Q&A: Clint Harp on woodworking and fixing up homes

Clint Harp
Feb 14, 2019

Clint Harp has always had a dream that he wanted to build furniture. Today, he is a carpenter who works with Chip and Joanna Gaines on the HGTV's hit show "Fixer Upper." You might see him dive in a dumpster looking for a piece of reclaimed wood, his favorite building material. He and his wife Kelly have a website (harpdesignco.com) where they sell mostly environmentally sustainable products. Clint also has his own series, "Wood Work," on DIY Network. Clint will appear at the Capital Remodel and Garden Show, Feb. 22-24, at the Dulles Expo Center.

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Woodworking is the passion of Clint Harp, who has risen to design stardom on the HGTV show Fixer Upper. Clint and his wife, Kelly, founded their company, Harp Design Co., out of their garage. They create environmentally sustainable products whenever possible, most made with 100% reclaimed wood. Clint also has his own series, "Wood Work," on DIY Network. Clint will appear at the Capital Remodel and Garden Show, Feb. 22-24, at the Dulles Expo Center. It's great to have him on the chat so let's get going. 

Hey everybody! What a blast to be chatting with you all today on the Washington Post!!! This is such a cool moment and I appreciate you being here. Keep the questions coming!

I love Clint Harp's work on Fixer Upper. Wish I bought a reclaimed wood table, but I have one made out of maple. How do I prevent scratches and spills from ruining it; We keep it covered with custom furniture pads. But, I would like to show it off!! thanks, SusanC.

Hi Susan! The important thing is that you have a solid wood table...so good for you! I actually prefer a table with all the scratches and marks because it allows the table to tell a story. I say use that thing and let it age with your family. But I also get that not everyone likes that. If your table was not properly coated with a good polyurethane, then you will need to use coasters and placemats and what not...unless!...you can find a good furniture gal or guy in your town that can refinish the top.

My wife and I are busy re-doing a ranch we're going to downsize to for our "forever home". We have spent much more time, money and effort on fixing/improving the house infrastructure than the cosmetics. Most of the house flip shows seem to gloss over everything except the finishes and fixtures- a couple examples of what we've done (that you never see on TV) are: - Upgrade/replace electrical panel - replace knob & tube wiring - repair / clean / seal ductwork - repairs to storm or sanitary drains - lots of other repairs that are never seen (plumbing/ air sealing/ attic venting/tuckpointing/.....) Knowing the importance of these repairs , but rarely seeing them done gives us the impression that people who buy a "filpped" house are just buying a "pig with nice lipstick" My question is this: in your experience, how often are these repairs skipped over, or are they just not good TV?

great question! Those things are SO IMPORTANT. You are right in a lot of ways that those kind of things are not as fun on tv and so they get glossed over....but that doesn't mean they aren't important. Some shows highlight it and others not as much...but it's always important. 

If I could only do 1 or 2 projects to boost the look of the outside view of the front of my house, what could I do?

Well I'm a wood guy, so for me adding some sort of wooden element whether that be shutters or a beautiful wooden door is a great place to start. The door I did for our episode on Fixer Upper really added a touch to rest of the house and made it all come together. 

How did you meet Chip and Joanna? And, are you still friends with them?

I met Chip at a gas station! ha!!! The long version of that really fun story is in my book Handcrafted...I'd only answer your question today if I went in to all the details...ha! They are such sweet friends...just about to finish a small project for them today actually!

What is your favorite piece you've ever made? Scroll corner wood piece?

in 2005 or so I made an Armoire and a table with a drill, skill saw, and a chop saw for my wife Kelly. I took pics of those pieces and showed them to my grandfather. He asked me if I wanted to build more and I said yes. He said I 'd need real tools so he sent me a check for $1250 in the mail. I bought a bunch of tools from Home Depot. In 2011 when I quit my job to start Harp Design Co with my wife, it was those tools that my grandfather helped me buy that I used to do it all. I'm actually sitting at that first table right now typing these questions. : )

How long have you been doing what you love doing? Awesome when your able to do every day what your passionate about. Wood working.

I quit my job in 2011...so it's been around 8 years that I've been going for my dream and doing something that I love. It's not always easy but that's not weird. It's not supposed to be easy. I figure every job we have will have it's difficulties so why not choose one that I love. 

Is it okay to put your cell phone on the table during dinner? Can you look at texts between courses? Read what Emily Post experts have to say in my article on Cellphones At A Dinner Party: They are not part of the Table Setting

Can you make a table with wood top & rod-iron base shaped like an X? So able to get more chairs for seating under table when needed.

Well sure I guess I could! We're not doing a lot of custom work right now but if we were that sounds like a fun project. Look for someone in your area who's trying to make furniture for a living and give them a shop! If it weren't for those people who gave me a shot when I was trying to get started I wouldn't be here today!

My 1951 home has amazing solid wood paneling scattered throughout it that was unfortunately painted in the past. The restoration of the sections we've tackled so far involved lots of Citrustrip and plastic wrap to cover it while it worked. The next area we want to tackle is in our master bedroom and I'd rather not have that weird, orange-y odor lingering for weeks again if I can help it. Is there any other indoor-safe paint stripper on the market - maybe one that doesn't need hours to do its job?

I don't do a lot of paint stripping these days so I can't really answer that confidently. And if there is a lead-based paint concern then that is also something that a licensed pro should look at. All that being said if it were my house and I didn't have those concerns I would probably go in with a heavy disc sander and knock it out! I get a little impatient with paint strippers so I just like to go in with the heavy duty equipment : ) This of course creates a ton of dust so you have to make sure you seal off vents and whatnot. Good luck!

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We know that the furniture Joanna uses to stage the houses goes back to her warehouse after the show wraps. But what about the pieces you make? Do they stay with the house? Do the clients have to pay extra to keep them or are they included in the price they pay for the rehab?

The pieces I made for the homeowners were given to them. It was such a blast making all those pieces!

If i were to open a retail workspace would you come visit and teach me some turning techniques

Sure! ; )....I really wish I could beam up to wherever...someone get on that technology! All joking aside I do take the time each year to do facetimes with folks across the country to talk about their dreams and how they are starting their own shops and whatnot. We post about it on instagram and twitter when are doing it so please look out for it!

Hi Clint, a couple years ago we bought a second-hand wooden china cabinet with swinging glass doors and then let it get rained on for weeks while we were "refinishing" it. Whether this was my husband's job or mine remains classified. Anyway, one of the doors fell off, and also the glass broke. We still have the pieces (of the wood door frame, not the glass) and we've talked about fixing it with some kind of corner plates. My husband also suggested installing sliding glass doors, which would be more convenient in our crowded dining room, but we don't know how difficult it would be to buy or install sliding tracks, or to make it look decent. What do you recommend?

Hahahaha! I love this so much. Gotta love those "classified" details! It's so hard for me to say without looking at the actual cabinet itself. That being said, sliding door hardware can definitely be purchased without too much trouble. It's available at hardware stores and online. It's the door part that's can be tricky...but also such a fun challenge! I say you guys tackle making doors together. Regardless of what it looks like (I'm sure it will look great)...you'll have an awesome story to tell! And include the classified info!!!

For the LW who has a maple wood table & wants to preserve it: get a glass company cut a glass top to put on top of the table. Wood furniture adds warmth to a room; I would avoid covers & the clumsy furniture pads. The glass top will keep scratches at bay, add sparkle to the room & people can admire the maple wood pattern.

Good thought...could be a good option.

Do you play a harp? LOL

I don't! but I do play the hammered dulcimer which has a gazillion strings stretched accross a wooden body...maybe they are in the same family???

Hi Clint: I love old tables - how should you take care of the top of a rustic table?

Oil it!! We sell a wood balm on our website that my brother in law makes in his shop in the U.K. It's food safe and smells lovely. I rub it on my cutting boards and wood furniture all the time. It's just good to keep the wood moisturized. Otherwise, use the heck out of that rustic table...it's made for it! https://harpdesignco.com/products/wood-balm

I am looking to build a tree house?! What would be the best wood to use for such a project etc.

If your just talking about a fun treehouse in the backyard...I would probably just use pressure treated wood for the actual structure. We built one for our show Wood Work on the DIY Network and used pressure treated for the structure. On the inside of the treehouse, you could use fun stuff like old cedar fence slats to make it all warm and cozy! Good luck!

Hi Clint, thanks for doing this chat. Do you have any favorite woodworking/home building/fix it magazines or other periodicals that you can recommend? I am interested more in the "how-to" aspects rather than just pics of the finished products. Thanks!

Do you ever read WOOD Magazine? That's a great one! Lots of practical stuff inside. There are so many books and mags out there. Anything by Eric Sloane is a good read when it comes to old school woodworking knowledge. Also "The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees" by Robert Penn is amazing! 

We purchased a dark wood "distressed look" dining table so that we wouldn't have to worry about dings and spills with our nine grandchildren. Of course the new dings and stains don't look anything like the pre-fab ones, and right now it just looks patchy. Should I try to go in with sandpaper & bash it with chains a few times to even things out? Or just be patient?

Definitely give it time and be patient...your grandkids will ding it up nicely I promise...ha! Really and truly the tables we long for that have all that amazing patina have been used for decades and tell many stories. So keep using your table like you are...you will look back one day and cry at the beauty it reflects.

Thanks everyone for the great questions!! I hope we get to do this again! I'm looking forward to being at the "Capital Remodel + Garden Show" at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, VA Feb 22nd-24th...I hope you all can come out! 

If you are someone who has always wanted to try their hand at building something...I say go for it! Grab whatever tools you have and get creative ( and of course be safe!). You never know where it will lead!!! 


All my best - 


Well, we got a lot of great info today - including the fact that Clint plays the hammered dulcimer! Thank you so much for being here. Check out Clint's appearance at the Capital Remodel and Garden Show Feb. 22-24, at the Dulles Expo Center. Next week Baltimore designer Patrick Sutton will be my guest talking about how to find your own design point of view. Happy Valentines Day.

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily Twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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