Officer turns off-duty talent into furniture for friends

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Rob Harman, left, created tables at The Grind Coffee Roasters for his friend Ian Duncan, right. Some of the markings on the tables are made with coffee grounds and epoxy. AMY COYNE BREDESON

An officer with the Bluffton Police Department has found an outlet for his creative side, and he's sharing his unique creations with the people of Bluffton.

Police work doesn't offer much opportunity for being artistic, he said, but Rob Harman is able to spend some of his off-duty time woodworking in his garage. The Bluffton police officer creates shelves, garden planters, tables, countertops and other items, all out of either raw materials or existing objects.

"This is just something to express a little bit of my personality," he said. "I've really come to find that I enjoy restoring things and repurposing them more than anything else."

Harman's creations can be seen at businesses around Bluffton, including The Grind Coffee Roasters, Moonlit Lullaby and Mameem & Maudie. He has also donated items to be sold as a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity.

For Harman's friend, Ian Duncan at The Grind, he crafted several round tables out of old wooden utility spools he was given by the Cregger Company. He knew the textures and colors of the wood would make beautiful furniture.

Cregger was happy to donate them since the company would have otherwise discarded them.

The black spots on top of the small, round tables at The Grind are actually coffee grounds mixed with epoxy, used to fill in the holes and gaps in the wood.

"So, a little bit of The Grind actually went into these tables, which is something fun and unique," Harman said. "I could've easily used a dye or any number of products, but I wanted to give them just a little something unique."

Duncan said the tables in his shop are for sale. Any money he makes on them will go toward buying materials for Harman to make more.

When Harman makes items for friends, he asks only that they pay for any supplies that are needed, such as epoxy.

Harman is currently restoring a 1950s Zenith radio cabinet that will soon serve as an entertainment center in his home.

Harman isn't quite ready to make a career out of woodworking, but it's something that gives him a sense of accomplishment. He said it can be a challenge for police officers to see the fruits of their labor. Sure, they might save lives by arresting people for driving under the influence of alcohol, but there's no way to measure that kind of success.

When Harman restores or repurposes objects, on the other hand, he can actually see the end results.

For Harman, woodworking is not just a hobby or a point of pride. It's not just a way to reuse items that would otherwise be trashed. It's his way of giving back.

"I hope I inspire others to do what they love," he said.

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.

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