Wood-Mizer Success Stories - A Pioneer in the Urban Lumber Industry
A Pioneer in the Urban Lumber Industry
By Chase Warner, Wood-Mizer Contributing Author
Beginning as a woodworker making longboard skateboards, Seth Filippo was endlessly searching for new and interesting wood sources to make his products eye-catching and unique. After seeing beautiful trees in Eugene, Oregon going to waste, he realized that the Pacific Northwest had a huge underutilized resource: urban wood. This, in addition to a rising demand for unique and quality lumber from local woodworkers like himself, encouraged Seth to start Urban Lumber Company around this mission: “Promote environmental responsibility and greater awareness of urban forests through handcrafted hardwood design projects.”
In 2006, Seth established the Oregon based Urban Lumber Co. as a one man operation mostly supplying raw lumber and various millwork to customers. Starting a new business in a slow economy was difficult, but after reading Harvesting Urban Timber by Sam Sherrill, Seth said he learned a lot about the urban lumber industry and has helped lead the cause in Oregon ever since. “I still feel like a pioneer in an emerging industry,” said Seth. “Educating the public and cities of the benefits of utilizing urban trees has been an ongoing challenge.” Today, Urban Lumber Co. has expanded to include seven full-time employees at multiple locations across the state and provides customers with natural edged products from locally salvaged urban wood.
Working in cooperation with cities, parks, utility companies, private homeowners and arborists, Urban Lumber Co. obtains trees in urban areas that have been storm damaged, diseased, or wind fallen that need to be removed due to hazard or obstruction. After hauling these fallen or damaged trees with their own crane truck, Urban Lumber Co. cuts and dries the wood and creates customized lumber, slabs and furniture for customers. “Each piece of wood is unique versus traditional dimensional lumber, making every finished piece of furniture one-of-a-kind,” said Seth. Obtaining and keeping material local is a priority for Seth and Urban Lumber Co. Reusing trees from urban areas for products in the same geographic area not only cuts down on costs for transportation, but it is also beneficial to the environment. “We are keeping a valuable resource, which would otherwise go to waste either in landfills or burn piles,” said Seth. “You can find sustainably harvested or sourced lumber in many places, but it is often shipped for thousands of miles, negating its original environmental benefits.”
By utilizing local materials, Seth said that they are cutting down on the carbon footprint. According to environmental research conducted by Dr. Steve Bratkovich and Dr. Sam Sherrill of Dovetail Partners Inc., salvaging urban trees significantly reduces the amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere. Utilizing just 10% of the 1% annual urban tree removal rate could save up to 124.1 million tons of CO² entering the air over a 30-year period. This elimination of CO² is equivalent to removing 732,000 passenger vehicles from U.S. highways every single year. “Converting a portion of urban tree removals into solid wood products can contribute to long-term carbon sequestration and help mitigate the build-up of greenhouse gases,” the Dovetail Partners report concluded.
From Trees to Furniture, Urban Lumber Co. Style
1. Tree is removed due to damage, disease, or obstruction.
2. Tree is transported to Urban Lumber Co.
3. Log is milled into lumber.
4. Lumber is air dried for six months, kiln dried for up to four months.
5. Lumber is sold as slabs or stored until it’s needed to make furniture.
Urban Lumber Co. has a wide variety of clients from weekend hobbyists to businesses looking for unique décor. “Our customers value the quality, natural beauty, and the locally salvaged element of our wood products. Each tree has its own story and the wood speaks for itself,” said Seth. Urban Lumber Co. provides hardwood products such as maple, oak, walnut, ash, and elm as well as softwoods like pine, fir and cedar. Seth and his team have made everything from tables, seating and beds as well as interior projects such as bathroom vanities and kitchen cabinets. Their work can be seen in many places throughout Oregon including small retailers, breweries, restaurants, hotels and even at the University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium where they built multiple benches, stools and tables for the University’s renovation project.
In addition to hard work and a true passion for reuse and woodworking, Seth touts his Wood-Mizer LT40 Hydraulic sawmillas an important piece of his successful urban lumber salvage business. “Our mill is an integral part of the entire operation,” he said. “We cut different sizes and species every day with a different approach to each log. The versatility of the mill is amazing.” When working with urban logs that have a historical or personal significance to an individual or community, getting the most usable lumber out of the material is very important. “With our valuable and irregular shaped logs, the thin-kerf and cantilever head are key,” said Seth. “When cutting high value logs, the accuracy and size of the saw kerf translates directly to money lost or gained, both aspects of the Wood-Mizer mill that I’m very happy with.” Other equipment necessary to Seth’s operation is a chainsaw, forklift and crane truck along with a full woodshop complete with a planer, resaw and kiln.
Urban Lumber Co. is exploring opportunities in architectural products like flooring, siding and reclaimed building timbers. Seth is planning to expand his business by opening up an additional retail location as well as speeding up the lumber drying process by adding a kiln later this year. Lately, he has been pairing a lot of steel within his woodwork, giving his pieces a contemporary, rustic and industrial appearance. “I would like to see us continually grow while still keeping the quality and service that comes with a small town business,” said Seth. With Seth Filippo at the helm, Urban Lumber Co. is well on their way to making a difference.