Jason Wright began welding for fun as a 12-year-old. His friend’s dad had a welder, and he would play with it whenever he visited. Serious stints in a furniture factory and a shipyard followed—along with work as a union boilermaker. “That’s the top of the line, as far as welders go,” Wright says. “Nuclear power plants, steel mills, refineries—all the high-pressure stuff.”
Wright gradually blended those technical chops with the creativity he had as a tinkering pre-teen. He always liked making furniture, and had a passion for old trucks. So when some junked tailgates caught his eye, the Laconia-based craftsman knew just what to do.
“My first tailgate bench was from a Jeep,” he says. “The first few took a bit of work—getting them square and working with the dents.” Since 2015, Wright has made roughly 600 benches, some tailgate porch swings, and even tailgate bedroom sets. “Now I pretty much have it down to a science,” he says.
That science entails pulling warps out of the metal first, but character-adding dents and stray bullet holes remain. So they’ll bond properly, Wright does remove rust from areas of the tailgate that will be welded to the steel frame.
He often uses treated pine for the seats, but he has incorporated weathered barn wood as well. After cutting the seat slats to length, Wright sets them aside and starts prepping the metal to paint. That means masking off the tailgate and spraying the frame. As the paint dries, Wright stains the wooden slats. Finally, he fastens them down with carriage bolts.
Wright ships his pieces all over the country. He created 10 benches for the Neon Sign Park in Casa Grande, Arizona. Depending on the rarity of the tailgate, pieces cost between $500 and $700 each. “I never dreamed it would be like this,” he says. “It went from goofing off in the garage to more than a full-time job.”