high-end furniture and his level of craftsmanship and taste make for fitting creations to be passed on to coming generations.
Ward was only 14 when he began his journey with carpentry and woodworking. He found success in a high school shop class, sharing, “The first thing I built in shop class was a serving tray. Then from there, I had a couple of teachers want me to build them TV centers and that’s what really got me into doing furniture.”
Once he started, he began picking up client work. His first client was the church he grew up in, who requested he build them a cabinet for the church. From the start, Ward has always enjoyed custom projects and building one-of-a-kind pieces.
In today’s world of computerized manufacturing, Ward feels the importance of creating and building products by hand. Rather than using a CAD system to design, Ward prefers a completely custom process, hand drawing everything he creates. He noted, “I find if you draw it first, you kind of build it while you are drawing it. So as soon as you want to build it, you’ve already built it once in your head, so that makes that whole process better. If I do it on the computer, it takes away from that process.”
A Special Piece
This grid coffee table is the embodiment of the detail and craftsmanship that Ward puts out. Averaging at about 50 to 60 hours to make, this piece is time-consuming to ensure the pattern is done correctly. Ward added, “Each strip takes me about six hours to make. It’s very sturdy when it’s put together, though. That’s why I like the grid pattern.”
Once tediously constructed, the piece is finished off with a specialty hand-oil finish. “I make my own oil, it’s a mixture of varnish and some oils, it’s a secret recipe,” said Ward.
While the end result is modern, Ward took inspiration from the past, saying, “On old ships, they had doors with a grate system on them, that’s where I got my idea from.” Seeing motifs from a former time and making them new again with contemporary twists honors the history of the woodworking trade. While Ward prefers modern designs, he enjoys working with old barn wood on pieces as well, marrying old and new to keep his designs felicitous in 21st Century homes and businesses.
In these sleek modern pieces, precision is key. “You have to have your set-up perfect, that’s why it’s so time-consuming. You have to make sure the actual saw is perfectly set up, the jig is perfectly set up an then actually have to run the piece through and run it through accurately,” said Ward.
This precision doesn’t end with just his goods. Ward’s workspace is pristine, something you might not expect from an active workshop. He shared, “I prefer and clean and organized shop because I don’t like messy, I tend to not be able to think as well when it’s messy. The cleaner it is, the better for me…and it’s safer.”