Cathy's Blog

The Wood Whisperer

The stump of an old-growth curly sequoia, salvaged from a California lake bed, is transformed into something both beautiful and rare (credit: Steve Revland).

A giant mango tree, centuries old, has survived hurricanes, fires, timber poachers, drought, and infestation, but finally succumbs to a flash flood. It remains submerged until the lumber salvagers arrive, pull it out of the swamp before degradation sets in, slice it into rounds or vertical slabs, and advertise the pieces on their website. Their business is the harvesting of desirable “deadwood,” which limits them by law to trees that have fallen or are underwater. From the familiar oak and maple to the exotic and sometimes rare–Mediterranean olive burl, old-growth sequoia, Hawaiian monkey pod, Brazilian pepperwood–these salvagers offer a global menu of species to select from.

That’s when my brother, Steve Revland, comes into the picture, and he’s particularly fond of mango wood. He says, “I love it when the sawdust in my shop smells and tastes like a smoothie.” (Yes, he tastes it, too.) For more than fifty years Steve has been an artist whose medium is wood. Although he’s been a business owner since the late seventies, calling him a furniture builder is hardly appropriate, because transforming a damaged slab of old wood into a work of art requires the combined skills of a dentist and a plastic surgeon: First, he does a meticulous leveling. Then he fills in the cracks, splits, and cavities, sometimes turning hollows into rivers of bright blue epoxy. Finishing comes last, for maximum enhancement of the grain, followed by an eager look around his shop for the next makeover.

Although Steve has always had a strong interest in the next new thing, his signature pieces that date back to the early years of his business retain a unique timeliness to this day. That’s because a true work of art never goes out of fashion. Lately his passion is salvaged timbers, but he doesn’t just restore. He resurrects. Magnificent old trees that once bore sweet fruit now delight as dining tables, and if they could talk to express their gratitude, rest assured that Steve already knows their language.

February 24, 2019