Monthly archives: September, 2018

Making the Transition from Teaching to Running an Urban Wood Business

Skorup made this live-edge table from tornado-salvaged wood.

Steve Skorup of Sandwich, IL, may have retired from high school teaching, but he’s hardly retired. His new day job is harvesting urban trees to make into furniture and other wood products. He’s found diverse sources for urban logs and has made friends with a pair of local sawyers to mill them for his shop. Read more about Skorup and his urban wood business, SAWINC, in this edition of the Illinois Urban Wood Update.

Also featured in this issue

Dwayne Sperber, owner of Wudeward Urban Forest Products of Milwaukee, presented the first Wisconsin Urban Wood Utilization Award to the architects and builders of the DoMUS apartment complex. The award recognized the project’s use of Wisconsin Urban Wood shelving in 117 luxury apartments. His goal is to make this an annual award. Way to go, Dwayne!

We’ve featured several videos produced Tom Hogard of Eudora, KS, better known in urban wood circles as Tom The Sawyer, over the years. Tom recently began blogging on his website. In one of them he tackles the challenging question, “Can you cut your lumber costs significantly by patronizing your local sawmill?” Read the article in this month’s Update for Tom’s answer.

The Urban Wood Network presented its third in its “How to Do Urban Wood” webinar series last week. It will soon be archived to watch on-demand. The second webinar, “How to Produce and Market Urban Lumber,” was recently added to the archives. A handy link is offered in the newsletter to check it out.

As always, send me your urban wood news and photos. Steve Skorup did it, so can you!

Rich Christianson

Communications Director
Illinois Wood Utilization Team


UWN Webinar #2: How to Produce & Market Urban Lumber

How to Produce & Market Urban Wood Lumber, the second in a series of informative webinars presented by the Urban Wood Network, is available on demand.

Urban wood is a legitimate source of lumber products.  Lumber made from urban wood has unique and valuable attributes but urban logs can be difficult to process and saw. This webinar shows examples of log sources, sawing methods for producing urban lumber, lumber drying techniques and marketing strategies.

Participants learn:

  • Sourcing logs
  • Guidelines for grading urban lumber
  • Air drying and kiln drying techniques
  • Urban wood lumber branding opportunities
  • How to identify markets for urban wood lumber
  • Who to contact for assistance
  • How to partner with an urban wood network to achieve their goals

Speakers:

Watch the Webinar Now!

Learn more about the Urban Wood Network’s “How-to Do Urban Wood” webinar series.



DoMUS Serves as Industry Model for Wisconsin Urban Wood

Wudeward Urban Forest Products was honored to present the first Wisconsin Urban Wood Utilization Award to Mandel Group, HGA, and C.D. Smith Construction for their work developing, designing, and building the DoMUS apartment complex in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. The award was presented on June 21 during the USGBC Wisconsin Transformation Awards.

Wudeward could not have presented this award without the support from the U.S. Forest Service and the Wisconsin Urban Wood network of municipalities, arborists, sawmills, designers, and suppliers who together make the urban wood industry possible.

The DoMUS project – which incorporated Wisconsin Urban Wood shelving into 117 of its luxury apartment homes, shelving in the community room, and a floor-to-ceiling divider in the main lobby – serves as a model for working with urban wood in large volumes. From their understanding of best ways to work with sustainably-sourced materials, to adding Wisconsin Urban Wood into their design specifications, and constant communication throughout the design and construction process, the team made working within the constraints of nature’s inventory a streamlined, standardized, and enjoyable experience.

Download the full case study for more information and give me a call if you are looking to incorporate Wisconsin Urban Wood into your next project.



Retired Teacher Focuses on Growing Urban Wood Business

After retiring last spring from a distinguished teaching career that spanned 33 years, Steve Skorup has decided to dedicate more time to harvesting urban trees to make furniture and other wood products.

Skorup spent most of his teaching career at Waubonsie Valley High School where he taught technology and engineering education. Among his many honors, Skorup was named 2003 Illinois Drafting Educators Association Teacher of the Year, 2007 ITEA Teacher of the Year and twice chosen as SkillsUSA Advisor of the Year. He also coached wrestling for 24 years and was nominated IWCOA Assistant Wrestling Coach of the Year.

A resident of Sandwich, IL, Skorup operates SAWINC. It’s a company he launched while attending high school. His company specializes in harvesting trees to make wood products including live-edge tables, cutting boards and furniture.

“I have done woodworking since I was in high school in Lockport,” Skorup wrote in an email. “I have had my company SAWINC since high school when a friend and I formed a small cabinet making enterprise. My interest in urban wood utilization began about five years ago when Brandon Dobnick, a neighbor, began working for Morton Arboretum and was taking down trees on the side. He now has his own business, Dobnick Timberworks/Vertical Solutions. We started with one walnut tree and a table project he wanted to do and from there we started acquiring trees, doing some work while waiting for me to retire from teaching and dedicate more time to the business.

“We started with Brandon’s chain saw mill but also hired a Wade Ellis out of West Chicago who had a Wood-Mizer sawmill when we had a big pile we needed milled,” he continued. “We’ve acquired trees from some area tree services, towns, school districts, or we cut our own. I have been storing up slabs for four years and am looking forward to making some more products moving forward.”

Notable sources of logs have included the Morton Arboretum’s prairie restoration along the DuPage River, trees downed by a tornado in 2015 at the Woodhaven Lakes campground and a pair of American elms from the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio in Oak Park. Skorup noted that the trees he salvaged from the tornado scene represented a mere handful of the number that were felled. “So many of the trees were just ground to mulch in the clean-up effort,” Skorup said.

“My Frank Lloyd Wright live edge table won a Blue Ribbon at the Sandwich Fair last year,” Skorup added. “I try and use all pieces of the tree – serving boards, Poppe blocks for my grandchildren, outdoor ash benches, etc.”

Skorup says he plans to build a website for his business. In the meantime, he can be contacted at sawinc.skorup@gmail.com.



Tom The Sawyer’s Examines ‘The Cost of Lumber’

Tom Hogard of Eudora, KS, better known in urban wood circles as Tom The Sawyer, has done a bang up job of sharing videos of interesting milling projects and sharing his knowledge and experience of the ins and outs of the urban wood marketplace. Case in point is a blog Hogard wrote to answer the challenging question, “Can you cut your lumber costs significantly by patronizing your local sawmill?”

Here are a few excerpts:

  • In my opinion, there are two basic types of markets for hardwood lumber.  I refer to these markets as commodity and character.  The commodity market is the primary market, hundreds of times larger than the character lumber market.  Huge milling operations that may put out many thousands of board feet per week.  For commodity lumber, extra-wide boards demand a premium price, as do thicker boards.  Rarely do they offer characteristics such as crotch figure or live edges.
  • The journey from a growing tree to a piece of furniture has many steps.  Every step in the process involves risk, investment, waste, and profit.  The earlier in the process you acquire your lumber, the less expensive it will be.  The potential cost savings involves an investment and some risk.  Each of the persons in the process must cover their expenses or go out of business.  If there is no profit, they’ll often find something else more rewarding.  Depending on your needs, that $5 p/bf walnut board may be a bargain.
  • Logs are heavy.  It takes ingenuity to remove a 4000 lb log from someone’s back yard, through a fence gate, without tearing up the lawn (which is one reason why many urban logs are cut into short, easier to handle, pieces).  Then there is the issue of loading those logs on a truck or trailer and transporting to their next stop; a sawmill, or a landfill/dump/chipping facility.  Of course, in commercial operations there is an abundance of heavy equipment designed to perform those functions efficiently.

To get the full context, read the entire blog – and others – on Tom The Sawyer’s website.