Revelstoke’s own, Keith Starling, and his team up at Take to Heart Specialty Wood Products, have something to be proud of these days. The team has begun milling up two 49-foot logs from an old growth fir tree cut from Louisiana Pacific tenure up the French Creek. Ranging from three feet to over five feet in diameter, the grand old fir is one of the most spectacular pieces that Starling has ever worked with.
Working in sections, mill staff, including Henning Schipper, Donnie Frederickson, and Marcy Prunkle, have been working with Starling to cut large, three-inch slabs for dining and board room tables; effectively flaunting the logs tapers, tight grain, and exquisite pink and purple hues.
Having more than 20 years experience processing wood, Starling has honed his skill of reading wood to devise impressive ways to display the beauty of nature’s artistry.
The large diameter required a few equipment adjustments, including retrofitting their saw with a longer, 84-inch bar, to accommodate the flared end of one section, and sampling different chain ideas to achieve a cleaner cut.
Starling understands the environmental impact of old growth logging and agrees that there should be respect and conservation for these areas. However, his role in industry allows him to rescue wood that would be under-utilized, destined for pulp and paper mills, or burned and wasted entirely. Instead, he uses them to create valuable, unique and functional pieces.
He sees it as creating something that’s “…going to last for generations. It’s going to be used — not behind someone’s wall for studs and never be seen again. Let’s treat it with respect.”
Starling is working to obtain location coordinates for the old fir in order to tag each slab, enriching the connection between the consumer and the once living.
The company has also begun to collect wood that floats behind the Revelstoke dam; the driftwood that hits the barricades gets pulled up on shore and burnt. However Starling has been salvaging some of these pieces for use in furniture and home packages.
The Take to Heart team has also contributed to the green building movement by developing solid-wood wall panels assembled with wooden screws. The structural design received an Honorable Mention at the 2013 Wood WORKS! BC, Wood Design Awards, and was used in a Revelstoke home; the result being a highly-efficient building with minimal environmental impact. Further designs are in the works with the help of Schipper, an architect, from Germany.
The mill is committed to using all of the components of harvested wood, including collecting and composting their woodchips and sawdust, using them in their on-site garden which they intend to grow by one-third every year. Their abundance is shared with the community and given to people in need.
Proud of the team he has built, and excited by their individual strengths and contributions to the growth of the business, Starling feels blessed to have been given the opportunity, with the resources he has, to provide opportunities for his team and artists alike.
“To create and to watch them flourish, when they don’t even see it in themselves…” is another level of reward, he says.