Chris Holmgren
Photo: David Sharpe Chris Holmgren

The U.S. Forest Service says 3.8 billion board feet of good timber–felled from storms, construction, disease, or every-day tree removal–is trashed each year. That really bothered Chris Holmgren. The proprietor of Seneca Creek Joinery in Dickerson, Md., about 30 miles north of Washington, D.C., founded the Urban Wood Recovery Project with the help of a Forest Service grant and one mission: Let no trees go to waste. Holmgren now has partnerships with local communities and companies to take fallen wood from storms, trims, removals, whatever and make them into useful things. Get him the wood, he'll give you a product.

He works mostly with local wood, predominantly oak and poplar, and takes what comes from tree companies, whatever they're taking down at the time.

Holmgren began the joinery around 1994 when he says he burned out on remodeling. "I've had sawdust in my blood since I was a tike," he says, and in looking for something else to do, he came upon a class in making Windsor chairs. "It opened doors for me, and I've never looked back."

Holmgren says Windsor chairs are "beautiful, elegant, entirely made out of wood, and very comfortable. They are a truly elegant piece of engineering." He has equal affection for the 18th-century tools he uses to make them. "They work great. They're cordless, rechargeable, reversible, what more could you ask for?" he says. Some of his tools are authentic, and some are repros, but they all give Holmgren the same benefit. He does have some modern tools, but "there are some days I just wanna deal with a draw knife," he says, "it's very therapeutic."

–Evamarie Socha