Category: Blogs

CBS News Features Report on Baltimore Urban Wood Project

Furniture made from urban lumber promotes sustainability, job growth in cities

The Baltimore Urban Wood Project was showcased in a report aired by CBS This Morning on Dec. 12, 2020.

CBS News reporter Errol Barnett focused on how wood is being salvaged from dilapidated rowhouses and urban trees in Baltimore to produce furniture, create jobs and keep these repurposed materials from ending up in the  waste stream.

In addition to the Baltimore Urban Wood Project, the report features representatives of Urban Wood Rescue of Sacramento, CA, and Room & Board of Minneapolis, MN, which has used a lot of Baltimore urban wood to make furniture.


Video: NC Urban Wood Sawmill & Vacuum Kiln Webinar

In a webinar recorded on Dec. 1, Avery Earwood, owner of Wild Edge Woodcraft of Rougemont, NC, demonstrates his Timber Harvester bandsaw and iDRY Plus vacuum kiln. He also discusses his company’s role in the North Carolina urban wood movement from tree removal to finished “live edge” furniture. 

Iowa Derecho: So many trees lost, so little wood saved

A crew cleans up tree debris following the Aug. 10 derecho in Cedar Rapids, IA.

By Rich Christianson

The wicked Aug. 10 derecho that spawned tornadoes, high winds and torrential rains throughout the Midwest sent me to take cover in a basement for the second time in my life. One look at the fast-approaching gray green front was enough to convince me that the tornado alerts for the northwest side of Chicago were more than mere local news hype. I was instantly reminded of the 1967 tornadoes that struck Oak Lawn, IL, that caused my parents to shoo my siblings and me downstairs. That event claimed 58 lives.

Fortunately for us, the worst of the storm in my area were a few downed trees and many heavy branches. Many in Iowa were not so lucky.

According to the Washington Post, the Iowa derecho was the most costly thunderstorm in U.S. history. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated damage in Iowa and other midwestern states at $7.6 billion. That’s higher than any recorded tornado and more than many hurricanes.

Cedar Rapids, IA, was particularly hard hit. Wind gusts of up to 140 mph plummeted the area. Electrical power was knocked out for nearly all 133,000 residents and more than 1,000 homes were rendered unlivable.

The derecho also wiped out about 20 percent of Iows’s crops and felled trees by the hundreds. 

Six weeks after the devastating event, the Des Moines Register reported that the city’s cleanup crews had transported 9,291 loads of tree debris to a huge metropolitan compost site.

Several other articles posted in the wake of the Iowa derecho reported how local woodworkers and artists were using wood from felled trees to make craft items, most of them being sold or auctioned to support relief efforts. But that’s a drop in the ocean considering the massive amount of wood that could potentially be repurposed. 

No doubt, the number one priority in this type of situation is clearing downed trees in the interests of public safety. But somewhere after the smoke clears, it would be optimal to have a plan for repurposing as many of these trees as practically possible. Doing so begins by integrating urban wood utilization into disaster planning. 

I think we’ll get there, but we’re clearly not there yet. We still have far to many metropolitan cities to integrate urban wood recovery into their urban forestry initiatives. But perhaps the Iowa derecho can serve as a wake-up call for municipalities to realize that even if they can’t plan what do to with trees after a natural disaster, that they can at least figure out what might be done to gain value from the sycamore tree removed from the Smith’s parkway.

Baby steps…



World Demand for Massive Wood Slabs to Surpass $2B By 2030

Lumber Shack wood slab inventory.


According to a new report by FactMR, the massive wood slabs market is expected to show a positive growth outlook in the coming years. This is attributed to increasing per capita spending and improving lifestyle in developing regions.

In developed regions, demand for wooden furniture has seen a significant upsurge over the last few years, due to the various benefits that this type of furniture offers, such as high durability and better aesthetics as compared to metal furniture. Customers prefer customized furniture, as it allows them to decorate their house and office space as per specific requirements. Therefore, wooden furniture is favored over metal furniture, as it offers ease for customization.

Massive wood slabs are large pieces of wood cut from trees, and are used in furniture and cabinetry. They are preferred due to the desire to have different texture and moisture content in furniture, which gives off an appearance unique to different wood types. Therefore, it is projected that, demand for massive wood slabs will grow significantly in near future, expanding the massive wood slabs market size to a great extent.

Massive Wood Slabs Market Analysis by Wood Type
As the popularity of wood furniture is growing across developed regions, manufacturers or sawmill owners are introducing wood slabs of different wood species into their product portfolios. Companies are focusing on maximizing their massive wood slabs offering list.

Different species offer numerous advantages in different weather conditions, such as optimized durability, adequate moisture control, different aesthetics, etc. In Fact.MR’s study, it is revealed that, mahogany and rosewood are the most popular wood types in the global massive wood slabs market, and they are projected to collectively create an absolute $ opportunity worth US$ 245 million during the forecast period of 2020 to 2030.

Massive Wood Slabs Market Analysis by Sales Channel
Global emergence of the e-Commerce sales channel has influenced the wood industry on a huge scale. In developed countries, leading wood industry players have either established their own e-Commerce sites or have made their products available on other popular e-Commerce portals.

Several companies have also started dedicated e-Commerce sites for wood products. For instance, U.S.-based wood products company KC Custom Hardwoods has started its own e-Commerce website for the sale of its massive wood slabs across the country. Another U.S.-based company, The Lumber Shack, has tied up with an international e-Commerce site for sale of its products, internationally.

In Fact.MR’s study, the timber online stores sales channel in poised to witness the fastest growth at a CAGR 5%, and account for around 17% value share of the global massive wood slabs market by the end of the forecast period.

Regional Outlook of Massive Wood Slabs Market
Developed regions such as North America and Europe dominate the global massive wood slabs market share, with a combined share of around 59%. High per capita income and improved lifestyle have led to maximum consumption of massive wood slabs in these regions. However, developing regions such as Asia Pacific are also showing a positive growth outlook, and are expected to create enormous opportunities for massive wood slab manufacturers in the coming years. In Fact.MR’s study, East Asia and South Asia & Oceania are projected to showcase growth at CAGR of 5.4% and 5.6%, respectively, during the forecast period.

Massive Wood Slabs Market Competitive Analysis: Key Players Focus on Expanding Product Portfolio
The global massive wood slabs market is fragmented in nature, with small, privately-owned saw mills serving the maximum number of customers. Leading players are focusing on introducing various wood species into their product portfolios in order to offer a variety of massive wood slabs that suit the particular requirements of customers, such as different weather conditions and aesthetics.

For instance, Cook Woods, an Orlando, U.S.-based wood products company, introduced massive wood slabs of more than 250 wood species into its product offering list.

COVID-19 Impact on Massive Wood Slabs Market
The unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is burgeoning, as nationwide lockdowns across most countries is ongoing. Most companies have had to either stop production or work with less than half capacity due to the imposition of restrictions. Apart from this, the supply chain has also been impacted, substantially, and retail avenues such as furniture showrooms have been shut for now.

Movement in the global massive wood slabs market has been observed to be sluggish in the first two quarters of 2020. However, some relaxation in lockdown measures is implemented in most countries, which has enabled the resuming of businesses to some extent. But as we speak, some countries are again imposing stringent lockdowns as infection rates spike once again. For instance, on July 7 2020, the Government of Australia announced a six-week stringent lockdown in Melbourne. Such developments are poised to cause sluggish growth of the global massive wood slabs market over the next couple of fiscal quarters of 2020.

Global Massive Wood Slabs Market: Scope of the Report
Fact.MR published an exclusive forecast report on the massive wood slabs market for the period of 2020-2030. The foremost objective of the massive wood slabs market report is to pitch spearhead insights on the market scenario, demand generators, and technological advancements in the market. Also, the massive wood slabs market study addresses key dynamics that are expected to diversify the adoption and future prominence of massive wood slabs.                 

The report on the massive wood slabs market begins with an executive overview, in which, product definition has been provided. The report further proceeds with the taxonomy of the massive wood slabs market, elaborating on key segments. The report also outlines visionary insights on the dynamics of the massive wood slabs market, including the drivers, restraints, opportunities, trends, and pricing analysis, along with key buying factors.

Learn more.


‘Save Your Ash’ Campaign Comes to My Hood

By Rich Christianson

During a recent power walk through my neighborhood on Chicago’s northwest side, I passed a tree sporting an unfamiliar green tag emblazoned with the word “WARNING” in red capital letters.

I paused to read the full text of the tag:

SAVE THIS TREE and preserve our canopy”

The tag included the website for the North River Commission’s (RNC) Save Your Ash campaign.

According to the website, Chicago has lost 42,000 of the 94,000 parkway ash trees it had in 2013 when it began inoculating them against the emerald ash borer (EAB). The city has since thrown in the towel in its battle against the deadly emerald beetle and instead plans to remove diseased ash trees and replace them with other species.

The RNC Commission, however, is not joining the city in surrender. It advocates inoculating older, larger ash trees while removing smaller, infected trees as “a more cost-effective and sustainable solution that will preserve the integrity and canopy over a longer period of time.”

The commission has partnered with a treatment supplier to provide an average 30% discount on injections reportedly effective for up to three years. The website includes contact information for several tree care companies, each an approved vendor of the treatment supplier. They include Davey, Kinnucan, SavATree and TruGreen.

“Because treatment extends the life of Ash trees, the NRC Save Your Ash program will preserve the integrity of the local tree canopy in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.” the RNC states. “Chicago’s parkway trees will be selectively removed and replaced without cutting down swaths of trees that leave parkways bare.”

The RNC is seeking individual homeowners with ash trees to contact approved vendors for treatment. The organization is also asking all community members to make a tax deductible donation to fund treatment of selected ash trees throughout the River North 

North River Commission is a nonprofit community and economic development corporation for the northwest side of Chicago, from the Chicago River to Cicero and Addison to Devon.

Learn more about the RNC’s Save Your Ash campaign.

Read related article: Chicago Neighborhood Takes a Stand to Save Ash Trees


Chicago woodworker inspired by urban wood

By Mike Lee

This piece was very much an inspirational construct.  The client had given me total artistic freedom; her only request was that I make her a small mid-century modern writing desk.
Initially, my intention was to source wood from a traditional hardwood lumberyard, but first I looked in my shop to see what I had in stock. There, I discovered that I had been sitting on some very old reclaimed quarter sawn wood boards purchased from the Rebuilding Exchange. The 5/4 thick trim was recovered from an old Chicago apartment.  It had a beautiful quarter sawn pattern – perfect for the desktop. 
It was then that I decided to try and keep the piece as locally sourced as I could. In search of more locally reclaimed wood, I came across an amazing hardwood company, Horigan Urban Wood in Skokie. To my surprise, they had a fantastic selection of locally sourced urban hardwoods. There I found some beautiful dry kiln white oak with unique colorization due to the kiln process. This worked perfectly with my design, which was to mix and match woods to give the desk a subtle two-toned look.
Finally, I chose walnut for the apron, drawer, and desktop trim.  
Building this desk really opened my eyes to the benefits of reclaimed and locally sourced urban woods. There are many species of wood in the Chicagoland area that go to waste and need to be salvaged, and there seems to be an enormous market for these locally sourced pieces.
About the Author
Mike Lee is owner of Lee Custom Wood Designs based in Chicago. Lee is a self-taught woodworker who formerly worked in AdTech & Media before doing some “heavy soul searching” led him to start his own woodworking and furniture design business. Learn more at

Canadian teen’s woodworking business built on backyard trees

James Russell of Guelph, ON, has learned the value of repurposing urban trees at the youthful age of 17.

The teenage entrepreneur is the owner of Sawdust and Steel Woodworking, a business he created to craft furniture, charcuterie boards and other wood products out ash, maple and other woods salvaged from local backyard trees. Russell crafted the accompanying photo of a table and wall art featuring blue epoxy from urban black walnut.

Russell was recently profiled by Guelph Today, which noted that his passion for woodworking stems from when he made his mother a coffee table a couple of years ago.

As his business has grown, Russell has invested in equipment upgrades.

See more of Russell’s handiwork on Instagram.

Read the Guelph Today article.

IWF Cancelled; Urban Wood Seminar to Be Virtual Event

The International Woodworking Fair, North America’s largest gathering for wood products professionals, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The show had been scheduled for Aug. 22-25 at the Georgia World Congress Center.

As a result of IWF 2020’s cancellation, the Urban Wood Network is making arrangements to transition the free seminar it was planning to host at the show as a virtual event. The date and time for the digital presentation of “The Urban Wood Movement: Expanding from Coast to Coast,” will be announced in the coming weeks.

All of the presenters for the seminar have committed to participating in the online program. They include Jennifer Alger, CEO of Far West Forest Products; Carmen Rodriguez, chief marketing officer of Eutree and Dwayne Sperber, owner of Wudeward Urban Forest Products. Rich Christianson, editor and publisher of Illinois Urban Wood, will moderate the session. The program is sponsored in part by the Georgia Forest Commission.

The free urban wood utilization session builds on programs offered to professional woodworkers at IWF 2016 and IWF 2018. The program will identify how woodworkers can benefit from the unique aesthetic and environmental properties of locally-sourced urban wood. The program will also highlight new national standards and certification of urban lumber.

To receive additional information, including a registration link when it becomes available, contact

Penn State Developing Tech that Destroys Pests in Wood

Penn State scientists validated the effectiveness and cost efficiency of radio frequency technology for pallet sanitation during a commercial trial held at University Park. Image: Penn State

A technology that uses dielectric heating and radio frequency energy to destroy destructive pests lurking within wood products is closer to reaching the marketplace after a commercial trial at Penn State’s University Park campus.

The Dec. 17 demonstration, which was observed by regulatory and wood products industry professionals from the U.S. and Canada, validated the effectiveness and cost efficiency of the radio frequency, or RF, technology for pallet sanitation.

The treatment offers enhanced ability to terminate wood insect and nematode pests compared to conventional heat practices, noted Mark Gagnon, Harbaugh Entrepreneur and Innovation Faculty Scholar in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

“This innovation has the potential to be transformative in required international trade wood-sanitation treatment,” said Gagnon, who has been instrumental in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program since its inception, encouraging entrepreneurship across the college.

“RF treatment is more efficient and uses fewer resources than conventional kilns and chemical drying methods, and that is not only better for a company’s bottom line, but it is also better for the environment.”

Developed by Penn State scientists John Janowiak, professor of wood products engineering, processing and manufacturing, and Kelli Hoover, professor of entomology, the patent-pending, wood-treatment system heats wood in a unique configuration by using electromagnetic wave penetration, similar to that of a microwave oven.

It heats wood from the inside out, first causing the core temperature to elevate rapidly, making it an ideal method to destroy pests that have burrowed within, noted Hoover.

“Invasive pests cause about $120 billion a year in damage to our valuable forests, ecosystems and agricultural crops, and they continue to be a problem due to increased world trade,” she said, pointing to the emerald ash borer and Asian long horned beetle as examples. Both pests found their way to the U.S. in untreated pallets shipped from China in the early 2000s; the emerald ash borer alone has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in 30 states.

Mark Hamelin, RF Kiln Technology, center, adjusts the power input for a dielectric heating cycle. He is shown with John Janowiak, professor of wood products engineering, processing and manufacturing, and Karolina Szymona, postdoctoral researcher.
IMAGE: Penn State

Ensuring that wood used in international trade is pest-free is not just an ethical business practice, but it is a legal requirement, according to Janowiak. Wood packaging materials, including pallets, crates and chips, must be debarked, treated and inspected per international regulations. Adhering to these standards is especially crucial for the U.S. wood industry as 40 percent of its logs are processed into wooden shipping pallets.

For years, wood-products manufacturers have had two options to deal with wood-boring insects — traditional heat-treatment or fumigation. RF technology is poised to offer the industry another choice, one that the scientists say is faster and more streamlined than the use of conventional kilns and that can help decrease energy costs. In addition, the cost to treat wood using RF technology potentially is lower than current pallet heat-treatment practices, set at 5 cents for a standard 48-by-40-inch shipping pallet.

“Our technology has a huge economic potential that can provide long-term savings for companies,” said Karolina Szymona, a postdoctoral researcher on the project. “While saving money is important, to me the real value is that it saves energy, which means saving our natural resources and reducing the carbon footprint.”

RF technology also can replace the process of fumigating wood with methyl bromide — a chemical that is being phased out — and help the U.S. wood products industry to retain export markets while moving away from chemically-treated wood.

“There has been a real demand to develop suitable alternatives to replace methyl bromide, which is an ozone-depleting chemical,” said Ron Mack, commodity treatment specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “Dielectric treatment is one of the leading alternatives to replace it.”

While the technology has undergone numerous tests and has received a stamp of approval from industry boards as well as the International Plant Protection Convention of the UN — the board that oversees wood packaging trade standards — the research team needs third-party validation and assistance with developing operational protocols to make its innovation “mill ready.”

To that end, the scientists are working on a bilateral agreement with the U.S. and Canadian lumber standard accreditation committees, both of which had representatives on-site for the trial in Penn State’s Forest Resources Laboratory.

“This is a safe, stable and proven technology,” said Chuck Dentelbeck, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Lumber Standards Accreditation Board. “But introducing any new technology is like being in a marathon; you have to bring them [pallet manufacturers] to the starting line and let them decide if it makes sense for them. Once they know the benefits, I believe many will run with it.”

Sharing his enthusiasm is project collaborator Mark Hamelin of RF Kiln Technology, of Midland, Ontario, Canada, who deemed the commercial trial a success. “This was a pretty big day, having these agencies witness how efficiently and effectively our process works,” he said. “There are challenges ahead, the biggest one will be convincing people in the industry who have been using a different technology for 50 years that we have a better mousetrap.”

The project has received state and federal appropriations, including continuous funding since 2003 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Methyl Bromide Transitions Program. It also received financial support from the college’s Research Applications for INnovation program, which provides funding for researchers who are ready to move toward commercializing their research.

More information about RF technology and project collaborators is available online at Further, the USDA and industry partner Mark Hamelin of RF Kiln Technology are part of a formal Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Penn State to advance RF technology.

Video: Fabled 600-Year-Old Oak Stars in Documentary

By Rich Christianson

Not many trees have a feature-length documentary made about their life. Nor do many trees have a website dedicated to them. But the massive white oak that once stood guard over the cemetery next to the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church was no ordinary tree. It died in 2017 at the ripe old age of 619. At the time of its demise it was the oldest known white oak in America.

I first became aware of the landmark tree from a March 12 article clipped from the Star Ledger newspaper, a souvenir from my wife’s trip to Basking Ridge, NJ, to visit her sister. The headline immediately caught my urban wood eye: “Everyone wants a piece of the oak.” 

The lead sentence put an exclamation point on my interest, “Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church officials will wait to see the quality of wood remaining from the iconic 600-year-old white oak tree that will be cut down during the week of April 24 before deciding how to preserve portions of the tree for its historic significance, said John Kippel, a member of the church’s planning council.”

The article further noted that a number of local artists, woodworkers, schools and other groups interested in getting pieces of the tree.

Milling the tree, however, would be anything but easy because of the extraordinary efforts that were taken to save the it from literally rotting to death in 1924.

According to information compiled by Forged In Wood, at the time the tree was 93 feet tall, with a 126-foot spread and 23-foot-diameter trunk. Tons of concrete were painstakingly poured into 72 cavities, 165 feet of threaded rod  was installed to brace the tree and concrete and 1,150 feet of steel cable were anchored to support the weight of the tree’s branches. The total price of this unique tree surgery performed under the auspices of Davey Tree Company was $2,393.08.

Having recently unearthed the article from in my files, I  searched the web to see what became of the tree and its wood. Plenty as it turns out, including:

-^- Frank Pollaro of Pollaro Custom Furniture reportedly went through 120 blades, including three diamond blades, ti create boards from the tree, some of which he used to make communion tables for the church. Pollaro and other researchers used a magnifying lens to count the tree’s rings. They arrived at an estimated birth year of 1398 – 319 years before the original Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church was built.

^-^ A 5-foot tall, 8,400-pound chunk from the trunk was donated as a memorial to Rose Farms of Basking Ridge for public viewing.

-^- Last year, singer-songwriter Alan Grant performed at the site of the removed tree playing an electric guitar made from the legendary oak. More than 30 people who fought in the revolutionary war are buried there. 

Example of “merch” made from the legendary Basking Ridge white oak.

^-^ A variety of wood gifts and novelties including serving boards, blocks of decorative wood, pens, ornaments, candle centerpieces and pendant necklaces.

-^- is a website that memorialized the tree’s long history and bonds with the community.

^-^ “Under the Great Oak,” is a feature-length documentary produced by local screenwriter Michael Reynolds. 

-^- A 16-year-old oak that grew from an acorn of the landmark oak tree at Union County College has been transplanted to where its famous “father” once stood.

Stay tuned for my 2620 update!