Craftsman carves out local works


Erika Rich

Adam Young of Old Crow Custom Works designs construction projects that utilize new and salvaged materials in his self-built studio.

Sarah-Grace Sweeney

Adam Young, 38, is a “maker,” or that’s what he calls himself.

He is an artist, a wood and metal worker, a skateboarder, a father, a husband and a man of the past. He mentions a “buddy” or friend in every other sentence, and it is clear he surrounds himself with  family everywhere he goes. But his work begs a certain autonomy.

He clearly appreciates working independently from a boss, a specific location or rules of execution. His handiwork, however, is behind some of the coolest spots in Austin — such as Yellow Jacket Social Club, Javelina and Farewell Books.

Young first came to Austin in 1994 to pursue skateboarding and be a part of the punk music scene. He moved back for a second time in 2004 for a landscaping job. He hasn’t left since then, and is now one of a handful of craftsmen keeping Austin beautiful with the work of his own two hands.

Young has worked with his hands since he was a kid. One of the first things he ever built was a tree house on a hill with his brothers at one of their Louisiana homes. But he never made a conscious decision to pursue woodworking as a career.

“It was something I just kind of stumbled upon, I suppose,” Young said. “Even now, I think that it’s pretty amazing that I’m able to have a family and make a living doing something that I really love and am passionate about.”

Old Crow is the name Young gave to his self-owned and operated business, which he’s had since early 2010. He’ll build anything from tables for friends to backyard decks for contract clients. Two of his most notable projects, however, are popular Austin joints: Yellow Jacket Social Club, a bar on East Fifth Street, and Javelina. Both have a well-worn and welcoming atmosphere, in large part due to the warmth of every surface, stool and bench. This feeling comes from using salvaged materials. Young traveled with the co-owner of Javelina, Craig Primozich, to Hillsboro, Ore., to see the old red barn wood that would become the base of the bar.

“I hadn’t even hired him yet and we went and picked out wood together and spent the day together,” Primozich said. “Once I saw him digging through all the stuff and talking about ideas and what he could do with things, I was pretty sold. He just knew what he was doing.”

Using salvaged materials, while not essential for Young, better suits his personal taste. He said either the material will dictate the design and what can be done with a piece of wood or metal, or a very specific design will require finding very specific materials.

“I don’t like to say that I have one thing, but for me personally I really love the look and the feel of salvaged materials and even repurposing materials or objects,” Young said. “The wood itself will tell me if it makes the cut to be used or not. Sometimes I’m not quite sure what it’s going to yield and then you peel the first few layers back and it blows you away how beautiful the grains and the colors and the things that pop out [are]. I think that’s one of the things about working with old material, some of the surprises that you can discover.”

Musicians like Levon Helm, John Prine and Kris Kristofferson inspire a lot of the wording and sometimes the imagery of Young’s work.

“I’ll just be listening to a song at one point and one of their lyrics just jabs me a certain way,” Young said of his creative process. “Right now Kris Kristofferson, I’ll just listen and listen and listen to Kris Kristofferson music over and over again for days and days and weeks and then … just kind of, something else will happen. It just shifts over to being inspired.”

Young is not a rock star and doesn’t have an ego, but he’s got a fan club. There are those who look to him as an artist, those who look to him as a creator of beautiful structures and there’s a little girl who looks to him as a father. As much as Young values his independence, it is clear that quite a few people would be lost without him. And while he would never admit it, he’s a lot like the salvaged wood he loves to work with so much. If you sand it down and peel back the layers, what you find will surprise you and strike you as remarkably beautiful.