Monthly archives: May, 2016

Great News! Urban Wood Shines in WI Hotel Makeover

Oxbow Hotel, urban wood, Eau Claire WoodworksBy Rich Christianson

It’s awesome to see urban wood receiving positive media attention.

Wisconsin Urban Wood and the urban wood movement at large recently received an excellent plug from WEAU TV of Eau Claire, WI.

The TV station ran a profile of current efforts to refurbish the Oxbow Hotel in the city’s downtown with more than 150 furniture items crafted from recycled urban wood. The list of products includes 30 headboards, bar stools, restaurant table and more.

Leading the charge is Tim Brudnicki, owner of Eau Claire Woodworks. Brudnicki, a multi-award winning furniture designer/fabricator, is a member of Wisconsin Urban Wood, a non-profit group that has forged a network of woodworkers, sawyers and tree care specialists to repurpose trees lost to disease, storm damage, etc. into valuable lumber and wood products. The majority of wood being used in the Oxbow Hotel project comes from City of Eau Claire ash trees subject to infestation by the deadly emerald ash borer.

WEAU’s short video report is definitely worth checking out.


Urban Wood Stars in Free IWF Seminar

IWF2016-Logo-with-dates resizeFor the first time ever, the Urban Wood Movement will make its presence felt at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta.

The Full Circle Urban Forestry Network, comprised of urban wood utilization groups in four states – Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin – is organizing a free 90-minute seminar, “Urban Wood Utilization: Making Wood Products and Profits from Landscape Trees.” The session is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26 at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Attendees of this free session will learn::

  • How to find sources of urban wood;
  • The unique source local/buy local marketing appeal of urban wood products and the interesting stories they tell;
  • The environmental advantages of utilizing urban wood;.
  • An opportunity to get answers to their questions posed to a panel of seasoned urban wood product experts.

Rich Christianson, communications director for the Illinois Wood Utilization Team and former long-time editor of Woodworking Network, will moderate a panel of three urban wood entrepreneurs. They will discuss their personal passions and experiences of creating products and profits by repurposing landscape and community trees felled by disease, storm damage, old age and other causes. Each of their presentations will shed light on opportunities to repurpose urban wood otherwise destined for the chipper or landfill to make high-quality lumber, slabs, furniture, flooring and other wood products.

Panelists include:

  • Jennifer Alger of Far West Forest Products of Sheridan, CA, helps market the family business that specializes in reclaimed wood including lumber the company mills from the area’s urban forest. Ninety percent of the lumber sold by the company comes from within a 500-mile radius of its Sheridan facility. Far West Forest Products also serves as a dealer for Wood-Mizer portable sawmills and blades and offers blade re-sharpening services.
  • Rick Siewert, who along with his wife, Cindy, owns Wood from the Hood of Minneapolis, MN. Wood from the Hood, which gives community trees a second life, is also Siewert’s second wood business. He is the owner of Siewert Cabinet & Fixture, a high-tech, 35-man architectural millwork company and has a long history of serving the Architectural Woodwork Institute, including sitting on the AWI Board of Directors and various committees. Siewert Cabinet is a past winner of the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association’s coveted Innovator of the Year Award. (When you visit Wood from the Hood’s website be sure to check out the video on live edge cribbage boards and flight paddles.)
  • Dwayne Sperber, owner of Wudeward Urban Forest Products of Milwaukee, WI, has always been interested in architecture, wood, and the environment. He was introduced to urban wood more than a decade ago, and with this intersect of his three passions, Sperber immediately became a major advocate for its use. He has worked tirelessly to build awareness and markets for the abundance of wood being removed due to insect, disease or other circumstance. Sperber is a founding partner of Wisconsin Urban Wood, a nonprofit focused on building networks of people and businesses that links material streams and availability of quality urban wood products and services across our state. He also is an appointed member of the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council.

Major Sponsor

Wood-Mizer Signs on as First Seminar Sponsor
Wood-Mizer LLC of Indianapolis, IN, a manufacturer of portable sawmills, sawblades and other wood processing equipment and accessories, has signed on as a major sponsor of the program.

Darryl Floyd, COO of Wood-Mizer,noted that his company was a pioneer in the urban wood movement. “Since 1982, Wood-Mizer portable sawmill owners have turned their logs into lumber for woodworking projects and business profits. With Wood-Mizer’s thin-kerf blade technology, diseased and dying city trees can find new life in a piece of furniture that could have otherwise gone to waste. Throughout the past decade, Wood-Mizer has seen a major influx of successful businesses who are utilizing urban sourced wood for their sawmilling operations and we are proud to manufacture a product that enables small businesses to be profitable with an underutilized resource. While Wood-Mizer has been educating woodworkers about the positive environmental and economic impact of urban wood for years, the Urban Wood Seminar at IWF 2016 will be another step forward in saving more trees from going into the waste stream.”

Note: While the seminar is being presented free of charge, advanced registration is required to guarantee a seat. Learn more and register at

For information about becoming a seminar sponsor and general inquiries, contact Rich Christianson at; 773-822-6750.

View Sponsorship Opportunities

About the International Woodworking Fair
The International Woodworking Fair, owned by the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association and the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America, is North America’s largest woodworking event. IWF 2016 is scheduled for August 24-27, 2016 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. It is the “must attend” show for supplies, manufacturing and processing of materials for the furniture, cabinetry, flooring, door and window, plastics, solid surfacing and machine tooling industries. IWF 2014 attracted more than 23,000 woodworking professionals and industry suppliers from the U.S., Canada and beyond. Learn more at

About the Full Circle Urban Forestry Network
The Full Circle Urban Forestry Network operates from funding provided by the USDA Forest Service Northeastern, State and Private Forestry Landscape Scale Restoration Grant Program. The four state partners include:

U.S. Forest ServiceAbout the USDA Forest Service
The Full Circle Urban Forestry Network’s IWF urban wood seminar is made possible through grant funding by the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry, U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Couple ‘Sacrificed Our Entire Lives’ for Urban Wood Business

Rob and Zoe Bocik left the 9-to-5 rat race six years ago to pursue their dream of milling lumber and crafting furniture, jewelry and other products from local trees otherwise destined for the chipper or landfill.

The story of how the St. Petersburg, FL, couple founded Funktionhouse Urban Lumber & Furniture was recently chronicled by the Tampa Bay Times. According to the article, Zoe, a cancer survivor, quit her job as a fire department administrator and Robert was laid off from his insurance agency job. With no prior woodworking experience, they researched and built a coffee table from salvaged urban wood and the seeds for a new career were sewn. Since they have devoured all of the books and videos on woodworking they could find as they have honed their craft.

Zoe told the paper, “We’ve sacrificed our entire lives to do this work,” but also says, “I’ve never been happier.”

Read the Tampa Bay Times article.

Visit Funktonhouse Lumber & Furniture

Video: How Toronto Is Turning Ash Tree Tragedy into Opportunity

Toronto and the Region Conservation’s Partners in Project Green produced this video to highlight how a pilot program takes dead ash trees from the cities of Toronto, Markham and the Town of Richmond Hill and transform them into high-value lumber and donates wood to schools for woodworking programs and for use by local artisans.

Learn more about Partners in Project Green’s ash tree reclamation project.

Related reading: Toronto IIDEX’s urban wood furnishings design contest.

Update: USGBC Illinois Postpones May Urban Wood Event


The Illinois Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council announced that it has postponed its urban wood event originally scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19 at Horigan Urban Forest Products.

The program –  Urban Forestry in Chicagoland: Renewable Wood Products from Beginning to End User – will be rescheduled in late summer or early fall. Instead of being held at Horigan Urban Forest Products, the event will be at the Writers Theatre in Glencoe in late summer or early fall. The event will now coincide with the Writers Theatre receiving its LEED Gold Certification.

Plans for the cancelled May 19 event called for highlighting urban forestry and how using locally produced urban wood fits into LEED building projects. The event was to include a tour of Horigan’s warehouse, custom sawmill and kiln drying operations at its facility at 7255 St. Louis Ave. in Skokie. The company, owned by the husband and wife team of Bruce and Erika Horigan,  processes and inventories a wide variety of local hardwoods and slabs.

The May 19 meeting agenda had included presentations by Bruce Horigan and Jon Faris, general manager of the Writers Theatre in Glencoe. Horigan was to discuss how urban forestry is implemented in Chicagoland, how it can be used in green building projects to earn LEED credits. Faris was to discuss how the Writers Theatre worked with Studio Gang Architects to use urban wood products to pursue LEED Gold certification.

USGBC Illinois Chapter has more than  800 members including real estate professionals, architects, engineers, designers, contractors, product manufacturers, state and local government officials, homebuilders, homeowners, and anyone interested in green building. The Illinois chapter is the local affiliate of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a national non-profit composed of leaders from every sector of the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

MSU Retails Wood Goods Crafted from Campus Trees

By Rich Christianson

Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, MI, is graduating many of its felled campus trees into lumber, dining tables, picture frames and other wood products, rather than relegating them to the chipper for mulch and biofuel.

The university created the MSU Shadows Collection as part of its Sustainable Wood Recovery Initiative. The collectibles, ranging from business card holders ($25) and diploma-sized frames ($50 to $150) to an American elm Waterford side Table ($750) and walnut coffee and occasional table set ($2,150), are all produced by local artisans from trees removed from campus due to decline, storm damage or construction. The items are sold online through the MSU Surplus Store with profits supporting the MSU Department of Forestry and the planting of new trees on the university’s campus

According to a presentation by Paul Swartz, campus arborist, there are more than 24,200 trees on the 2,100-acre campus and approximately 3,000 acres of farms south of the main campus. In the past these trees and branches were chipped and used as landscaping much or burned as biomass fuel. But that was before the university adopted the Sustainable Wood Recovery Initiative, “a cross-functional collaborative formed to look at processes and development of comprehensive business plan for urban wood utilization on campus.”

Among the many highlights of the initiative noted by Swartz include:

  • Developing a model recovery and repurposing supply-chain system for trees removed from MSU for the development of value added products that provide economic, environmental and social benefits to the MSU community;
  • Creating a comprehensive campus tree management system that expands the current tree inventory, maintenance, and removal practices to include wood recovery and utilization;
  • Moving from “cradle-to-grave” to a recycling-based “cradIe-to-cradIe” plan;
  • Improving waste reduction and conserving resources in line with the highest and best-use model of solid waste management promoted by MSU Sustainability; and
  • Improving the university’s total capacity for carbon sequestration through long-term use of solid wood products.

The program is being directed by Dan Brown, wood recovery coordinator at MSU. Approximately 300 trees will be removed each year. Logs suited for lumber will be milled and kiln dried MSU in a 45-year-old steam kiln operated by students under Brown’s guidance. The kiln will dry about 10,000 board feet of lumber per year.

Brown attended the March 18 Bringing the Urban Forest Full Circle Conference in Oak Brook. He toted an American elm waterfall side table made by Michigan artisan Nathan Shaver to the conference that was displayed in the Urban Wood Products Showcase.