According to the company’s website, AFH started as an importer of hardwood logs sustainably sourced from the tropical forest of the Congo Basin.
An article in the spring 2020 issues of Atlanta Home magazine offers more details about the company’s origins and why it shifted to urban woods.
“When siblings Laura and Joe Sissoko decided to start milling wood in 2012, it wasn’t for furniture, but rather for fine guitars and other musical instruments. At first, the pair called the company African Figurative Woods and supplied exotic woods primarily to the niche world of fine guitars and other instruments. But in 2014, political strife and sectarian violence in the Central African Republic prevented exports from the country. That’s when the Sissokos turned to domestic woods — specifically local domestic wood. Aside from the exotic species, all of the wood they mill comes from downed trees in the metro Atlanta area, which they dub ‘urban wood.'”
In addition to milling, AHF has a large-scale kiln to dry maple, pecan, walnut, hackberry and other woods salvaged from the greater Atlanta-area’s urban forest. To find suitable logs, AHF works with private tree care services. The company’s customer base is primarily woodworkers looking for something unique for their custom projects.
AFH’s website describes some of the distinctions between urban wood and tradition forest products.
“The process of milling urban trees is much more labor-intensive and time-consuming than what you find in the traditional forest products process. The processes are similar to the difference between handmade artisan work and what happens on a large-scale, industrial assembly line. Urban trees are collected in small quantities, cut to appropriate sizes, scanned for metal or other defects, and processed in small batches where the character and unique quality of the wood can be carefully brought to its full potential. We believe the defects in the wood — dynamic live edges, knots, cracks and voids — are what brings it character and beauty, and we try to maximize the potential of each log we mill.”
As urban wood became a larger focus, the Sissokos rechristened their business Atlantic Fine Hardwoods. While AFH no longer imports logs, it still maintains an inventory of exotic woods. from the Central African Republic. “We want to start doing the milling and processing there,” Joe told Atlanta magazine. “That way we’d leave more work and more jobs in that country.”