Urbn Timber: Preserving the Trees of Columbus One at a TimeComments (0)
It all starts with a tree that was planted long ago. A tree that grew on a grandparent’s property. A tree that children climbed in the summertime. A tree that provided shade in a family’s backyard. Every tree has its own history, and three Columbus, Ohio, entrepreneurs aim to preserve the stories of their area’s fallen trees—in the form of furniture—for generations to come.
Tyler Sirak, Treg Sherman and Tyler Hillyard founded Urbn Timber in Columbus, Ohio, in January 2016.
“After a tree has lived its course, whether it’s diseased, downed from a storm or removed for construction, that’s where we come in,” said Tyler Hillyard, one of the founders of Urbn Timber. Through partnerships with local arborists, they sustainably salvage trees that otherwise would be left for waste or firewood. “We transform them into live edge slabs here in our South Columbus workshop. Once dried, these slabs are available to the community in rough slab form, as a fully finished piece of furniture or anywhere in between.”
The rugged beauty and one-of-a-kind aspect of the natural edge look is one of the reasons this trend continues to remain popular. “There is a push to use more local materials rather than having something shipped halfway across the globe,” said Urbn Timber partner Treg Sherman. “We live in such a fast-paced world, a lot of people are looking for that connection back to the natural things.”
THE THREE T’S
TYLER HILLYARD – Hustler, Woodworker and Speed Demon – Growing up as the son of a home builder in Lancaster, Ohio, Tyler’s woodworking training began early. He spent his summers and weekends working on projects with this dad and brother, and later earned a degree in Period Furniture Reproduction at Rio Grande University. After college, Tyler began working at the Columbus Woodcraft store, where he soon became manager, and was able to purchase a WoodMizer LT15 Portable Sawmill in order to mill his own lumber. After 9 years at Woodcraft, Tyler joined Urbn Timber full time in the shop last November, where he is responsible for most of the woodworking. In his free time, you’ll find him revving his engine at the nearest racetrack.
TREG SHERMAN – Businessman, Dreamer, and Traveler – Growing up in Sidney, Ohio, Treg learned at a young age how to create and fix things with his do-it-yourself dad. He often went to work with his grandfather at his woodworking and antique business after school and on the weekends, which implanted a desire to one day own his own business. He attended The Ohio State University, graduating in 2013 with a BS in Construction Management. After college, he turned down a job offer and started two small businesses before finding his calling with Urbn Timber. Treg handles the customer interaction, as well as doing surfacing and finishing. Treg loves to travel and is always looking for his next adventure.
TYLER SIRAK – Numbers Wizard, Epoxy King and Pasta Lover – Often referred to as “Tysi” (a mashup of his first and last names to avoid confusion with the other Tyler), Urbn Timber’s third partner was a college friend of Treg’s. A Dublin, Ohio, native, Tyler attended The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, graduating in 2014 with a BS in Logistics Management and a minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Tyler felt unfulfilled in his job as a financial analyst with a Fortune 500 company, so he left the corporate world to help form Urbn Timber. His main focuses for the company are finance and epoxy work. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking dinner for his friends and playing poker.
THE START OF A DREAM
In 2015, Treg met Tyler at the Woodcraft store when shopping
for woodworking supplies. They formed a friendship and their like-minded dreams
led them to begin thinking of a “tree to table” business. They added Tysi to
the mix, and the pieces began falling in place for the trio. Tyler’s
woodworking knowledge, combined with Treg’s entrepreneurial spirit and Tysi’s
experience in business operations are what make Urbn Timber a well-oiled
The guys started their business in January 2016 with only Tyler’s WoodMizer; they added other equipment in the months to follow. Three years in, they have expanded to a nearly 10,000-square-foot space which houses their woodshop, kiln and showroom, and they have a separate 2,400-square-foot metal shop across the street (their former location).
Tyler H. feeding a hickory log into the WoodMizer.
One of the biggest changes, Treg said, is the ability to have a lot of materials on hand. “It takes about two years to go from log to slab, so we’ve been able to build up a nice inventory of product since we started.”
Urbn Timber has also taken on a couple of employees, including Treg’s fiancé Lauren, who manages their social media and newsletter. Josh has been with them about 2-1/2 years part-time designing and fabricating the table bases. Ashley does sanding and epoxying. Shop dogs Oakley, Newt and Mira round out the team.
FROM TREE TO TABLE
Salvaging a tree and turning it into furniture is not a quick process. Urbn Timber is able to obtain local hardwoods that are felled by local arborists due to natural causes. “As someone who relies on trees to make a living, we are conscious of where our material is coming from and how it’s being harvested. We only utilize trees that have been sustainably harvested,” Treg said.
Before cutting the trees up, Urbn Timber has to envision the log’s ultimate purpose—whether it’s a tabletop, thick mantelpiece or bench. The end project determines the shape of the log. The photo at left shows a walnut tree that become this cool table. They trim off limbs and protrusions to create a functional shape, and the logs are then ready to be milled into live edge slabs. Logs up to 36" are sawed with the WoodMizer, while larger logs up to 76" wide are sawed with the Lucas Mill, which was purchased in 2016. Once cut, the slabs are stacked and the ends are sealed with Anchorseal to prevent end checking and cracking as they dry. They will remain in the saw yard to air-dry for 12-24 months.
One of the largest trees recovered was a white oak that is
currently in their showroom. Each of the two logs weighs over five tons and
measures 10' long. One log measures 48" wide, and the other is over
72" wide. “It took a crane and another machine to get it off the truck,”
Treg stands amid several large pieces of a red oak.
The Lucas Mill allows for cutting slabs up to 76" wide, like this sycamore.
The slabs dry outdoors for up to 2 years.
Tyler times two – taking the dried slabs in for kiln drying.
After completing the drying process, the bark is removed with a drawknife to help the sides of the wood breathe easier and dry more consistently. Each live edge slab is kiln-dried to a single digit moisture content, which takes another three months. This ensures stability and longevity for the wood that will eventually become furniture.
Here, Tyler S. is removing bark from the edge of a slab using a drawknife while Tyler H. looks on.
Once dried, the live edge slabs are measured, labeled and organized by size and species on the slab wall. There the rough-sawn wood is available for purchase or can be used to create a custom piece of furniture. Urbn Timber does about 60% of its business with DIYers and craftsmen who purchase the slabs surfaced and sanded. “They don’t always have access to the machines we have, so this way they are able to create their own live edge pieces for themselves or for customers,” Treg said.
THE STORY CONTINUES
Though no longer standing, a tree’s history can continue when it is transformed into a dining table, coffee table, shelves, river table or bar top. The guys at Urbn Timber do offer a few completed pieces in their showroom, but the majority of furniture is custom built.
Shop dog Mira tries to stay cool, resting atop some white oak slabs.
Tyler S. pours Ecopoxy into a large void on this ash slab.
Dark epoxy shows off the voids and character of this ash slab.
“My favorite project to date has been the tree we salvaged from my parents’ property, which was formerly my grandparents’ property,” Treg said. “We created a dining table that our family uses all the time now, and I have a coffee table and two end tables from that tree in my own home.”
Logs naturally have cracks and voids caused by nature, decay and processing. Before a slab can become furniture, these voids are filled with Ecopoxy to help stabilize the wood and create a smooth surface. It often takes multiples coatings to ensure that the entire hole is filled. Subsequent coats can be added after 24 hours, and it fully cures after 48 hours.
Epoxy resin allows Urbn Timber to transform wild pieces like this Ash slab into functional pieces of furniture.
Treg and Tyler H. in Urbn Timber’s slab area.
Shop dog Newt “helping” with a glue-up on dimensional walnut.
Sanding, sanding, sanding.
“LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO HAVE A BORING TABLE”
A custom furniture build takes six to eight weeks of processing, including the initial design meeting with the client. To start, the slab that is selected goes on their WoodWizz timber surfacing machine two or three times over the course of a week, taking material off in small increments so as not to stress the wood. The next few weeks involve fabrication, sanding, epoxy, and more sanding. Final fabrication follows, with more sanding, finish sanding and finally, hand rubbing and buffing with Odie’s Oil to a beautiful sheen. Each completed project includes a stamped metal plate with the date and craftsman’s initials.
Josh Willford designs and creates the table bases.
Tyler H. applies oil to bring out the beautiful grain on this ash slab.
Timber’s slabs have been transformed into everything from man-cave bars to unique
bathroom vanities, bar tops for businesses, fireplace mantels, conference
tables, reception area counters, family dining tables and live edge shelving…all of which are anything
White Oak dining table with bench seats
Cherry bathroom vanity with clear sink
Ash basement bar top
Concrete and cherry kitchen island
Massive ash dining table
Live edge ash and resin table in the Urbn Timber office
Shop dog Oakley doing quality control on the metal table base of this white oak piece.
Walnut desk with bow tie inlay
Walnut poolside bar table
LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE
Moving into the next few years, the Urbn Timber trio looks to add more educational opportunities in order to get more hands saving trees. Their YouTube educational series and active social media accounts sharing woodworking insights put Urbn Timber in a unique position. Not just as savvy businessmen, but as teachers sharing their knowledge for the ultimate mission: preserve as many trees as possible.
They also hope to expand their outreach of materials to DIYers and hobbyists. They recently announced a Fall Craftsman Internship program. In addition, the guys teach classes on woodworking basics, epoxy, resin wall art and Odie’s Oil.
“We’re ready for wherever that takes us, hopefully into a bigger space,” Treg said. “It’s really gratifying being able to do something that we feel is rewarding, not just for us but by making the community a better place.”
At left: Tyler H. (foreground), Tyler S. and Treg
Check out this nice video put together by The Columbus Dispatch on Urbn Timber:
We hope you’ll be inspired!
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