July 30, 2014
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Artisans: Brad Davis, wood reclaimer

Insight from the owner of Natural Timber

Brad Davis, wood reclaimer and owner of Natural Timber.

Brad Davis, wood reclaimer and owner of Natural Timber.

Alex Stafford

 

Brad Davis

Wood reclaimer and owner of Natural Timber

Age: 56

Years saving wood: Two

Years in Southwest Florida: 38

If a tree falls in the forest, Brad Davis knows about it.

Davis is the tree saver—but not in the grizzly-haired, loggerhating way you might think. Davis, who owns Natural Timber in Fort Myers, saves the wood of felled trees and gets it into the hands of local artisans. He’s like the surgeon who rushes in to facilitate an organ donation after a car crash—salvaging something beautiful from what would otherwise be a loss.

Armed with a strong back and a trailer, Davis travels Southwest Florida picking up discarded mango, mahogany and caro caro wood. He inspects it, has it cut into slabs of various sizes and then dries the wood to perfection. When it’s ready, he delivers it to local crafters who make everything from entrance tables to hand-carved bowls.

One man’s firewood …

“This all started when I bought a new house and there was a mahogany tree lifting up the driveway. I called the tree guys to have the tree taken out, but when I just saw all that wood sitting there I thought, boy, I don’t want to throw all that wood away.”

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… Is another man’s treasure

“Trees store carbon, but when you incinerate them—which is what they do with most trees they cut down—all that carbon is released into the atmosphere. I figured this way I could keep that carbon locked up and help the planet a bit.”

Edison’s other legacy

“There are all kinds of wood in this area thanks to Thomas Edison. He brought down all these different tropical species for his rubber research laboratory and they’ve spread over time.”

Branching out

“I told the guy who took down my mahogany tree that I was interested in saving other wood and he said, ‘I can get you all the wood you want!’ Now a lot of the tree guys call me when they take down something interesting. I guess word has traveled through the grapevine.”

Ecological/economical

“I just figured I could save the environment and create some new local jobs in the process. I’ve gotten to know some really interesting artists, and a lot of them didn’t have a place to display their work so now I’ve opened a studio, Natural Timber, where they can showcase what they’ve made.”

Experience grows

“You can make so many things out of wood and the wood is just beautiful; it’s all different. To me, going out to pick up the wood, it’s always a new experience.”

 

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