Building from trees that meet their end due to storm damage has always been part of the way Dan thinks when working with wood. About 10 years ago a derecho, or front line wind storm, blew through Lino Lakes, MN, taking down hundreds of trees and damaging homes. When Dan arrived that weekend to help his sister with the clean-up, the entire neighborhood buzzed with chain saws echoing for blocks and blocks. A stump grinder made its rounds from house to house, carving away the remains.
Dan’s sister lost over 20 trees in that storm, one of them a beautiful walnut that grew by her house. The tree was large enough to slab into lumber. Dan cut what was usable and stacked it to dry in his woodshop where the boards have been waiting.
This winter, both he and Robin worked together to come up with a design for a desk that would accomplish two things: give her a place to work while standing, and a way to honor the old tree that once stood sentinel over her home.
About 45 minutes away along the St. Croix River, another tree growing from the side of the river bank rotted out and had to come down. This enormous tree was an ash that Dan had known all of his life, having come to this river to swim, play, and even get married.
He will be building from its lumber a set of matched tables. The tempered glass has already been ordered. He can’t wait to butterfly the boards and see what colors have been gathering in the heartwood.
Two years ago, a woman named Kathy met Dan at an art show in southern Wisconsin. A severe summer storm took down several trees on a parcel of land that had been in her family for generations. She spoke with Dan about the size and condition of a tree required for good lumber, then she hired a sawyer. Kathy watched him mill the boards one morning, then drove them herself out to Dan’s woodshop. This is a picture of them, stacked and drying, waiting to become a piece of heirloom furniture for Kathy’s home. She doesn’t know yet what she will have Dan build. He thinks the boards will give them both a few clues once they are dried.
Every once in a while I get the urge to post a sign saying, “No trees were harmed during the making of this furniture.” I realize this is somewhat cheeky, but it heartens me to know that in this day and age of instant messaging, there are people out there with the patience to wait for a tree to dry. The most rewarding work Dan does comes from following the beauty of the boards. When walking our back forty, he gets a certain look on his face, looking for the trees that have come down in storms, or those with with a fungus or rot. He keeps an eye on them, and this fall, he has plans to hire a sawyer of his own. It’s a different way he has of looking at the trees, and it can change the way you think about storms.