Category: Blogs

Goodbye … for Now

This is the 81st and final edition of the Urban Wood Update, at least under my watch … for now.

Up until a few weeks ago, I assumed I would be producing an 82nd issue and beyond. Afterall, creating the content and deploying the Update has been ingrained in my monthly routine since I sent out the first edition in July 2015.

I was a paid consultant for the Illinois Wood Utilization Team (WUT) when I launched the newsletter. Illinois, along with Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin shared grant monies from the U.S. Forest Service to create marketing strategies for promoting value-added uses of urban wood. The ultimate goal was to grow demand for this vastly under-utilized resource.

The four-state grant led to the creation of the Urban Wood Network (UWN). The UWN is now in the process of organizing state chapters, Illinois being among the newest.

Since January 2019 I have volunteered my time and “dime” to maintain the illinoisurbanwood.org website and create content for the Update. But last month the proverbial dam burst for my business, Richson Media. Not one, not two, but all three proposals I had in the offering were accepted. I immediately realized that I had to make serious adjustments on how I allocate my limited time. One of the most difficult adjustments to my schedule is taking a break from the illinoisurbanwood website and the newsletter. I have also resigned from the steering committee of the new Urban Wood Network-Illinois Chapter.

While I am taking myself out of the game — at least for now — I will continue to root for the continued success and advancement of the urban wood movement from the sidelines. And rest assured, I will remain a staunch advocate in my future discussions with my family, friends and woodworking industry colleagues.

If you are an urban wood stakeholder based in Illinois, I encourage you to contact Erika Horigan. She is heading up the steering committee which is in the process of holding informational meetings to drum up membership and develop programs that will benefit its members. Erika can be reached at illinois@urbanwoodnetwork.org.

In addition, you can learn more at UrbanWoodNetwork.org.

Good luck to all!

Rich Christianson
Editor & Publisher
Urban Wood Update



Fast Company Honors Taylor Guitar for Urban Wood Use

Taylor Guitars’ Builder’s Edition 324ce made with the new Urban Ash™

Fast Company magazine recently named Taylor Guitars the 9th Most Innovative Manufacturing company in the world largely based on the guitar maker’s initiatives to incorporate sustainable materials into its products. That includes using locally salvaged urban ash.

Fast Company noted Taylor Guitars’ Urban Ash Initiative exemplifies “how sustainable manufacturing processes can take inspiration from materials that are often cast aside.”

Since entering into a partnership with West Coast Arborists (WCA) of Anaheim, Calif., two years ago, Taylor Guitars has sold more than 8,000 guitars that incorporate wood from Shamel ash trees. WCA milled the trees that were removed at the end of their service due to disease, public safety or other circumstance. 

Taylor Guitars views Shamel ash as a more sustainable alternative to Honduras mahogany for the tonewood of its guitars. The company initially used the locally-sourced Shamel for its Builders Edition 324ce guitar. It is more recently being used for the backs and sides of its new GT Urban Ash guitars. 

Taylor’s Urban Wood Initiative is one of three environmental programs that Fast Company highlighted in its writeup about the guitar manufacturer.

Taylor developed The Ebony Project to make the supply chain for West African ebony more sustainable and less wasteful while also helping to replant and restore ebony forests for future generations. In 2020 Taylor planted 15,000 ebony trees and plans to plant an additional 25,000 ebony trees and 30,000 fruit trees by 2025. Ebony is a prized fretboard wood.

From left to right: John Mahoney of West Coast Arborists (WCA), Bob Taylor and Scott Paul of Taylor Guitars at the WCA lumber yard

Taylor partnered with wood supplier Pacific Rim Tonewoods on a new venture in the process of changing its name from Paniolo Tonewoods to Siglo Tonewoods. The project involves restoring and regenerating native Hawaiian koa forests, which have shrunk dramatically in recent centuries as forestland was cleared for cattle grazing, with natural regeneration threatened by invasive species and feral cattle. In 2021 more than 3,000 koa and more than 800 mixed native tree species were planted on 10 acres of a 564-acre property. Plans call for planting 150,000 trees on the property managed by Paniolo over the next decade.

A blog posted on Taylor Guitars’ website states, “We’re honored to be included at #9 of (Fast Company’s) Top 10 most innovative companies in manufacturing thanks to our global environmental and sustainability initiatives. These projects have become an integral part of Taylor as a business and as a manufacturer, and we’re proud to have them recognized for their impacts on the business world.”



Why I Joined UWN-IL, By Max Brown, Glen Ellyn Village Forester

By Maxwell Brown
Village of Glen Ellyn
Village Forester

Working in Glen Ellyn’s Public Works Department and managing our village’s urban forest inevitably results in removing large trees for a variety of reasons. 

Currently, the disposal of logs from our municipal tree removals is performed by a paid contractor. The contractor usually hauls away the logs to process into woodchips for mulch or firewood. Over time, I began to think, there has to be a better way as I came to realize that this wood should be viewed as an asset rather than as waste. There has to be a better, more environmenally responsible use of these logs that would benefit our community and make sense financially.

It turns out I wasn’t the only one with those thoughts. I learned about the Urban Wood Network and how it is comprised of a group of like-minded representatives of municipalities, tree care businesses, sawmills, suppliers, manufacturers, and design professionals working to promote urban wood utilization and assist the development of local networks to get urban wood into the hands of people who will utilize it in more value-added ways other than just firewood or mulch.

I found that joining the Illinois Chapter of the Urban Wood Network is a great way to become involved at the ground level and help develop a program in Illinois that falls in line with the national organization’s mission to repurpose felled urban trees to their highest possible value. Doing so could potentially benefit hundreds and hundreds of people here in Illinois. 

Without a doubt, our urban forest is most beneficial when trees are alive and thriving. When a tree does need to be removed, though, I would love to provide these logs to someone who recognizes its value as urban wood so that can be repurposed as furniture, flooring and other wood products. 

The UWN-IL Chapter is working to make this happen. I encourage all Illinois urban wood stakeholders to learn more about the benefits of joining the Urban Wood Network and joining our cause. 



Music Video Captures a Day in the Life of an ‘Urban Lumber Man’

Urban Lumber Co. of Springfield, OR, produced this entertaining and informative music video depicting a day in the life on an ‘Urban Lumber Man.’ The video, posted in 2016, was shot in and around the company’s flagship location at the historic Booth Kelly mill. It shows the process of salvaging and preparing logs and lumber for use in custom furniture.

The accompanying song “Urban Lumber Man,” was written and performed by Tom Bennett.

 



Why I Joined the UWN-IL, By Steve Skorup, SAWINC

The author poses with the stump of an elm tree at the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio in Oak Park, IL, that was on its death knell when it was removed and converted into furniture.

By Steve Skorup

I am the owner of SAWINC located in Sandwich, IL, and a retired technology education teacher. I taught drafting, CAD, woodworking, construction, and engineering for 33 years.

I began my journey into woodworking when I was about 12 years old working on projects in my parent’s garage. I took woodworking and cabinetmaking courses at Lockport Township HS and during high school I decided I wanted to be a teacher and coach.

After receiving my tech-ed degree from Illinois State University, I began my teaching career. The great thing I discovered about teaching was that I could pursue and share my passion for woodworking in the classroom and do woodworking and construction during summer breaks.

Samples of urban wood Skorup has helped salvage through his business SAWINC.

Through my friendship with a neighbor who was an arborist at the Morton Arboretum I was exposed to the world of urban logging and resource usage. I had already been making furniture for over 35 years, but only using dimension lumber and materials. After taking a trip to Seattle and seeing a business dedicated to live-edge furniture, I was inspired to combine my love of nature, woodworking, and newly gained knowledge of urban logging into a new venture using urban wood.

Working with various municipalities, tree services, forest preserves, private individuals, and sawyers I have been able to salvage many logs and turn them into what I call Legacy Lumber and Heritage furniture. I have salvaged logs from private yards, the Morton Arboretum, forest preserves, the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio property, and other locations. Much of this urban wood would otherwise have been reduced to chips or firewood.

Through these ventures I have met like-minded people who are interested in urban wood and are seeking to form the Illinois Chapter of the Urban Wood Network. If you are interested in urban wood and seeing this resource used to its highest purpose, then I encourage you to become involved in the Illinois Chapter and share your expertise and passion.

Skorup made this table from wood salvaged from the Frank Lloyd Wright Home's elm.



Most Popular Posts of 2021

A milling project undertaken by the Chicago Park District last winter was the second most viewed post of 2021.

As we prepare for what I hope will be a healthy, prosperous and fingers-crossed, post-pandemic 2022, we take a look at the stories posted on IllinoisUrbanWood that garnered the most eyeballs in 2021.

Thanks to all for you interest in furthering the Urban Wood Movement here in Illinois and beyond. 

Happy New Year!

Rich Christianson
Editor & Publisher

1

Chicago City Council Debates Urban Forestry Advisory Board to Address Declining Tree Population
I
n 2019, the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General released a report highlighting ways in which the Department of Streets and Sanitation’s Bureau of Forestry could improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their tree-trimming program.

2

Slideshow: Chicago Park District’s Wintry Milling Project
The Chicago Park District’s Department of Cultural and Natural Resources team recently initiated lumber milling at the West Ridge Natural Area.

 

3

House Bill Includes ‘Cooperative Agreements’ for Urban Wood Utilization
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) has introduced the Urban Forest Act of 2021, which includes provisions for incentivizing urban wood utilization.

4

Invitation to Learn About the New IL Chapter of Urban Wood Network
Erika Horigan announces the first meeting of the Urban Wood Network-Illinois Chapter.

5

Urban Wood Italian Style
Franco Paolinelli of Silvicultura Agrocultura Paesaggio, reports on urban wood projects in Rome, Italy. 

6

Watch Black Oak Go from Logs to Table
Video shows the key stages of three huge logs from a felled black oak being repurposed into tables.

7

Video: Restoration Research of the American Chestnut Part 1
Part 1 of this two-part video program focuses on the historical significance of the American chestnut, its dominance in eastern U.S. forests and its quick and fatal decline to chestnut blight disease.

8

How Harrisonburg, VA, Upscales Dead Ash Trees
Harrisonburg, VA, home to 54,000 people and the annual Gr8 Film Festival, is also serious about repurposing its ash trees victimized by the emerald ash borer.

9

American Hardwoods Focus of New Free Guide
A Guide to Sustainable American Hardwoods was recently issued by the American Hardwood Export Council.

10

UK Researchers Search for EAB-Resistant Trees
Researchers at the University of Kentucky hope to use the seed and genetic material from lingering ash trees for breeding programs and research purposes to develop ash trees that confer some resistance to the emerald ash borer.



NTBC Says My Sycamore Is Worth $371 A Year; How About Your Trees?

By Rich Christianson

According to the National Tree Benefit Calculator the 75-inch-diameter American sycamore tree gracing parkway of my northside Chicago home — and flooding my gutters each fall with leaves — “provides overall benefits of $371 every year.”

The Beta test calculator was conceived and developed by Casey Trees and Davey Tree Expert Co. According to the website, “The Tree Benefit Calculator allows anyone to make a simple estimation of the benefits individual street-side trees provide. This tool is based on i-Tree’s street tree assessment tool called STREETS. With inputs of location, species and tree size, users will get an understanding of the environmental and economic value trees provide on an annual basis.”

According to the calculator, my sycamore generates $99 more in annual benefits than the silver maple I grew up with in Chicago’s southwest suburbs, but $61 less than my neighbor’s oak tree. 

Here’s a snapshot that breaks down my sycamore’s value.

You can calculate your tree’s benefits here: But you better hurry, according to the website, the calculator will be discontinued at the end of this year. 



Fall for ‘Felled’ This Holiday Season

Felled: A Documentary Film About Giving New Life to Fallen Urban Trees is available for on-demand viewing.

Tiny Chair Productions offers this description of its 57-minute documentary: “Felled is a story about finding worth and beauty in something most consider to be trash. The film chronicles the journey of an urban pine tree downed by a summer storm and saved from the landfill by two woodworkers who give the tree new meaning as a family dinner table. Through interviews with industry experts, sawyers, arborists, artists, and woodworkers, including both Norm Abram and Nick Offerman, the film highlights the growing urban lumber movement and explores themes of waste, craftsmanship, and redemption.

Felled is available online to rent for $1.99 or purchase for $9.00. Check out the trailer provided here.

 



Video: Quebec City’s Cannonball Tree’s Last Stand

By Rich Christianson

I’ve seen and heard of my share of bullets lodged in trees that were discovered during the milling process. But, a cannonball? 

Indeed, an American elm in Quebec City earned the nickname “Cannonball Tree” because of the bowling ball-sized object clearly visible in its roots. 

Sadly, the tree was removed in March because it was dying. But before it could be cut down, a military demolition team was called in to make sure the object would not explode.  

While legend had it that the object was a cannonball from the pre-Revolutionary War times, it was upon further evaluation determined to be a “fire bomb” that was purposely placed in the tree’s base to protect the corner of a building from being clipped by horse-drawn carriages.

The tree was ultimately removed to preserve its trunk with plans to turn it into a work of art.

 

 



Author Spins a Wonderful Tale about Repurposing Her Dying Black Walnut

InsideHook author Claire Young with a slice of “Sally,” the 70-foot black walnut that was converted into valuable lumber after it was removed from her backyard.

Here’s a great narrative about urban wood utilization written by Claire Young for InsideHook: “How to Turn the Dead Tree in Your Yard into a Wooden Heirloom.”

Young goes into impressive detail to explain how a dying 70-foot black walnut tree her family named Sally was removed, milled and converted into an heirloom table.

Young contracted the services of Adrian Plante, owner of Wood Urban Design in Crystal Lake, IL. In addition to its professional arborist services, WUD operates a portable sawmill to convert logs from removed trees into lumber and wood products.

In her article, Young offers a variety of useful tips for homeowners looking to “scavenge” wood from their dearly departed trees. She also goes through the urban tree conversion process from removal through milling options and discusses how she took up woodworking as a COVID-19 hobby.

It’s a fun read that should inspire like-minded homeowners to put their dead trees to a higher purpose.