A beloved old downtown tree is getting new life and a new home in familiar surroundings, thanks to a local resident and some Lowell HIgh School industrial arts students.
When a dead maple tree in the south yard of the Englehardt branch of the Kent District Library was removed about two years ago, Jeff Lende wondered what would happen to the wood. City Manager Mark Howe didn’t know either, but he directed his staff to store a couple of the larger logs “for some point in time,” he recalled.
“That time has come,” Howe said at an event at the high school, when students of industrial arts teacher Tony Ellis unveiled a 4-by-5-foot coffee table made from the roughly 130-year-old tree.
“That was the tree that gave so many people shade for so many years at the Sizzlin’ Summer Concerts,” said Lende, a city resident, retired Grand Rapids Public Schools teacher and woodworker whose pieces have been in ArtPrize.
“There was nothing more warm and fuzzy than seeing people under that tree, and I just kept thinking, I want to help it be something great again before it becomes carbon.”
Once Lende shared ideas for re-using the wood with Howe, Ellis was contacted and a plan was made.
First, the wood was dried, courtesy of Wolverine Hardwoods in Allendale, to prevent it from breaking apart. Next it was milled by Rockford resident Dan Brodowski.
Then it was the students’ turn. The 4-inch slab, which takes at least three people to comfortably lift, was worked on in some way by every one of Ellis’ industrial arts students from September to December. They sanded, scraped, filled cracks and finished the piece with teak oil and polyurethane.
Smaller pieces may be used for chair seats and arms to go with the table, Lende said.
The public will be able to use the table when it is installed at the library after the winter break.