Monthly archives: March, 2016

Urban Wood Products Showcase Winners Strut Their Stuff

ILWUT_LogoBy Rich Christianson

Among the many highlights of the Bringing the Urban Wood Full Circle Conference held March 18 at Hamburger University in Oak Brook was the Urban Wood Products Showcase. The showcase shined a bright spotlight on the design creativity of the entries that ranged from tables and wall hangings to a bell stand and soccer ball all crafted from urban wood. Nearly all of the entries also told a story about their lives as trees and their rebirth as functional and/or fun products.

Conference delegates got to vote for their favorite products on display in the showcase. First and second place People’s Choice Awards were awarded for two judging categories: Furniture and Specialty Items.

In the hotly contested Furniture category, Wade Ellis, owner of Ellis Custom Sawing and Woodworking of West Chicago, IL, took top honors for his gorgeous cherry chest. The chest was literally a last-minute entry. It took a strong write-in campaign to win first place.

Finishing second was a bell stand designed and fabricated by Jeff Perkis, owner of Story Wood. West Chicago City Museum, which maintains a record of the town’s railroad roots, commissioned Perkis to create the solid red oak stand with walnut accents to hold an old 80-pound train bell. Urban wood used for the project was salvaged from West Chicago community trees damaged in a 2012 storm. The wood was milled and kiln dried by Perkins and his uncle Ron Meyers of Meyers Woodworking & Lumber in Batavia, IL. The bell was finished by Ken Wier, owner of i2i Design of Wood Dale, IL. Meyers and Wier were among runner ups in the Furniture category.

An electric acoustic ukulele and amplifier crafted by Paul Pettigrew, architect and associate professor of the Illinois Institute of Technology was the top winner of the Specialty Items category. The musical instrument combo incorporates spalted soft maple, hard maple, rosewood and chrome-plated ukulele tuners. Like a sea shell captures ocean sounds, Pettigrew said, “I liked the idea of being able to ‘hear the sounds’ of Buchanan, Michigan, the source of the wood for the ukulele and amplifier.”

Eric Beauchamp of Beau Bois Custom Creations of Evanston, IL, took second place with a set of Fractal Elm Trays. Wood for the trays came from an American elm tree estimated at more than 130 years old that Beauchamp said “was cared for as the centerpiece of a garden in Evanston.” The tree was removed as a “safety precaution.” The main trunk, 14.5 feet long and 4.5 feet in diameter, was milled and kiln dried by Horigan Forest Products of Skokie, IL.

The Urban Wood Products Showcase was coordinated by John Lough, Senior City Forester of Chicago. Photos and information of all of the entries will be  posted on in the coming weeks.

Hardwood Workshop Covers Logs to Lumber

Illinois Wood Utilization Team

Dan Cassens prepares to cut a log on a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill.

Illinois Wood UtilizationTeam

Prof. Cassens had an attentive group of students eager to learn more about hardwood properties and markets.

By Rich Christianson

Attaining the most value from hardwood logs, including those harvested from the urban forest, was the running theme of the Hardwood Lumber & Sawmill Workshop held Thursday, March 17 at the historic Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook, IL.

Prof. Dan Cassens, wood products extension specialist at Purdue University, and owner of Cassens Lumber of West Lafayette, IN, presented a mix of classroom and hands on instruction to an audience mostly made up of sawyers, woodworkers and arborists.

Some of the classroom topics Cassens lectured on included wood quality and characteristics, log scaling, hardwood grading pricing and marketing, optimizing sawing patterns and wood moisture and drying. All of the topics were geared to helping nimble custom wood producers better understand how they can successfully compete in hardwood lumber and product markets.

The classroom exercises were broken up by a mid-day sawmill demonstration. Cassens used a portable Wood-Mizer sawmill to mill logs provided by the DuPage County Forest Preserve into lumber.

The workshop was organized by the Illinois Wood Utilization Team on the eve of the Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle Conference.

Diverse Audience Unites at Urban Wood Event

ILWUT_LogoBy Rich Christianson

Arborists, foresters, sawyers, architects, woodworkers and other professionals came together at the Bringing the Urban Wood Full Circle Conference to learn and share ideas for propelling the urban wood market.

The unique conference focused on converting community trees into lumber and wood products. It was presented by the Illinois Wood Utilization Team March 18 at Hamburger University on McDonald’s corporate campus in Oak Brook, IL. Sponsors included Horigan Urban Forest Products, the Wisconsin Arborist Association, Sterling Tree Solutions Meyers Woodworking & Lumber, Graf Tree Care.

While most of these diverse conference delegates hailed from the greater Chicago area, others traveled from southern Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska and even Ontario, Canada.

Among the many highlights:

  • Edith Makra, chairperson of the Illinois Wood Utilization Team, kicked off the conference noting that there is an estimated 3 to 4 billion board feet of lumber potentially available from the nation’s urban forests. Capitalizing on this greatly underutilized raw material would require local markets throughout the country to strengthen their links in the chain from land managers and tree care services to sawyers and woodworkers.
  • Ian Brown, urban forestry district manager for Milwaukee, discussed how Milwaukee is diverting 100% of its logs to local sawmill and in the process reducing disposal costs by 50%.
  • In a similar vein, John Lough, senior city forester of Chicago, shared the Windy City’s urban log removal and reclamation plan.
  • Separate presentations by August Hoppe, president of Hoppe Tree Services and the Urban Wood Lab in Milwaukee, and Jessica Simons, coordinator of Michigan’s Urbanwood Project based in Ann Arbor shared different models for developing retail outlets for urban wood lumber, slabs and wood products.
  • Three architects participated in the conference. Laureen Blissard, principal of LTBL Envirotecture presented how urban wood fits into sustainability building programs including LEED. Jeff Perkis, senior project manager for Chipman Architecture Design and owner of Story Wood, recounted how dozens of hardwood trees downed in a freakish 2011  storm in West Chicago were salvaged and turned into furniture and other wood  products. One of the most recent is a bell stand Perkins made for the West Chicago museum. Architect Paul Pettigrew, also an associate professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, showed more than 100 slides of projects made by his students of his popular furniture and architecture class over the years.
  • Ken Wier, owner of i2i Design, told the audience why he loves making furniture from urban wood because of its rich and often unpredictable splendor compared to hardwoods harvested from traditional forests. Wier’s discerning customers include Starbucks, Mariano’s and Freshii.
  • Mike Dimitroff, manager of art initiatives for the Chicago Park District, showcased a variety of projects that use wood reclaimed from city parks including the Bears Den at Solider Field and at CPD community wood shops. Dimitroff was joined by Jim Semelka, urban forestry advocate for Sterling Tree Solutions, to discuss how the public and private company partner on urban wood tree reclamation programs.
  • Dimitroff also showed how thermally modified urban wood is being used as a decking material for the CPD’s harbor dock. Brian Mitalo, regional salesperson for Tourneslol Siteworks, which makes outdoor furniture and more from thermally modified lumber TML), agreed that there is great potential for converting urban wood into TML.
  • Prof. Dan Cassens, wood extension specialist at Purdue University, pulled double duty. First he lectured on how urban wood sellers can compete with traditional hardwood lumber and wood products by not only being novel, but by being nimble. Cassens also conducted a live portable sawmill demonstration using logs generously donated by Ron Meyers of Meyers Woodworking & Lumber of Batavia, IL.

Rounding out the event were plenty of networking opportunities, including a networking featuring table top exhibits and more than a dozen furniture and other items displayed in the Urban Wood Products Showcase.

The Bringing the Full Circle Conference was preceded by an all-day Hardwood Lumber & Sawmill Workshop instructed by Prof. Dan Cassens, wood products extension specialist at Purdue University.


Horigan Urban Forest Products








Basic Sponsorship








American Society of Landscape Architects




International Woodworking Fair
















Illinois Sawmill Directories Updated

IL-Sawmill-Directory-CoverBy Rich Christianson

The Forestry Division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources recently released a pair of newly updated sawmill directories, one featuring custom sawyers and the other dedicated to stationary sawmilling operations.

The 2016 Illinois Custom Sawmill Directory, last updated in 2011,  features 60 businesses located throughout the state. The vast majority of them have mobile sawmills and are involved in processing lumber from logs reclaimed from community trees.

In addition to key contact information, the county-by-county guide includes information on specialty services offered by custom sawyers including kiln drying, timber inventories and secondary wood processing.

The 2016 Illinois Sawmill Directory, compiled with the help of Southern Illinois University and the U.S. Forest Service, is the first major update since 2013. The 42-page directory features listings of more than 70 sawmills with processing capacities ranging from less than 1,000 board feet per day to more than 16,000 board feet per day. Nearly all of the sawmills primarily process hardwoods, the most common of which is white and red oak, walnut, black cherry, and maple. Less than 5% of the sawmills process softwoods.

Learn more about services offered by Illinois Forestry Resources.

Icon Modern’s Urban Wood Story Told on Chicago’s WBBM Radio

Icon-Modern-Slab-TableIcon Modern, a company that has staked its business model and growth on repurposing wood reclaimed from the urban forest for its custom furniture designs was recently the subject of a news feature on WBBM radio Chicago. WBBM reporter Lisa Fields interviewed Rocky Levy, co-owner of Icon Modern for the profile.

Icon Modern operates from a two-story, 20,000-square-foot facility on Chicago’s west side. The company’s motto is “Sustainable Design from the Urban Forest.”

Starbucks, Whole Foods and Loyola University are just a few of Icon Modern’s customers. Products include conference tables, reception desks and countertops.

Click here to listen to WBBM’s report.

Click here to visit Icon Modern.

AIA Members Eligible for CEUs at Urban Wood Event

ILWUT_LogoMembers of the A&D community can earn continuing education units (CEUS) by attending the Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle Conference, Friday, March 18 at Hamburger University.

The credits are being offered to members of the American Institute of Architects through special arrangement with the Illinois Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Architects and designers attending the program will learn about the unique appeal of converting community trees into lumber used for furniture, cabinets, flooring and other wood products and building materials.

Among the many conference highlights:

  • Laureen Blissard, architect and principal of LTLB Envirotecture will present “Green Building Programs & Urban Wood.”
  • Paul Pettigrew, architect and associate professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, will present “Urban Wood’s Journey from Forest to Classroom, Museum, Gallery, Auction & Home.”
  • Jeff Perkis is Owner of Story Wood, a custom woodworking business, and Senior Project Manager of Chipman Architecture Design, will present “Out of the Woods: How West Chicago Repurposed Storm-Damaged Urban Trees.”
  • Presentations on successful urban wood partnerships in Chicago, Ann Arbor, MI; and Milwaukee, WI.
  • Overview of the urban wood market and its source local/buy local appeal.
  • Urban Wood Products Showcase featuring displays of cool stuff made from urban wood.
  • Portable sawmill demonstration hatches the inner beauty of a tree.
  • Plenty of networking opportunities, including a Networking reception featuring table top exhibits at the end of the program.

The conference is presented by the Illinois Wood Utilization Team.

View the full schedule and register.

For additional information, contract Rich Christianson, Conference Director, at or 773-822-6750.


Hunski Hardwoods Logs the West Coast Urban Forest

Hunski Hardwoods, urban wood

Hunski Hardwoods specializes in giving diseased and storm damaged community trees a second life.

James Hunsaker and his son, Nick have been salvaging diseased and dying urban trees in and around Antelope, CA, since 2010.

Beyond milling the west coast trees into slaps and lumber, an important mission of Hunski Hardwoods is to “preserve the history of the wood beyond each tree’s life.”

The father and son’s story was chronicled in Timberline magazine last August, a publication of Wood-Mizer. As the story goes, Hunski Hardwood’s business took off after it purchased a Wood-Mizer WM1000 sawmill. Within two weeks of putting the mill into operation, Hunski had milled 30 logs, tripling their lumber output in the process.

Read the Timberline article for more about Hunski Hardwood’s business and growth and/or visit


Register for Hardwood Workshop & Urban Wood Conference Online by March 16


Online registration for the March 17 Hardwood Lumber & Sawmill Workshop and Brining the Urban Forest Full Circle Conference remains open through Wednesday, March 16.

Register by then to save $25 compared to at-the-door registration fees. (See fee schedule table at the bottom of this post.)

Best yet, take advantage of the Daily Double Discount Package to save an additional $45 to attend both programs..

The Hardwood Lumber & Sawmill Conference is limited to 50 attendees. The program, presented by Prof. Daniel Cassens of Purdue University’s Department of Forestry, is scheduled for Thursday, March 17 at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook. The workshop is being presented in special partnership with the DuPage Country Forest Preserve and the Illinois Wood Utilization Team. The classroom of the workshop will include presentations on lumber grading, milling strategies and drying. The program also will include a portable sawmill demonstration. The $110 registration fee includes lunch and beverage breaks. Click here to view the workshop schedule and to register.

The Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle is scheduled for Friday, March 18 at Hamburger University in Oak Brook, IL.

Organized by the Illinois Wood Utilization Team, the conference has the support of Horigan Urban Wood Products, Wisconsin Arborist Association, Sterling Tree Solutions, Meyers Woodworking & Lumber, American Society of Landscape Architects – Illinois Chapter, ElkhartWood, Illinois Arborist Association, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, International Woodworking Fair, Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, Tree Care Industry Association, Urban Wood Project of Southeast Michigan and USDA Forest Service.

$150 online registration fee includes:

  • 12 presentations focused on various links of the chain for converting urban trees into lumber and wood products;
  • Portable sawmill demonstration;
  • Urban Wood Products Showcase;
  • Networking reception with tabletop exhibits; and
  • Continental Breakfast, Lunch, Networking Reception Appetizers and a.m. and p.m. refreshment breaks.

Click here to view the conference schedule and sponsors and to register.

Need more info?
Contact Rich Christianson, Conference Director,; 773-822-6750.


Register by >>> Now thru
March 16
March 17 Hardwood Lumber & Sawmill Workshop $110.00 $135.00
March 18 Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle Conference $150.00 $175.00
Daily Double (Both Programs) $215.00 $260.00