Handmade heirloom woodworks from batch-milled urban trees
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Gone, but not forgotten

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Gone, but not forgotten

Loveland Reporter-Herald
July 2, 2011

Gone, but not forgotten - Oak tree cut down for library expansion becomes boardroom table

By Shelley Widhalm, Reporter-Herald Staff

LOVELAND, Colo. - A large white oak tree that once graced the Loveland Public Library property will become the conference table for the library boardroom.

Rather than sending the wood to the landfill or turning it into mulch, general contractor Dohn Construction Inc. of Fort Collins came up with a better use — decorative accents inside the building, which is being built for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

Dohn had to remove several large trees to make way for the library`s $9.4 million renovation and expansion project, scheduled for completion in early 2012 with the grand reopening in February.

Ryan Baldwin, owner of Baldwin Hardwoods, a sawmill in Fort Collins, offered to take any wood that could not be recycled or mulched, but the fact that Baldwin is a woodworker appealed to Dohn officials and to Ted Schmidt, library director.

Here`s just a way we can turn it around and showcase it,” Baldwin said.

In September 2010, Dohn hired Baldwin, also the owner of Baldwin Custom Woodworking, to craft a 12-by-4-foot table and cut four cross-sections from the trunk of the tree to design into decorative pieces.

It`s a nod to the past. It`s appreciating what was here before the library was expanded,” said Marcia Lewis, assistant library director.

Baldwin milled the lumber and air-dried it for four to five months. He put the wood in a kiln for another four months, slowly heating it from 80 degrees up to 160 degrees to further dry the wood.

The kiln just speeds up the drying process,” Baldwin said, adding that completely air-drying the oak, a dense hardwood, would have taken two to three years.

At the end of May, Baldwin removed the wood from the kiln and let it sit outside covered for two weeks to acclimate it to outdoor temperatures. He took the wood into his home-based shop to surface it, cut it to the right dimensions and join the pieces together.

By the end of next week, Baldwin expects to have the table completed. He will contour the sides to create an oblong shape for the tabletop, taper and sand the edges and put finish on it.

For the second part of the project, Baldwin is drying out the wood slices that will be mounted on the donor wall in the entryway. He expects to finish them in September or October, he said.

The donor wall will recognize more than 240 donors, including individuals, families, corporations and foundations, Lewis said.

I love creating pieces,” Baldwin said, adding that he likes turning something sentimental or that has personal value, such as an old tree, into a functional piece of furniture. “I look at the unusual characteristics of wood and bring it forward. It makes furniture more interesting.”

Baldwin, 33, makes most of his own furniture in his home, including the tables, chairs and cabinetry. He founded Baldwin Custom Woodworking in 2008 after working as an arborist, then starting a mill operation to use up the extra wood.

Having all that lumber around led to woodworking,” he said. “I started building stuff for myself.”

Family members and friends started asking for pieces, followed by residential and commercial customers, Baldwin said.

By 2008, Baldwin had enough business to quit his job as an arborist and go full time into his craft, he said.

A lot of companies are looking at green building and reusing materials,” Baldwin said.

Shelley Widhalm can be reached at 669-5050, ext. 531, or swidhalm [at] reporter-herald [dot] com.
Read the story and see more photos here: http://www.reporterherald.com/ci_18395398