Urban Wood Products Showcase Winners Strut Their Stuff

ILWUT_LogoBy Rich Christianson

Among the many highlights of the Bringing the Urban Wood Full Circle Conference held March 18 at Hamburger University in Oak Brook was the Urban Wood Products Showcase. The showcase shined a bright spotlight on the design creativity of the entries that ranged from tables and wall hangings to a bell stand and soccer ball all crafted from urban wood. Nearly all of the entries also told a story about their lives as trees and their rebirth as functional and/or fun products.

Conference delegates got to vote for their favorite products on display in the showcase. First and second place People’s Choice Awards were awarded for two judging categories: Furniture and Specialty Items.

In the hotly contested Furniture category, Wade Ellis, owner of Ellis Custom Sawing and Woodworking of West Chicago, IL, took top honors for his gorgeous cherry chest. The chest was literally a last-minute entry. It took a strong write-in campaign to win first place.

Finishing second was a bell stand designed and fabricated by Jeff Perkis, owner of Story Wood. West Chicago City Museum, which maintains a record of the town’s railroad roots, commissioned Perkis to create the solid red oak stand with walnut accents to hold an old 80-pound train bell. Urban wood used for the project was salvaged from West Chicago community trees damaged in a 2012 storm. The wood was milled and kiln dried by Perkins and his uncle Ron Meyers of Meyers Woodworking & Lumber in Batavia, IL. The bell was finished by Ken Wier, owner of i2i Design of Wood Dale, IL. Meyers and Wier were among runner ups in the Furniture category.

An electric acoustic ukulele and amplifier crafted by Paul Pettigrew, architect and associate professor of the Illinois Institute of Technology was the top winner of the Specialty Items category. The musical instrument combo incorporates spalted soft maple, hard maple, rosewood and chrome-plated ukulele tuners. Like a sea shell captures ocean sounds, Pettigrew said, “I liked the idea of being able to ‘hear the sounds’ of Buchanan, Michigan, the source of the wood for the ukulele and amplifier.”

Eric Beauchamp of Beau Bois Custom Creations of Evanston, IL, took second place with a set of Fractal Elm Trays. Wood for the trays came from an American elm tree estimated at more than 130 years old that Beauchamp said “was cared for as the centerpiece of a garden in Evanston.” The tree was removed as a “safety precaution.” The main trunk, 14.5 feet long and 4.5 feet in diameter, was milled and kiln dried by Horigan Forest Products of Skokie, IL.

The Urban Wood Products Showcase was coordinated by John Lough, Senior City Forester of Chicago. Photos and information of all of the entries will be  posted on illinoisurbanwood.org in the coming weeks.