By Deb Hadachek Telescope News
Rich Schintler keeps moving closer to his roots.
He grew up learning carpentry skills from his dad. He pursued a degree and a career in engineering and steel fabrication.
“I like to do all sorts of building,” Schinter says.
But now the Belleville man is going clear back to the basics in a new business, US Wood Slabs, to harvest trees, and mill and dry the lumber for craftsmen who produce handmade furniture and woodworking projects.
Schintler and his wife, Stephanie, recently acquired a former lumber yard west of Belleville on US36 Highway. He purchased a portable sawmill and installed a kiln to produce lumber that will give builders long lasting materials for their projects.
“Antique furniture from the 1800s is valuable and sought after because it is well-built,” he said. “People built furniture that could last for generations.”
Schintler said “live edge” lumber is popular–wood slabs that retain the shape and the unique grain and markings of the tree from which it came. Large slabs may become dining tables, countertops, coffee tables and more.
National studies indicate the demand for live edge slabs will continue to grow in coming years as consumers return to wood for architecture and decorating in homes. One of Schintler’s inspirations for the business is his friend Josh Collard, Belleville, of the Wood Sanctuary, which creates one-of-a-kind tables and other furniture items.
“The market (for lumber) is surprisingly popular,” Schintler says, noting many people have already heard about the shop by word of mouth and stopped by. “There are a lot of woodworkers around.”
The business can produce full-size slabs, custom-ordered dimensional lumber, down to small cutting board and coaster-sized pieces. Schintler can cut, plane and join lumber for customers.
The business has a website, www.uswoodslabs.com, that allows online customers to individually view and select the slabs of their choice for shipping to their location.
Schintler’s kiln can dry 3,000 board feet (12”x12”x1”) every two to three months, and he expects 10,000 board feet in sales a year as a realistic goal.
He estimates he can harvest 600 board feet of slabs per tree. Stacks of hickory, walnut, cherry, oak, maple, sycamore and more await their turn in the kiln.
Slabs can shrink 10 percent in the kiln drying process, he says. “That is a super significant amount,” he says. “I want to dry the wood more slowly so the quality will be good.”
Slabs that dry too quickly can warp, twist or crack, he says.
Schintler said it would take years for wood to air dry to a level optimum for furniture building. Even years later, air-dried lumber may have 12 to 13 percent moisture content, he says. A kiln can dry lumber to half that moisture content in a short period of time.
“Lumber never dries if you leave it as a log,” he says. He likens the kiln drying process to slow-roasting a pot roast, low heat at the beginning and raising the heat slightly towards the end. The kiln resembles a box trailer, and includes lowspeed fans to exhaust the moisture.
One of his most recent logs in the kiln is a cherry tree felled several years ago at his parents’ home in Iowa.
Schintler recognizes customers may want to build with lumber from their own properties to add another layer of meaning to a project. The portability of his sawmill makes that possible.
“We’ve gotten away from (craftsmanship) as a society,” he says. “People have a new interest in products that have value and quality.