Landscaping and Design: Woodstock Beam Works and Stone Back Benches & Sculptures in Saugerties, Ulster County, NY
A local artisan transforms trees, stones, and scrap metal into one-of-a-kind pieces for the outdoors
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Jesse Reimer is a tree-care guy who owns Woodstock Beam Works, a sawmill near Saugerties that specializes in milling boards, beams, and wood slabs in extra-wide and long sizes. His log yard has long been strewn with piles of maple, hickory, black walnut, cherry, poplar, and softwood tree trunks, some looking like a giant’s game of pick-up sticks. “I had all these beautiful second- and third-generation trees on my property; some were 100 years old. I hated to make them into firewood,” he says.
Then, one day about eight years ago, “my creative sense just took over,” says Reimer.
What he’d once considered debris cluttering up his yard suddenly looked to Reimer like “jewels,” he says. He decided that instead of hiring somebody to grind the logs (as he had before), he would mill and plane up the stumps into slabs, and turn them into bench seats. “As we’re cutting them open, it’s sort of like cutting a gemstone; you don’t know what you’ll see.” Reimer adds that sometimes the wood has “spalted” (spalt is a fungus), which creates a unique pattern that ends up looking like scrimshaw. “You see all these free-form designs,” he says.
That was the beginning of his company, Stone Back Benches — aptly named, as Reimer uses stone slabs from the stream or quarry on his property for the benches’ backs. “l look for a beautiful shape,” he says, explaining that sometimes the stone drives the design; other times it’s the log. The finished product gets a coat of satin polyurethane to “freeze it in time, so we can enjoy it for the next 50 to 100 years,” he says. Or sometimes he finishes his pieces in tung oil, “which allows the wood to breathe.
“They are unique,” says Reimer, noting that his benches are versatile as well as one-of-a-kind. “If you want to eat on them, everything just washes off the bluestones.” They even have the benefit of holding in heat. “It’s wonderful when the sun shines on them, the heat just radiates through your back. The downside is that most of them weigh a ton or better. I joke with clients that I’ll sell them the bench for $50 but charge them $1,950 for installation.”
The benches range in price from $400-500 for small ones, up to $2,700 for the larger sizes.
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