To the Oregon-based business Wood Cycle, using and repurposing local wood is called “logs with a zip code.”
Wisconsin-sourced logs, even those with damage or things buried in them, have memories instilled in them.
Using wood that would go to waste and turning it into something meaningful is what Wood Cycle has been striving to do since 2001, owner Paul Morrison told the Observer. As the business approaches its 20th anniversary, Morrison said Wood Cycle has always exclusively used Wisconsin woods from trees in people’s yards — particularly if the trees have to come down because of storm damage or disease.
The business, located at 1239 South Fish Hatchery Road, then turns that wood into a variety of products like tables, chairs and fireplace mantles, he said.
He said the concept of hyper-local resources and shopping has only gained steam over the past few years, he said, with movements like farm-to-table or shop local. But Wood Cycle has always known that sometimes all we need is right “in our own backyards,” he said.
And through using local resources, Morrison said Wood Cycle has cultivated connections to the community through “personal stories.” For example, when a tornado went through Stoughton, they took those trees, turned them into furniture.
Or when the trees outside of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Union had to come down, Oregon-based business Wood Cycle turned them into drink rails and a mosaic art piece for the inside of the building.
“To be able to use that wood back in something that’s going to go into that same home or that same neighborhood is just a special memory for people,” he said. “Beyond the fact that it utilizes a resource that historically was landfilled or turned into firewood, because traditional sawmills just didn’t want to cut that wood.”
The business also participates in the Habitat for Humanity ReStore project to supply it with wood taken from local communities to give back to construction efforts in Dane County.
The connection to wood stems back to Morrison’s childhood.
He said he grew up in Oshkosh on a farm that had been in his family since 1853.
Its trees represented generations of his family — they grew as he did. So for Morrison, cutting down the farm’s trees wasn’t about getting rid of them, but rather giving new life and meaning to them, he said.
“I fell in love with the sounds and smells and the character of those trees as they would be sawn,” Morrison said.
He had always loved woodworking, and so two decades ago, he quit his desk job, recruited his nephew and made a business out of it. Since then, the team has expanded to eight employees, and they are always looking to reach out to young and aspiring woodworkers.
There are no solid plans for how Wood Cycle plans on celebrating its 20th anniversary, but Morrison said they are aiming for an art fair near the end of July.
As for the coming years, Morrison said he is looking forward to connecting to other like-minded companies through groups like the Urban Wood Network, where hundreds of woodworkers with the same ethos as Morrison can share ideas and support one another’s business.
“So to me, it’s that story, that personal connection, that buy-local economy, that this all creates,” he said. “And all from what was traditionally a waste product, but it’s a waste product that literally contains our memories.”