VTG Profiled in Business Vermont
July 10, 2016
Furniture maker keeps wood’s ‘live edge’
By Leon Thompson
BRISTOL — Environmentally-minded woodworker John Monks has worked with wood for his entire career.
He’s also a thinker.
Combine the two, and you have Vermont Tree Goods, which Monks launched in Bristol in May.
Vermont Tree Goods uses reclaimed heirloom trees to manufacture a specialty line of natural-edged lumber and furniture.
“Our approach to making furniture is simple — less is more,” Vermont Tree Goods says on its website, where users can see examples of the business’ work. “The less wood has to be worked the more its natural beauty can be preserved. In the tradition of (woodworker) George Nakashima, we are drawn to saving the natural or ‘live’ edge of the trees we mill. This live edge gives our furniture a soft natural flowing quality that is both beautiful and comfortable.”
Monks developed a new way of sawing wood, so that his business could preserve and reuse the large, old, unique Vermont trees that are dead or near the end of their life — trees that aren’t typically repurposed for furniture.
“People don’t want the trees we use, and they can’t be cut in other sawmills,” said Tai Dinnan, sales and marketing director for Vermont Tree Goods. “Trees that are that old have an amazing amount of character in them. There are so many patterns and shapes. Even tap holes.”
For example, Vermont Tree Goods harvested a maple tree in Bristol that measured 19 feet long and 7 feet in diameter. The 1,400-square-foot Vermont Tree Goods showroom, found at 27 Main St., currently features three cherry tables and just as many cherry benches all sourced from the same tree.
Vermont Tree Goods also has a sawmill about five minutes away from its showroom. Monks started building an inventory of stock in the sawmill about a year before he opened the showroom, according to Dinnan.
Vermont Tree Goods employs four people: Monks, who helps with sawing and manufacturing; a lead sawyer; a furniture maker; and Dinnan.
“Our work is really based in the environment, and wanting to be a sustainable company,” Dinnan said.
Vermont Tree Goods adds another component to the state’s forestry industry and participates in the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board’s Forest Viability Program, which received $75,000 this year to continue providing technical assistance to businesses in the state’s forestry and forest product sector.
As part of its start-up capital, Vermont Tree Goods received $20,000 in working lands funds in 2015 to purchase equipment that included saws, kilns and material handling systems.
“Local grants like that are very helpful for small start-up businesses, especially when you’re creating new systems to make different products,” Dinnan said.