Category: Blogs

Texas Urban Wood Firm Focuses on ‘Tree to Home’

Refined Elements, of Dripping Springs, TX, near Austin, along with its subsidiary Texas Sawmill, is engaged in transforming trees salvaged from Texas and nearby states into “naturally inspired furniture” and other custom wood products.

Devin Ginther, president, founded Refined Elements in 2013 , as a live edge furniture business. He said he stated Texas Sawmill in late 2017. “We are working to become the largest urban sawmill in Texas,” Ginther said. He hastened to add. “(That’s) not saying much as there’s not much of a sawmill industry here.”

Ginther said he is an “active member” of the Urban Wood Network “We are focused on being advocates for the urban lumber movement in Texas. As a state, we are far behind (others) but are working to change that!”  

The photos that accompany this post are but two examples of live edge tables milled by Texas Sawmill and transformed into furniture by Refined Elements. 

“All of our tables are produced from salvaged and rural trees,” Ginther said. “We also provide the history of the trees on the bottom of all of our tables along with paper certificates. Most of the slabs used to produce these tables, we physically salvage ourselves, mill, dry, etc.  We do all the metal and base work in-house, too. 

The first live edge table in the slide show is made from a black walnut that was removed in Longmont, CO. It is believed to date back to 1867.

The other live edge table shown is from a Texas pecan born in approximately 1904 in Brackettville, TX.  

Learn more at and

Get your business or project profiled.

Add Your Voice in Support of ‘OAKtober’

Editor’s note: Information for the campaign requesting that Illinois continue proclaiming October “OAKtober,” was submitted by the Chicago Region Tree Initiative.

OAKtober- Oak Awareness Month: A Brief History

  • In 2015, the Chicago Region Trees Initiative spearheaded a project to raise awareness about 
    • the value of oaks and oak ecosystemsneed to restore them across Illinois
    • the need to restore them across Illinois
  • Our partners sent letters of support to Governor Rauner
  • Governor Rauner signed a proclamation instituting October as OAKtober- Oak Awareness Month in Illinois.

Continuing to raise awareness
New governor, same request! 
In the beginning of August we are submitting an OAKtober- Oak Awareness Month proclamation request to our new governor, J.B. Pritzker. Click here to read our request.

We need your help! Here are some ideas for how you can get involved with OAKtober – Oak Awareness Month:

  • First, send a signed letter of support addressed to Governor Pritzker from your organization. Use this template or draft your own, and forward it to Melissa Custic by August 7.

  • Plan an OAKtober event! Check the OAKtober website for inspiration: lectures, family days, guided hikes, native plant sales, stewardship days, and more! Event flyer templates and the OAKtober logo are downloadable and ready for use. Make sure to submit events here with keyword OAKtober.

  • Write an article or blog post about oaks in your area: why they’re important, what’s going on in your neck of the woods, where to paddle your canoe for the best oak appreciation, what oaks and companion species you’ve got for sale, and whatever is most relevant & important to your community.

  • Post to social media and use #OAKtober. (Tip: Posts that are brief and have pictures are shared most frequently!)

  • Let us know what you are doing (i.e. send pictures, updates, flyers, plans, etc) so we can share and promote your activities!    

How to Get Your Urban Wood Business Featured

Aspiring to inspire, that is one of the missions of Illinois Urban Wood.

For the last four years, this website has featured profiles of urban wood entrepreneurs across the country and Canada. Their profiles and urban wood projects also have been included in the monthly Illinois Urban Wood Update that is sent to nearly 1,000 subscribers.

Getting your business and projects featured is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

  1. Send me one to four photos of a project or projects to
  2. Include a brief description of the project or projects. Even bullet points will suffice.
  3. Include a link to your website if you have one.

I hope to hear from you soon!

Rich Christianson
Illinois Urban Wood









NC Urban Forest Council Plans Urban Wood Use Workshop

The North Carolina Urban Forest Council will present Urban Wood Use as part of its 2019 Carolina Canopy Workshop Series. The event is scheduled for Aug. 23 at Reedy Creek Park in Charlotte, NC.

According to the organizers, “A tremendous amount of sound wood is wasted regularly in communities across the state whenever shade trees must be removed. Most is ground to mulch at a significant cost to the municipality, or at best, cut into firewood. This workshop is intended to bring together suppliers, processors, and end users of urban wood who recognize the value of the resource and wish to make better use of the material. The workshop serves as a step to further develop the NC Urban Wood Groups in North Carolina and to link potential partners.”


8:15 am     Registration

8:30 am     Welcome and Introduction

8:45 am     Certification Partnership to Support Urban Wood Utilization and Community Benefits

                 Katie Fernholz, Dovetail Partners, Inc

9:45 am     Washington DC Urban Wood Program

                 Duff McCully, District of Columbia

10:45 am   Break

11:05 am   Biochar – How it’s Made and What it Could Mean for Your Business

                 Bartlett Reseach Lab

12:05 pm   Lunch – provided by Arborguard Tree Specialists

1:05 pm     Expanding Business Opportunities in Urban Trees

                  Bill St. Pierre, St. Pierre Woodworking

2:15 pm     Virginia’s Urban Wood Program

                  Lara Johnson & Joe Lehnen, Virginia Department of Forestry

3:15 pm     NC Urban Wood Group Discussion and Next Steps

Reedy Creek Park (Shelter #3), Charlotte NC

For more information and to register, visit the NCUFC’s website.

Video: WoodSwimmer into Tranquility

In case you need a reminder that wood is the coolest of organic building materials, then check out WoodSwimmer, a stop-motion video by Brett Foxwell. It’s hypnotizing.

SkillsUSA & Urban Wood Unite in Wisconsin

Nearly three dozen students competing in the annual SkillsUSA woodworking competition in Wisconsin crafted end tables using reclaimed urban ash donated by Wisconsin Urban Wood.

Jasper Bushman of WITC Rice Lake and Nathan Voge of Union Grove High School won Gold medals in the postsecondary and high school divisions. They will represent Wisconsin in the SkillsUSA national cabinetmaking competition next month in Louisville, KY.

Other postsecondary medalists included two other WITC Rice Lake students: Mason Kollwitz, silver, and Ryan Erickson, bronze. Ethan Martin of Spooner High School and Evan Huck or Grafton High School took home silver and bronze in the high school division.

The end table was designed by Patrick Molzahn, director of the Cabinetmaking and Millwork program at Madison College and secretary of the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America. The Wisconsin Chapter of the Architectural Woodwork Institute, under the direction of Josh Bartlett of Franklin International, coordinated the event.


Congrats to August Hoppe and Mike Garvin, each well known for their work with the Tree Care Industry Association.
Hoppe was just elected to the TCIA Board of Directors. He’s a certified arborist who is a past president of the Wisconsin Arborist Association. He’s also a strong proponent of the urban wood movement. As owner of Hoppe Tree Service in Milwaukee, he launched the Urban Wood Lab to sell lumber and slabs. He is also a founding member of Wisconsin Urban Wood. It’s fantastic to have a friend of urban wood join the TCIA board.
Garvin recently retired from TCIA where he worked for 22 years. He spent the last nine of those years serving as TCIA president and CEO. Now he is taking on the role of co-chair of the Sustainable Urban Forest Coalition.
Good luck to both!
I recently stumbled on a very under-viewed YouTube video featuring husband-wife team Cliff and Leigh Spencer, co-owners of Alabama Sawyer. The Spencer’s discuss their good fortune of being awarded $100,000 in the Alabama Launchpad competition. Check out the video this month’s Illinois Urban Wood Update.
Finally, if you like Facebook and you like urban wood, then you gotta like the Urban Wood Network’s Facebook page.
Rich Christianson



Chicago, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Ann Arbor. There’s no need to think twice about any of those cities being bountiful sources of urban wood. But Kamuela, HI?

I find cause to pause.

Kamuela is on the Big Island of Hawaii and home to Kamuela Hardwoods. The company’s successful urban wood business is perhaps the most intriguing episode of Wood-Mizer’s Urban Sawmilling Series of videos.
Alex Woodbury, a woodworker, who co-founded the business with Josh Greenspan, an ISA certified arborist, says, “Up until recently, as much as 33% of our waste stream produced by our small island population of under 200,000 people was in the form of green waste, and in that green waste was an untold number of millable urban trees. For almost a decade we’ve been diverting some of that waste and producing beautiful sustainable lumber with it.”

Learn more and watch the video about this 49th-stage urban wood enterprise in this month’s Illinois Urban Wood Update.

If you are in a video watching mode, then check out the short presentation produced by Forest Proud that celebrates the omni importance of urban forests.

Also, in this month’s issue, read about Lumber Woman & Co., an urban wood business run by Tina Albright of Topeka, KS. It’s another story of homeowner who had a V8-moment about the potential of putting community trees to good use after researching what to do about a tree that needed to come down on her property.

Plus, the city of Greenfield, WI, represents a case study of how a community can take the initiative to repurpose tree removals into lumber and other wood products. The Greenfield Model is one of many inspirational stories shared by the Urban Wood Network.

Finally, speaking about the Urban Wood Network, learn how to become a member and the benefits that come with it. The initial paid membership drive has netted more than 35 founding members. For only $50 you can join these companies and entities and help shape plans to forward the urban wood movement.


Rich Christianson
Communications Director
Illinois Wood Utilization Team



Dovetail Partners has released a new report, “Increasing Urban Wood Use Awareness and Product Demand: An analysis of green market opportunities.” The report includes an analysis of “existing programs used in the management and care of the urban forest to identify areas of alignment and potential for green market opportunities. The analysis included identifying needs and gaps in addressing urban wood use and opportunities to increase awareness and product demand.”

Among the opportunities summarized in the report include green markets related to third-party forest certification programs and third-party forest certification chain-of-custody programs.

A link to download the report for free is included in this month’s Illinois Urban Wood Update.

On the subject of links, we got a bunch of them in the article about the new Urban Wood Toolkit. The kit includes a series of six bulletins running the gamut from Bulletin #1: A Guide for Creating Urban Wood Utilization Plans to Bulletin #6: Recommended Resources for Building an Urban Wood Use Plan. Also included is a link to the Urban Toolkit webinar that the Urban Wood Network organized last month.

The Urban Wood Toolkit was designed to be used by municipal foresters, city managers, community volunteers, or students who are interested in finding the highest and best use for removed urban and community trees.

And, speaking about the Urban Wood Network, learn how to become a member and the benefits that come with it. The annual membership dues is only $50 per company. It’s a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor of planning the future direction of this erstwhile organization.

Read all of this and more in the Update.


Rich Christianson
Communications Director
Illinois Wood Utilization Team


Urban Wood Network Dues a Bargain

The thermometer on the back of my garage is hovering around -20F. But things are heating up for the Urban Wood Network.

Entering its second year of existence, the UWN looks to take the next step in its move to consolidate an organization of businesses, government entities and individuals who have a stake in advancing the urban wood movement. The cost of membership is a modest $50 a year. That’s a small price to pay to get in on the ground floor of helping shape UWN’s future programs and initiatives.

A great example of UWN’s programs is the “How-to Do Urban Wood” webinar series that explored developing urban wood partnerships from various vantage points. All of these webinars are archived on

Learn more about the UWN, it’s benefits and how to join in this edition of the Illinois Urban Wood Update.

Also, in this issue:
  • The Top 10 Urban Wood Posts of 2018
  • Dead Ash Trees Come to Life in Chainsaw Sculptures
  • Emerald Ash Borer Threatens 50,000 Trees in Lincoln, NE
Warmer days are just around the corner.

Come join the movement!
Rich Christianson
Communications Director
Illinois Wood Utilization Team