Day Job/Night Job: Industry Veteran Creates Vintage Wine Furniture

 Frank Quadrato's wine furniture
Frank Quadrato's wine furniture gets rave reviews and sells quickly.

He's got mad skills when it comes to making furniture out of wine barrels and old wood that he finds or purchases for his creations.

It's something he does when he isn't meeting with insurance companies as the director of insurance relations for Cook's Collision.

Frank Quadrato has 37 years of experience in the collision repair industry in northern California. He credits much of what he learned about the industry to Peter Lock, the former head instructor at Contra Costa College, where he graduated in 1986. After working for several independent shops as a technician to learn every facet of the industry, Quadrato was hired by Cook's Collision nearly 20 years ago.

Seven years ago, Quadrato began building furniture and other items such as tables, fire pits, chairs and other items that are in high demand. But his first creation was something completely different.

"My son Chris (then 14) and I wanted to buy an old truck and restore it," Quadrato said. "To raise the money, we designed and manufactured what we called 'Dream Falls,’ a water feature made out of metal and slate. It was a nice father-and-son project and an opportunity to teach Chris how to weld. We built a few of them and took them to the Clayton Wine Festival, and they were a hit. We did it the following year and got enough money to buy the truck. After we restored it, I was looking around for other projects, and that's why I started making things out of wood."

To make the fire pits, Quadrato takes old wine barrels and re-purposes them. They've become a popular item and many of Quadrato's friends and associates now have them on their patios and in their backyards.

"I cut a hole in the barrel and put a fireplace insert in there and then make a small door for the gas hookup," he said. "Then, I take winery box tops and attach them in a ring around the outside of the fire pit. People who love wine really appreciate the skills and craftsmanship that go into these fire pits, and I think they also like the fact that I am taking these old barrels and making them useful again."

The wine barrel fire pits take 8--10 hours on average to make and retail for $950. Quadrato sells them at wine festivals throughout the Bay Area and gets a lot of satisfaction with great reviews for his work. In addition to designing and building a wide range of other items, he is always looking for that next project and challenge.

"I've made thousands of things now, including large tables, candlesticks, chairs, stools, cabinets and all types of furniture using old, stressed wood,” he said. “I recently made an 8-foot table out of wood that I got from an old barn. I build everything from scratch in my garage and then we sell them at shows. I was an iron worker for three years before I became a body man, so I know how to build things, which allows me to creatively combine wood and metal in many of my pieces."

Building furniture is a family affair at the Quadrato house in Clayton, CA, because Frank's wife, Lisa, helps him with the staining and finish work.

"She is great and has an eye for detail. We work very well together," Quadrato said. "We always seem to have at least one project going on here. Recently, we made wine tables and chairs and sold them at four East Bay wine shows. We have the best wine in the world right here, and people love the fact that we are re-purposing wine barrels to make furniture."

A winery in St. Helena recently contracted Quadrato to make furniture after designing and building the vineyard's sign.

"I found an old barn in Martinez, CA, and disassembled it," he said. "Then I took the wood and made picnic tables for AXR Vineyards out of it. I love using old and distressed wood because it has a distinct look and character."

Quadrato just turned 59. When the time comes for him to step down at Cook's Collision, he knows that building his furniture will play a major role in his retirement.

"It keeps me busy, and I like making things after fixing things for so many years. When I get a positive response from someone for a fire pit or a table, for example, it's very satisfying and fulfilling," he said.

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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