Crafted at home for the home: Josh Hannon creates wooden household goods that are both functional and beautiful


For the Recorder

Published: 03-04-2024 3:25 PM

Western Massachusetts is home to some of the world’s finest artisans and craft fairs. We can admire gorgeous objects made of wood, glass, wool, clay, flax, stone, wax, and other materials, and this happy circumstance allows us to shop locally. Wandering through a festival or farmers’ market is a multi-sensory experience that fills our hearts and soothes our minds. But it can also require — if accompanied by young children — that we issue frequent reminders: “Look with your eyes, not your hands!”

Josh Hannon, owner of Hannon Made, invites you to touch his creations. Hannon pours his talents into producing household goods to make life more lovely. “I tell people my work uses all natural colors and many different kinds of wood, and that there are no bumps.” Handing over a cutting board, he added, “Here, feel! It’s all soft, even the corners.”

Hannon, 43, might have become a writer or a punk rocker, but instead makes useful beauty in his Greenfield home shop. His vocation began as a hobby, as some of the finest careers do. Hannon was living in New Bedford and working for a landscaping company, but felt bored while laid off during the winter. “I got a drill and a circular saw for Christmas,” he said, “and when I’d see stuff at Ikea, I’d say, ‘I could make that.’ I love working with my hands and started accumulating tools.”

Enrolling in classes at the New England School of Architectural Woodworking in Easthampton moved Hannon forward. “I’ve long had an interest in building things,” he said. “As a kid, I always made stuff and was interested in the arts. One of the reasons I loved ‘70s-era punk rock was that it celebrated do-it-yourself.”

The Turners Falls native studied writing at University of Massachusetts Bedford, “but ended up in woodworking because it was something I could complete. Unlike writing, it doesn’t require lots of revising. The progression in woodworking is very clear: you start with nothing and end up with something definite.” From Hannon’s descriptions, it’s evident that he has an intimate relationship with his craft. He speaks of maple, cherry, black walnut, and sapele (pronounced suh-PEE-lee) like some people talk about their pets or grandchildren; these are the kinds he uses as a base or foundation for his pieces.

As Hannon shifts to referring to types of wood he uses decoratively, his enthusiasm increases. Being in his booming presence is like witnessing a radio show or podcast feature: this fellow knows his stuff. “Purple heart is not easy to work with, but is such a fantastic color. Flame birch, or yellow birch, is the only commercially available birch lumber. Bubinga is from Africa and very beautiful, and tiger maple, also known as curly maple, is named for the figure in it.”

Hannon uses the word “figure” frequently. Some people use the words figure and grain interchangeably, but grain refers to the arrangement of the wood’s fibers resulting from the tree’s growth, and when the tree is cut, the fibers reveal a pattern of darker and lighter areas, which is the figure. “Figure is what happens when the tree grows and twists,” said Hannon, who has a keen eye for color and contrast.

“When I started buying wood, I went to Forest Wood Products (in north Greenfield) and learned that wood comes in many different colors. I thought, wow, look at all this crazy stuff! Red! Yellow! Purple! I wanted to use them all together.” Hannon chuckled as he recalled, “It was a little over the top at first.”

Of the varieties Hannon uses, wenge is the most expensive. Pronounced wen-gay, the dark and exceedingly hard wood appears in Hannon’s work sparingly, as dividers between other colors. “I tend to use wenge only as an accent wood,” he said. Which is just as well, because wenge is on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of endangered species, due to the destruction of its habitat and exploitation for timber.

Hannon continues to patronize Forest Wood Products, and also heads to Highland Hardwoods in Brentwood, New Hampshire. “They’ve got the lowest price on walnut, which is the most expensive domestic wood I use.”

His affinity to his craft may be partially due to Hannon’s DNA. “On my mom’s side, my grandfather was an engineer and was also into woodworking,” he said. “I have some of the furniture he made.” The story of his paternal grandfather may also shed light on Hannon’s ambitious, skillful nature: “My dad’s father, Richard, was born in Boston in 1911 and orphaned as a toddler. In fact, while his mother was seriously ill in the hospital, he lived with her right there in the hospital for two or three years.” After Richard’s mother died, the youngster became a ward of the state and was shipped to Colrain in one of those common arrangements where an orphan worked on a farm in exchange for food and shelter. “It was awful,” said Hannon of his grandfather’s experience. “He ran away at age 16, and ended up in Shelburne.”

Richard Hannon served in the military during WWII and later became a road boss. “He supervised the construction of a lot of the main roads in Shelburne. He was the coolest guy,” said Josh Hannon. “He was very relaxed, despite all he’d been through.” Josh’s father worked at Greenfield Tap & Die, and was “big into the union,” while Josh’s mother was a nurse, “the last official town nurse for Montague.” Josh’s mom was native to Turners Falls, and Josh was of the fourth generation to live in the family home. “Mom’s grandfather came over from Poland,” he says. “They had very big families back then.”

Josh Hannon now has a family of his own: his wife, Sara, is well-known in the community as the communications director for the YMCA, and their sons Ethan, 14, and Philip, 8, attend local schools, play sports, and engage in other activities, including Cub Scouts. “I love hanging out with my kids, and I work mostly from home so I can be there for them,” said their dad. A photo on Hannon’s website shows him working in the shop alongside one of his kids. And when it comes to holding down the fort, Hannon enjoys grilling outside, or using cast iron to cook chicken. “I’m a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, and I also love vegetables and salads.” He does most of the cooking, as his work day is shorter than Sara’s. “And we didn’t have to do the daycare thing, because I was home.”

Hannon’s love of family and home informs his work; he aims to create objects that enhance the domestic realm while being useful. “Quality and durability are just as important as the aesthetics of each piece created,” said Hannon. The pieces of a Hannon Madeproduct are held together with a premium wood glue, Titebond 3, that has FDA approval for indirect food contact. “It’s also waterproof,” said Hannon, “and has a longer open time than other glues,” which means he doesn’t have to clamp it right away. And lest potential customers worry about durability, Hannon emphasized that the glue bonds are stronger than the wood itself.

“Some of my pieces may have a twin, no two pieces are exactly the same,” said Hannon. “You won’t find my stuff at Marshall’s. Each piece is artistic, and the patterns are intentionally laid out.” He noted that although his woodworking hobby began with furniture and larger-scale projects, “cutting boards are easy to take to (craft and art) shows, and less of an investment due to the smaller scale.”

With a Hannon Made cutting board, you may find yourself wanting to do more chopping, dicing and cooking, and care instructions are easy as pie: “Don’t soak them in standing water or put them in the dishwasher, but aside from that, it’s no big deal,” said Hannon. He added, “The boards can be washed with dish soap and, if you want to get fussy, hand-dry them with a towel and occasionally add mineral oil, coconut oil, or board butter, which is a mix of mineral oil, carnauba wax and beeswax. With simple care, these boards are indestructible!” said Hannon.

To learn more about Josh Hannon’s cutting boards and other products, visit his website:, or Facebook or Instagram.

Eveline MacDougall is the author of “Fiery Hope,” and an artist, teacher, musician and mom. To contact: