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Angie Wieck, Published May 13 2013

Fargo woodworker turns hobby into successful business

FARGO – Giving up a steady paycheck and starting a home business can be scary. Now that Julie Peterson has tasted success, she wishes she had taken the leap years ago.

In 2011, when Peterson was growing tired of working in retail, her family encouraged her to turn her hobby into a career.

She followed their advice and opened Old to New Wood Finishing in her garage. Her husband, Tom, helps by doing any necessary furniture repairs before she does the stripping and staining by hand.

Peterson has adjusted well to being her own boss. She said the wood finishing process cannot be rushed, and she appreciates being able to take her time with each project.

The work must be done in stages, so Peterson has learned how to manage several projects at once. She was able to finish 24 projects in 2012, double what she did her first year.

Peterson learned the trade from her parents, Paul and Hulda Peck, while growing up on a farm near Enderlin, N.D. Simply put, she began the work out of boredom, but fell in love with it.

Her first project was a desk at age 15. She continued with a chair and anything else she could get her hands on. She kept up with the hobby over the years, doing projects for friends and family.

Through trial and error and years of experience, Peterson perfected what chemicals and processes to use on different types of wood.

She enjoys the diversity of the work. “Between the types of furniture and the type of wood, it’s different every time. To me, this is relaxing.”

Most clients ask Peterson and her husband to return a piece to its original condition.

“Usually they say with antiques, as soon as you do anything to them they are no longer antiques,” Peterson said, “but who wants to have a rocker that’s going to fall apart?”

If they don’t know much about a particular piece, the couple often turn to online search engine Google for help. Tom said a piece generally provides some type of clue to its origin, such as the type of nails used or the history of the manufacturer.

Many people bring in family heirlooms.

Brenda Haskins, of Hawley, Minn., brought the Petersons a pie safe owned by her great-grandmother. Her dad used it for storage in an old shed and it was in pretty bad shape.

Haskins said her dad thought she was crazy when she told him she wanted it restored.

The Petersons repaired, stripped and stained the pie safe, and Haskins was amazed at the finished product.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “My father can’t believe it’s the same thing.”

Now Haskins looks forward to passing it along to her own daughter one day.

To view photos of Haskins’ pie safe and other before and after photos, visit the Old to New Facebook page. To discuss a project or get an estimate, call (701) 261-4634.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501