HE CUTS A TREE ONCE AND GETS PAID TWICE — Woodworker turns waste wood into a valuable niche product

     Good woodsmen know that removing poorly-formed, unhealthy, or otherwise inferior trees from a woodlot improves the quality of those that remain by giving them more space, air, water, and nutrients.

     Jared Coldwell has a unique business that adds value two ways. First, every time he removes a  tree from his family’s 600 acre commercial tree farm, he improves the woodlot. Second, he uses his Woodmaster Molder/Planer to turn the trees he removes into beautiful live-edge hardwood slabs — a high-value wood product.

Many people look at gnarled trees and think "firewood." Jared Coldwell looks and thinks dollar signs. He turns low grade trees into high dollar specialty wood slabs.

Many people look at gnarled trees and think “firewood.” Jared Coldwell looks and thinks dollar signs. He turns low grade trees into high dollar specialty wood slabs.

“I cut out a lot of understory trees to improve my family’s commercial woodlot. Ironwood, eastern hop hornbeam, musclewood, dogwood. Then I turn that waste wood into a valuable product by sawing it into slabs, planing the surface with my Woodmaster, kiln drying it, and selling the slabs online. When I send a piece out it’s one step away from a finished product.

Niche product creates high profits

Jared treats each slab of wood with individual attention on his website. Click and read how he describes this “Super figure norway maple curly live edge hardwood board!”

I’m working with what’s technically considered low grade wood. It’s what most mills would turn into palettes. Two things add value: kiln drying, and planing it flat. The average of wood I sell is $10 a board foot. For comparison, regular flooring you can make with a Woodmaster sells for about $1 to $5 a board foot. I’m able to generate a better price per board foot because I make a niche product.

I sell to weekend woodworkers and small companies that are making furniture, coffee tables, or mantles. I work with them to find exactly the slab they want. I sell all across the US and Canada. You get a website and do it right and you develop new and repeat customers.  I routinely ship to a lot of smaller urban furniture manufacturers that have incredible markups. They’ll buy a slab from me for $300 then turn it into furniture and mark it up to $3,000 as finished goods. The finished products people are making with my live-edge slabs are just incredible.

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Business grew 40% – 50% last year

Even in today’s economy, my business has grown 20% a year every year. In the last 2 years, it’s been more like 40% to 50% growth per year. A big part of that is repeat business. That’s huge. Once the economy comes back, the sky’s the limit.

I started with a used 18” Woodmaster Molder/Planer and a small shop in my dad’s barn. I put some slabs on ebay. Things started selling and I started my website. Today, I’ve got about 50 pieces listed online. I progressed and grew slowly. Now I have a really good feel for the whole process.

He soon needed a bigger Woodmaster

Jared sells his slabs to woodworkers who turn them into remarkable, unique furniture, mantles, and more. Woodworker, Chuck Davis used two book-matched walnut slabs to make this dining table accented with hickory inlay.

Jared sells his slabs to woodworkers who turn them into remarkable, unique furniture, mantles, and more. Woodworker, Chuck Davis used two book-matched walnut slabs to make this dining table accented with hickory inlay.

I soon figured out I needed a bigger planer and jumped up to the 25” Woodmaster. It handles the majority of anything I’ve sold. I’ve used it about six years now and it’s got the original motor and still has the original rollers. I put about 30,000 – 40,000 board feet through it in a year and I’ve only replaced a couple belts.

Spiral Cutterhead — “Unbelievable difference!”

I kept looking at Woodmaster’s Spiral Cutterhead. I finally got one. It’s an investment, around $1,300. But what an unbelievable difference it makes! Not just quality of finish but it really reduced the sound level of planing. You can actually talk while the machine’s running. Each one of the Spiral Cutterhead’s carbide inserts has four cutting faces — each can be turned to a new face four times. I’m on my third turn. I get about a year’s use out of each of the four faces. Even if you get a nick in one of the cutters, you can turn it or replace it.

You can tell Jared gets excited about listing and selling lumber online. Check out his webpage where he describes this "FIGURED ROUNDED WORMY BUTTERNUT! THICK BUTTERNUT FREE FORM LUMBER! SALVAGED LIVE EDGE WOOD! 1 SLAB! "

You can tell Jared gets excited about listing and selling lumber online. Check out his webpage where he describes this “FIGURED ROUNDED WORMY BUTTERNUT! THICK BUTTERNUT FREE FORM LUMBER! SALVAGED LIVE EDGE WOOD! 1 SLAB! “

The Spiral Cutterhead does an incredible job. When you put a 3” thick,  23” wide slab through this machine, it’s a lot of stress. And I’m not planing regular, first grade lumber. I’m putting through lumber with impossible curls, burls, figures, still has the bark on it – that’s what sells: lumber that’s considered low grade. I run a lot of sugar maple and that’s almost the hardest wood there is.

“I can buy 4 Woodmasters for the price of 1 Grizzly.”

The Woodmaster adds great value. To sell slabs like I’m selling, you’ve got to have a perfect, flat, planed surface to let people see the grain. That’s what adds value. Nobody wants to buy un-planed slabs for furniture making.

Woodmaster’s not a huge amount of money to put down. A lot of machines are $20,000 and $30,000. This is a machine that’s very affordable. Grizzly’s got a 25” planer for $10,000. Woodmaster’s is around $2,500 or so. I can literally buy four Woodmasters for the price of 1 Grizzly. I’d recommend Woodmaster any day over a Grizzly. I don’t see how Grizzly can justify the additional cost.

Woodmaster’s an excellent product, I’m very happy with it. It’s a very reasonably priced machine, an important machine. It’s been a big help in starting my business. It makes possible one of the primary added-value things I do making live-edge lumber.

He’s bootstrapping his business with no loans

I enjoy what I’m doing. I sleep good. It’s everything I really wanted. You’re in complete control of your destiny at the end of the day. You’re going to make what you work for. I really enjoy that.

I did this business without taking out loans. I turned everything back into the business at first. For anybody else thinking about this kind of business: start small. Don’t get in over your head. Definitely go buy a Woodmaster, not a $10,000 planer. And be ready to work!”

— Jared Coldwell, Woodmaster 725 Owner, Salineville, OH — Owner, Ohio Woodlands

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