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Meet the Maker: Brad Bernhart of Earlywood

Here at The Grommet our mission is to put an end to nameless, faceless business and highlight the people and the stories behind the products we launch each day. And it's in that spirit that we're continuing this series to further share the stories of our Makers with you. Get to know them better, learn more about their journeys as Makers and entrepreneurs and learn how you, The Grommet Community, have changed their businesses for the better.

In this installment we're catching up with Brad Bernhart the Maker behind Earlywood Designs. Earlywood started as a creative outlet for founder Brad, a mechanical engineering student who fed his artistic side with woodworking. He works solo from his cozy studio in the wilderness of Red Lodge, Montana. We recently caught up with him to learn more about his journey as an entrepreneur and asked his advice for other Makers looking to build their businesses.

Meet the Maker: Earlywood

Tell us more about your design inspiration.
Before being a full time business owner and woodworker, I was a mechanical engineer. As a result, I'm more concerned about how my utensils work than how they look. If that makes you suspect that Earlywood utensils won't be beautiful, then I point you in the direction of this Buckminster Fuller quote: "When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong."


What Maker tool can you not live without?
The one "tool" I can't live without when I'm at the shop working is... podcasts! Stuff You Should Know, Astronomy Cast, StartUp, Snap Judgement and After the Jump are a few favorites. My favorite "real" tools though, are my pneumatic drum sanders. Can't live without those.

Meet the Maker: Earlywood

What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Don't think your business is going to succeed... know it is going to succeed.

What three personality traits do think have helped you become a successful entrepreneur?
Hard working, analytical, and positive


What has been the most rewarding part of business for you?
The most rewarding part of this business is when I hear from people in different parts of this country or even in different countries that say they got some Earlywood from a friend for a present, and they love it so much that they are now giving it to everyone they know. It's not rewarding because it's sales... it's rewarding because it means that people are loving their Earlywood so much that they want their closest friends and family to experience it too.

 To learn more about Earlywood Designs, watch our video here.


  • JoAnn Says:

    Wood is can hold bacteria. How do you clean and sanitize these tools? They look beautiful and functional but I want to make sure that they will not breed bacteria.

  • Tori Says:

    Hi JoAnn, good question. Good question! Here's an answer directly from Brad:

    " These woods do not produce bacteria by any means. Whether they absorb bacteria has to do with the hardness of the woods and the size of their pores. The softest wood I use is hard maple (which is used for bowling alleys and gym floors) and it is just about as hard as wood grows in the United States. The other woods are a minimum of 3 times harder than hard maple and have very small pores. That is why I picked them. They are all extremely resistant to socking up stains, flavors, or bacteria."


  • Karen Says:

    I've had a wooden utensil show mold; however I'm pretty sure it was pine, with no finish and a bit rough. But I had soaked it in water trying to get some food off and forgot it.
    These utensils are a higher quality.

  • Raymond Marusyk, Professor emeritus Says:

    Those concerned with the bacterial contamination if wood cutting boards may want to read of the work by Dean Cliver of the UC Davis vet school. Cliver and his colleagues reported that wood cutting boards, new and knife-scored, had a higher resistance to bacterial colonization than did plastic cutting boards.

  • Linda Says:

    Hi Brad,
    It is so nice to know that, true craftsmen, that take pride in their materials and workmanship are still around. Your work is beautiful.
    Thank you, Linda South Texas

  • Rafi Says:

    Do you ever use lignam vitae?

  • kathleen Says:

    studies continue to show that even if wood utensils and boards develop/retain a bacteria load that they don't release the bacteria back into the food

  • MaryAnneG Says:

    The best way to keep wooden cooking items clean is by not soaking them in water. Quickly soap off food under running water and dry immediately. Any wooden utensil will last forever.

  • Bill Gronke Says:

    A study was done on cutting boards, rubbing raw poultry on a wood board and doing the same on a synthetic board. That amount of bacteria was measured. Then leaving both boards at room temp for 24 hours the amount of bacteria was measured again. The bacteria on the synthetic board multiplied considerably; the bacteria on the wood board had declined appreciably. There is something in the wood that kills bacteria.

  • MJ Says:

    There have also been studies about bacteria on wood versus plastic, with results in favor of wood. Here's one from UC/Davis:


  • MJ Says:

    Wood often harbors less bacteria than plastic, as evidenced in several studies. Here is a link to a study done by UC/Davis:


  • Shaun Says:

    I became aware of the superiority of wood vs. synthetics with my cuttting boards: the synthetic boards dulled my chef's knives faster than the butcher blocks, so I recycled the plastic ones.

    Once I learned of how readily bacteria grew on plastic boards, that provided yet another reason to get rid of them.

    I switched to wooden utensils a few years ago because they worked great with my cast iron and stainless cookware (no teflon to leach into the foods here), but none of them were made of maple or other hardwoods like Brad's.

    I'll definitely order some of these!

  • Cheri Says:

    We've become far too paranoid about bacteria. People have cooked with wooden spoons since they started cooking in kitchens. Wood feels right.

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