Most goods in today’s economy are made in factories from around the world. That’s not what you’ll find here, in my shop.— Ryan Baldwin, Baldwin Custom Woodworking
While working as an arborist removing trees from backyards and along city streets in Fort Collins, Colorado, Ryan Baldwin saw an opportunity to salvage city trees destined for the dump into usable lumber for woodworking projects.
“I saw the waste stream that was generated in tree work and the potential to recapture this material and turn it into something useful,” said Ryan. Although the utilization of urban wood was not a new concept, milling and selling locally-sourced lumber was uncommon in the Fort Collins area.
As the home of Colorado State University, Fort Collins has been influenced by the school’s agriculture, forestry, landscape architecture and veterinary science programs.
“Our community has an unusually large population of american elm and due to CSU’s botanical influence, the city has a diverse urban forest including ash, walnut, elm, honey locust, oak, pine, hackberry, catalpa, mulberry, sycamore, Russian olive, linden, cottonwood, willow, and more,” said Ryan. From his sawmill, Ryan produces rough-cut dimensional lumber and large, live edge slabs in a variety of species harvested in Northern Colorado.
“All the lumber that we sell is urban wood reclaimed from the waste stream,” said Ryan. “This homegrown product is very unique – unlike farm-raised lumber, it is not perfectly straight with uniform grain.” The uniqueness of these urban trees include finding many interesting items inside such as nails, barbed-wire, and even bullets, but Ryan uses the distinct wood characteristics produced by these items to his advantage in marketing his products.
“These trees tell a story and it’s an amazing experience to see the beautiful wood inside them,” he said.
When milling became more frequent, Ryan increased his focus on furniture design and set aside hardwoods with interesting qualities. In 2008, Ryan established Baldwin Custom Woodworking to create custom furniture in addition to his milling services.
“I had a lot to learn – namely furniture design, aesthetics, finishing techniques, and the many intricacies of running a small business,” said Ryan. “I feel lucky that I’ve been able to turn a hobby into a real job.” Baldwin mills logs both for design projects and for the sale of lumber and slabs, splitting his time in half between both parts of the business.
The majority of Baldwin Custom Woodworking furniture pieces are made from local, urban lumber, making each piece unique and truly one of a kind.
“We don’t recycle our designs, instead preferring to work with clients to develop a design and choose a species of wood that best suits their needs,” said Ryan. “We feel honored to be able to produce heirlooms that will live on for generations.”
Providing hand-made products such as desks, tables, chairs, china cabinets, armoires, kitchen islands, bathroom vanities, and more to both custom furniture and commercial customers, each client appreciates that the products are made with local materials. “Our customers value that our products are unusual and not available from national retailers,” said Ryan. “The concept of having something custom-made is pretty special in today’s economy.”
By offering products made from alternatively sourced materials, commercial projects are on the rise for Baldwin Custom Woodworking as contractors and builders seek LEED certification (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) to reuse material from a site for trim, flooring, and furniture.
With years of hard work and a few key investments including a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill, Baldwin Custom Woodworking continues to succeed.
“The best part of my week is when I deliver a piece of furniture to a client and get to see them see it for the first time,” said Ryan. “It’s a very cool moment, they usually can’t take their hands off it – they just want to feel the finish and see it from all angles.”
The future is bright for Baldwin Custom Woodworking as Ryan plans to expand to a location where he can add a showroom for lumber and furniture and hire more help so he can spend more time with his customers. “I’d like to see us continue to grow and sell more lumber because that means less waste will go into our local landfills,” said Ryan.
By identifying an untapped market and turning a hobby into a profession, Ryan has built a successful family-owned business that will continue to grow for years to come. For more information about Ryan and Baldwin Custom Woodworking, connect on Facebook or visit Baldwin Woodworking or Baldwin Hardwoods.
The Wood-Mizer Team includes a diverse group of woodworkers, farmers, homesteaders, arborists, entrepreneurs, and more who are excited to share their knowledge and experiences of working with wood from forest to final form. Since 1982, the team has brought portable, personal sawmills to people all over the world who want the freedom of sawing their own lumber. Find Wood-Mizer on their website, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Twitter. Read all of the team’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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