A Visit with Tree Purposed Detroit

by | Feb 17, 2014 | Michigan

Door to the Tree Purposed Detroit workshop

Meeting Evan and Eric of Tree Purposed Detroit

You may remember a recent post where we introduced twin brothers, Evan and Eric Burger who own and operate, Tree Purposed Detroit. We had given you a preview of what they do, but wanted to visit their shop to see what Tree Purposed Detroit is all about. With our buddies, Jeff and Angie in tow, we made our way over to Livonia, Michigan. We found the door to the Tree Purposed Detroit workshop tucked behind National Tool and Die Welding off Merriman Rd.

Eric and Evan met us at the door and started to walk us through the process of taking unwanted trees (harvested by Evan’s tree service company – Arbor Man) and turning them into usable lumber and finished wood products. Tree Purposed Detroit is unique in that they combine all aspects of lumber production and woodworking under one roof. Pretty cool!! These are certainly some ingenious and hard working fellas!

Tree Purposed Detroit - Evan and Eric Burger

Lumber process 101 – Step 1 – Get some trees!

The first step is to get the trees and start them drying. We headed back outside to find some large logs awaiting processing. Since the cut ends of the logs will dry faster than the interior, a wax sealant is applied to the ends to promote even drying.

Tree Purposed Detroit - Maple logs

Cherry and Maple logs

Lumber process 101 – Step 2 – Milling

Eventually the logs make there way into milling to be cut into slabs. The first mill that Evan and Eric used was a small chainsaw mill. Just like someone in the Alaskan bush would use to processing wood!

Tree Purposed Detroit - Chainsaw mill

With Evan getting bigger and bigger logs to work with, they moved on up to a Lucas Mill. The great thing with their mill options is they can take the mill to the wood. Just right for those situations where the tree would be difficult to move.

Lucas Mill

Lumber process 101 – Step 3 – Drying

Once the wood has been milled into slabs, its time to dry out the wood. Just like all living things, trees are mostly water and you need to remove the water to create a stable material for woodworking. Fans are used to evaporate the water down to 15 – 10% water content. Eric uses a hydrometer to test the moisture content of the wood (SCIENCE! 🙂 )

Tree Purposed Detroit - Slabs drying

Tree Purposed Detroit - Eric explaining use of hydrometer

A drying kiln outside the shop combines heat and a dehumidifier to get the moisture down to 6-8%. Eric mentioned that he has just scratched the surface in learning the art and science behind drying wood. Just like making beer, its based on science, but there is also an art to the process.

Tree Purposed Detroit - Drying kiln

We have lumber!

With the wood seasoned (fun technical term for dried), the slabs are ready for re-sale or to be fashioned into functional art. What is interesting about the wood that Tree Purposed Detroit harvests is that it is atypical. By that I mean, there is character to the wood in various knots, spalting (which means the wood had a fungus at one time), and even some distress from rot. While they do have boards that exhibit great clarity and would classify as high grade, these “lower” grades are actually quite sought after by artists looking for unique wood for their projects. Just take a look!

Tree Purposed Detroit - Black Walnut

Tree Purposed Detroit - Spalted Sugar Maple

Custom Woodworking

A bulk of Tree Purposed Detroit’s business is in selling the seasoned wood for other woodworkers. However, Eric and Evan are starting to get commissioned to create finished pieces. These include a custom door:

Door project

A custom table top:

Table project

A home bar, made of distressed Cherry wood:

Cherry Bar project

And a bar made from recycled 2×4’s which came from a building in downtown Detroit that is being renovated into a restaurant. The owners of the new restaurant contacted the guys at Tree Purposed and basically asked “can you make a bar out of these old 2×4’s?” Not to turn down a fun project, they jumped in and created a great piece. The metal framing was fabricated through a collaboration with National Tool and Die Welding who also own the building where Tree Purposed Detroit operates.

Tree Purposed Detroit - New bar project full

Tree Purposed Detroit - New bar project bottom

Old 2x4 used in bar

A feature of Tree Purposed Detroit that we really respect is their desire to use as much of the tree as possible. Cutting the wood for custom projects results in scrap. Instead of discarding this, the wood is further refined into custom frames, cutting boards, shelves, and even coasters. The wood is treated with local beeswax from Holly and walnut oil making it non-toxic. The coasters are really cool in that they will brand the wood with a logo making them a great keepsake for weddings or other special events.

Tree Purposed Detroit - brand

Tree Purposed Detroit - Coasters and brands

Tree Purposed Detroit - Cutting boards

Tree Purposed Detroit - Coasters and beeswax

We were greatly inspired by Eric and Evan’s enthusiasm and “can-do” spirit. Its great to see a couple of industrious young men growing a business in their hometown and finding a creative way to utilize their talents. If you are a woodworker searching for locally sourced wood or you are looking for fine woodwork to add to your space, get in touch with Tree Purposed Detroit. Oh, and if you’ve got a tree that needs some help, give Arbor Man a call!

Feel free to stop by the gallery to see all the pictures from our adventure.


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