New furniture-making business that uses locally grown timber opens in East Lawrence
As North Lawrence residents have learned, there is a good way and a bad way for that walnut tree in the front yard to end up in your dining room.
Last weekend’s storm highlighted the bad way. The storm brought down a lot of trees, and some of them even crashed through roofs, landed on cars or damaged other property.
But what’s the good way for a walnut tree to end up in your dining room? Well, it would look great as a dining room table. A new East Lawrence business can make that happen. Form & Function has opened at 620 E. Eighth St., across from the Poehler Lofts building, in the old building that somewhat resembles a Quonset hut. Landon Harness and Greg Anderson are two area woodworkers who are using the building to mill lumber from area trees, and then they either sell that lumber to other woodworkers or use it themselves to make custom furniture creations.
The timing on all of this is coincidental. Harness and Anderson didn’t open the business knowing that a big storm was coming, but the storm indeed may end up keeping the company busy. While National Weather Service folks aren’t willing to call Saturday’s storm a microburst, North Lawrence residents definitely will tell you it is a macro pain in the rear, with downed trees scattered throughout the neighborhood.
“We did hand out a bunch of business cards in North Lawrence the other day,” Harness said.
To be clear, the company isn’t a tree removal firm. Its standard way of operating is to work with tree removal companies. The tree company cuts the tree down, but instead of cutting up the trunk, it leaves it for Form & Function to pick up. Harness and Anderson take it back to the shop, where they have a Timber King sawmill that can handle logs as large as 30 inches. If it gets bigger than that, Anderson has a 60-inch chainsaw. (With that chainsaw and an XXXXL white hockey mask, I guarantee you’ll have the best costume at any Halloween party.)
The idea behind the business is simple.
“I just enjoy saving stuff,” Harness said. “That is what it all stemmed from for me. I enjoy seeing things not go to waste.”
Most trees taken down by tree service companies either go to the wood chipper pile or the burn pile. Harness thinks there are plenty of homeowners who would rather see the old tree made into something beautiful, and he thinks there are buyers who will be interested in the idea of buying furniture made from local wood. Look how big the locavore concept has become with food. Maybe this is the beginning of a similar concept: localoungers (people who only nap in chairs made of local wood.)
Well, maybe we’re not quite to that point. Harness said consumers do have to be reminded that you actually can turn a Kansas log into a beautiful piece of furniture.
“It is a lot of education because we live in a state where the lumber industry really doesn’t exist,” Harness said. “But people are wanting to move back to something that has beauty and soul.”
Harness estimated the business has sawed about 15 varieties of timber. Local walnut, maple and oak are all very traditional types of furniture woods, but Harness said several other Kansas species can make for really interesting pieces. Mulberry, persimmon, and hackberry are all pretty common and interesting. Then there are some like a sweet gum, which produces a wood that looks a bit like a maple, but has distinctive gray streaks running through it that make it look vintage.
“And a Siberian elm was by far the prettiest that we’ve cut,” Harness said. “Once we cut into a log, sometimes we are amazed at what we find. Milling day is definitely the most fun.”
As for the type of furniture the business makes, Harnett said his is a bit more modern, “live edge,” furniture that leaves the wood as natural as possible. He does a lot of dining room tables, kitchen islands, fireplace mantles, shelving and other such projects. Anderson, Harness said, produces furniture that is more refined and features classical styling.
A lot of the business’ furniture is custom-order jobs, but the shop will have a showroom that will display some pieces that are for sale. The business is having its grand opening as part of the Oct. 27 Final Fridays activities. The business will be open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will have live music and refreshments.