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Worn Out Wednesday – Canoe Builder Trent Preszler

Today we meet canoe builder (and wine industry executive), Trent Preszler.

I am a third generation farmer living on the North Fork of Long Island, NY. Originally from South Dakota, I went to a one-room schoolhouse near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Later, I studied at Iowa State University, and earned an MS and PhD in Horticulture from Cornell University. I grew up looking out at the Dakota horizon over fields of golden wheat. These days I look eastward over the Atlantic Ocean to points unknown.

I started building a canoe in 2014 shortly after my father passed away – over the winter during some historic blizzards. I have my dad’s old shop tools and his trophy elk and deer antlers in my woodshop. I live in a secluded beach cabin on the North Fork that has amazing views across Peconic Bay over to The Hamptons. I make boats in a separate barn studio that was built in 1820 as the original Mattituck Village Blacksmith.

My primary material of choice for boatbuilding is aromatic red cedar, but I’m also exploring a broad range of hardwood biodiversity including walnut, maple, and exotic tropical species such as Zebrawood, Ziricote and Movingui. I’m building different boats with different species of trees as a means to explore the diverse colors, grains and textures in wood. Biodiversity inspires my creativity—not just in wooden boatbuilding, but also nature photography.
Some people say that when you build a canoe, you’re planning your escape. But for me, it’s a process of making order out of chaos. You buckle down on a task and make something beautiful and useful. Then when you’re done, as you paddle away, it’s freedom. In 2015, I rowed a wooden boat around the entire island of Manhattan to help raise $250,000 for my favorite charity: Rocking the Boat, a youth development organization in the South Bronx that teaches kids how to build wooden boats.

At Preszler Woodshop I handcraft heirloom quality canoes using traditional woodworking techniques. Each boat is painstakingly molded from hundreds of hand-cut wood strips during an exacting process that takes up to a year to complete. My canoes are functional works of art meant to be passed down through generations. My practice is imbued with the elements of the outdoorsman: wood, water, sky, and life.

In my “day job” I am CEO of Bedell Cellars, a 100-acre, certified sustainable vineyard and winery founded in 1980. I’m most proud that our Merlot was the official red wine served at President Obama’s Inauguration. I am also Chairman of the Board of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, and incoming Chairman of WineAmerica, the national association of wineries.

As for my personal style:

Jeans: When I’m building boats in my woodshop I always wear Levis 501s. I inherited my favorite pair of 501s from my Dad when he passed away. They fit me perfectly and are so soft after about 20 years of wear.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Shirts: When I’m in comfort mode I love lounging in my Feathers Hoodie from Burkman Bros. My BFF Allen introduced me to Doug and Ben Burkman a few years ago and I want to buy everything on their website. When I’m working in the woodshop I usually wear a Topo Designs plaid flannel, or a chambray shirt with wood buttons from A Kind of Guise with the sleeves rolled up. When I step it up a notch I have a huge assortment of dress shirts by Todd Snyder that I absolutely love. (By the way, Todd and I are both proud alumni of Iowa State University!)

Pants: I can usually be found wearing super comfy wool-silk button fly cuffed dress pants from Norse Projects; I like them so much I bought three colors. I only own one pair of khakis because they’re perfectly tailored by Dries Van Noten and I can’t imagine anything else being better.

Suits: I have a go-to navy blue suit from Our Legacy that I love for its versatility. And I had a custom black tux made at Seize sur Vingt in SoHo a few years ago that has served me well on so many occasions.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Shoes: In my canoe woodshop I only wear Red Wing’s 8882 Heritage Moc Toe work boots and I have two pair in mahogany and indigo blue portage leather. For a casual walk around town or day in the office I’m usually wearing Common Projects original Achilles low sneakers.

Accessories: I try to make sure all my accessories are American made to support other craftsmen. The only time I take off my green Shinola Runwell watch is to sleep and shower! I wish I could develop a canoe partnership with Shinola, I have such respect for their brand. I also never take off my rose gold screw cuff from Miansai. Last year I bought a custom 5-panel waxed canvas and leather hat from Seasoned USA that’s molded to my head most of my waking hours. I love Seasoned USA because all their caps are hand sewn in California using all American materials.  

Outerwear: My favorite outerwear tailor is Kai D. Utility Tools & Clothing for Artisans in Brooklyn. Kai is a supreme talent and makes everything in his shop with exquisite attention to detail. My one and only winter coat is a gorgeous navy wool Adventurer Jacket that Kai made for me. The cut is loosely based on an M65 Japanese military jacket.

Favorite Cologne: Wonderwood by Comme des Garcons (how predictable that even my cologne is wood)

Your favorite App: ESPN. I’m a die-hard college basketball fan, especially the Iowa State Cyclones.

Favorite piece of technology: That’s a tie between my car and my camera. There’s no finer machine on the road than my BMW 328 eco-diesel. And I’m also obsessed with nature photography — testing the limits of my Nikon D810.

Next tech purchase: Well I’m sure nobody’s heard of the Powermatic 209HH wood planer, but I’m gonna get one in 2016. It will make a huge difference in the controlled precision process of cutting wooden boat planks.

Photos courtesy of Laura Barisonzi. 

Cator Sparks
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Cator Sparks was the Editor-in-Chief of The Manual from its launch in 2012 until 2018. Previously, Cator was covering…
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