Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

June 30, 2012

Cole turns dead trees into rustic furniture

He finds his material in local woodlots

By John Martino

— Ever since child-hood, Andy Cole has enjoyed the outdoors and the recreational pleasures it provides, like hunting, hiking and fishing. But over the past several years he has taken advantage of the natural materials it provides as well.

After graduating from Purdue University with a degree in landscape architecture, Cole decided to go out on a limb. He wanted to stick his passion into building rustic furniture with the hopes of one day branching out into a full-time business. If you leaf through a Timber Home or Living and Log Homes magazine, you likely will see photos of his work.

During the day, Cole works with his father in their family’s concrete and excavation business. But most evenings he can be found working in his spacious shop tucked away in western Howard County. Forget about seeing him in any lumberyard purchasing his supply of hardwood. Instead, he selects his materials from the property of family and friends. With a little sweat and his own two hands, he will take a tree from blow-down to bookcase.

“I get to do two things at once,” he said with a smile, “like scout for deer and look for logs.”

His process begins with searching woodlots for storm-damage or other dead trees of suitable size and species.

“I never use anything that is alive,” he explained.

Even though the trees may have died for one reason or another, he meticulously brings them back to life. His favorite choices of timber include walnut, cherry or hard maple.

“They are good woods because of their beauty and strength,” he explained. “It’s also nice because they are readily available.”

After finding his material he then drags out the logs with the help of a skid-loader. He then cut them into slabs 2 1/2 inches thick. From here, they then go into his shop where he spends hours sawing, milling and shaping the wood, eventually crafting it into unique, one-of-a-kind furniture.

Over the past several years, Cole has crafted many types of home furnishings which include tables, chairs, benches and buffets. Their flowing lines and glistening surfaces are pleasing to the eye.

Making rustic furniture the old-fashioned way is a throwback in time. Although electrical outlets line the walls and modern equipment cover the floor, Cole does not use manmade fasteners like nails, screws or staples. Instead, everything is joined together by mortise-and-tenon, dove tails or dowels, which he also makes himself.

No two are alike and every piece is unique. The nice thing about his unique style of furniture is it can be used in either modern or rustic homes. Crafting this type of home décor is as much art as craftsmanship. Because of his skill, Cole was recently inducted to the Indiana Artisans Association.

Some of his pieces look more contemporary than old school. He also creates furniture with its original bark adorning the sides and ends.

“This is called live edging,” he explained, while rubbing his hand over the rough edge of a table he recently finished.

For Cole, it’s a discovery of the pleasures of working with a natural material that literally shaped the world, the feeling of mastering a craft almost as old as time itself. He appreciates seeing tangible progress shaped with his own two hands, resulting in a useful item of beauty.

If you are interested in seeing his work or maybe even picking something up for your own home, you can contact the young craftsman at coleandsonsinc@gmail.com.

Spring Turkey Hunting

This spring’s unseasonably warm weather and earlier than normal growth of underbrush made turkey hunting a sketchy proposition for many hunters. In spite of this, preliminary results put this year’s season surprisingly as the fourth highest on record with hunters collecting 12,594 birds. Only 2010, 2009 and 2006 recorded higher harvest totals.

The 19-day season (April 25-May 13) accounted for 10,993 birds collected. Adult gobblers made up 85 percent of the harvest followed by juveniles (jakes) at 14 percent and bearded hens making up only 1 percent. Young hunters checked in 1,592 birds during the two-day special youth hunting season. Nine birds were taken during a special Wounded Warrior turkey hunt staged on Camp Atterbury.

Tournament Results

Geist Reservoir was the location of a recent tournament held by the Kokomo Seniors bass club. After the weigh in, Wayne Eades and Jerry Pickett came away double winners, leaving the rest of the field behind, with five largemouth bass sporting a combined weight of 13 pounds, 10 ounces. They also earned the tourney’s “biggest bass” trophy with a fish topping out at 3 pounds, 3 ounces. Henry Cavazos and Sam Taskey grabbed second place with five fish weighing 10 pounds, 8 ounces. Third place went to Bud Fields and Mike Bailey with five fish totaling 8 pounds, 11 ounces.

In regular fashion, Bob Rose and Wayne Nolder came out on top at last week’s Delphi-Delco team bass tourney with four fish totaling 7 pounds, 7 ounces. A largemouth tipping the scales at just under 3 pounds also gave them the contest’s “big fish” award. Second place went to Mike and Shane Harrison with three fish weighing 5 pounds, 1 ounce. Keith Milburn and Ed Lyke slipped into third place with three fish weighing 5 pounds.

• John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at jmartinooutdoors@att.net.