Spurned Woodworker Turns to Toronto for Urban Ash Lumber

By Rich Christianson

Custom woodworker Nicholas Hamilton Holmes can only imagine how many more products he would have crafted from urban wood if the City of Hamilton, ON, had allowed him to utilize some of the thousands of ash trees the city has been removing due to emerald ash borer infestation.

Holmes recently told me via email that, “Hamilton hasn’t really shifted their position as far as I know.”

The headline of February 2014 CBC News’ report pretty much summed up the situation: “Hamilton furniture maker wants to use ash borer wood, city says NO.

The article cited Toronto and Illinois as two examples of areas promoting the use of wood from trees felled by the emerald ash borer. It even quoted IL WUT’s own Edith Makra.

With Hamilton expecting to lose 22,738 trees to the EAB, one would think that the city would have been happy to spare even a few of the higher-quality logs the landfill to be made into something. But when Holmes asked the city for some of the ash logs to mill into lumber, he was not only turned away, but at one point told he would require $2 million in insurance coverage to haul city logs.

Rather than play the role of Don Quixote, Holmes decided not to battle Hamilton over its ash tree policy even though it frustrated him to see so much valuable wood go to waste. While the city’s rejection slowed him down, it hardly dissuaded him from using urban wood in some of his projects. He found a ready source of supply from nearby Toronto,which has taken a proactive stance on ash tree utilization.

Pictured above are a couple of items Holmes made from local urban ash wood. The Shell Table was made from two boards from the same tree milled by Sawmill Sid of Mississauga, ON. Hamilton displayed the table at a special exhibit of furniture and crafts made from Toronto-area ash trees at IDEX, an annual show attended by architects and designers.

Holmes also used urban ash for the Rhythm Rattles shown above and said he is “making a table for a client who had milled a walnut log from their property. I’ll be building it in the next few months and the wood  is looking really nice.”

Learn more about Nicholas Hamilton Holmes at hamiltonholmes.com.