A Kansas City company makes countertops, flooring and more out of reclaimed wood.

Elmwood Reclaimed Timber offers custom-made wood countertops for high-end kitchens.

Granite and marble countertops have long been popular choices for kitchens, but now wood is becoming a hot alternative.

With the stainless steel appliances in many modern kitchens, wood countertops can break up the “cold” look by adding “warmth” to the room. Also, with the emphasis on green, wood offers homeowners a sustainable option to granite and other solid surfaces.

One company taking advantage of this niche market is Elmwood Reclaimed Timber, located in Kansas City, MO.

According to Brent Kroh, vice president of sales, all of Elmwood’s products are custom-made. Its main product lines are countertops, cabinet lumber, flooring and beams. Kroh says that countertop sales have been increasing over the past year “due to reclaimed wood becoming more popular.”

In the countertop line, Elmwood fabricates table tops and bar tops, as well as kitchen counters. Rustic oak, cherry and walnut are used in many of their projects, and the countertops can be finished to create a variety of looks from rustic to refined.

All countertops are custom-made to different dimensions, sizes and shapes. Specialty countertops in the shape of musical notes and clouds have also been created for clients.

Kroh says that Elmwood mainly does plank-style tops instead of butcher blocks. The planks can vary in width, depending on stock, but clients are offered specific widths if they want for an additional charge.

Elmwood has a showroom on site displaying various options in countertops, flooring and other wood products.

Elmwood sits on approximately 25 acres of a 1,000-acre working farm. The farm has been in owner Mark Callison’s family since 1837. The picturesque setting is the perfect backdrop for the type of work Elmwood does — reclaiming wood from old structures, such as barns.The reclaimed wood is kept outside near the front on racks and pulled when an order is entered.

“Our whole plant is wireless,” Kroh explains. “Everything is tagged. We usually bar code everything and keep inventory in stock counts through the use of the computer and inventory system.

That allows us to know the amount of rough stock we have on hand and what is out on our lot.”

The rough stock has to go through several stages before it is ready to be made into the finished product.

When an order is entered, the production manager looks at the quantity of the order and pulls the necessary stock. After that, it goes to a white hooped building, which Kroh calls the “denail station.” Three to four employees work in this area, pulling metal from the old wood.

“Everything has to be free of any sort of metals prior to being remilled,” Kroh says. “It’s a lot of handwork. They use metal detectors and run it over all of the wood. They have to make sure every piece of metal, whether it is a bullet, nail or barbed wire, is out of the wood prior to being resawed.”

After all of the metals are pulled, the material is sent to a pressure wash station to be cleaned. This step is important because the reclaimed wood comes from old barns. The industrial pressure washer that is down in a shed off from the mills is used to wash off all of the loose dirt and debris.

Next, the wood goes to one of Elmwood’s two outdoor mills. One mill contains a Baker resaw, which is used for thinner material, either 2 inches thick or 3 inches thick. The other milling area contains a Wood Mizer saw, which is used for thicker material products like countertops.

Matt Garvin, mill manager, demonstrates how the Elcon vertical panel saw can make vertical and horizontal cuts.

“If we have to take a big beam to achieve a thick countertop, we might take that beam and flesh out 3-inch planks. The machine picks up the beam and lays it on the bed. Then the saw is laser guided by an operator so they can choose and cut the exact thickness,” says Kroh.

It is important to have an operator manually operate the machine because he has to look at each board to make sure it meets the company’s quality standards.

According to Kroh, a board might have a knot or a big split in a section that would not be good for making a top. So they have to look at each beam or plank and the operator has to choose the useful material or proper grade out of that beam or plank.

After the materials are cut close to the finished dimensions, they are stacked and taken to the kilns where they are dried to about 6 to 9% moisture content.

“It’s a low heat process and for the antique woods, it stabilizes the wood by taking the moisture out,” Kroh says.

The kiln drying process is different than for green logs because the antique woods have been air curing for 75 to 100 years. “Most of our wood coming out of the structures is already at about 18% moisture content,” Kroh adds.

The kiln drying process also kills off all of the insects and mold spores that are in the wood. Material that has been kiln dried is then taken to the finish mill to be made into the final product.

The material is planed to the finished thickness that the countertop is supposed to be. Then the edge is cut to width and finished to a square dimension. Matt Garvin, the mill manager who makes all of the countertops, oversees production as pieces are biscuit joined, glued and then clamped in a JLT clamping station.

After the top dries, it is taken to an Elcon vertical panel saw from Adwood Corp., which allows them to cut any dimension — all four sides and the top — of any material.

Next, the top is taken to the 53-inch Viet widebelt sander. Kroh says that both the vertical panel saw and widebelt sander were purchased specifically for producing countertops.

The company offers a few edge options, but tops are typically sent out unfinished.

After the tops leave the finish mill, they are taken to the warehouse area near the office and showroom. The pallets are custom-built and everything is packaged for shipping, Kroh says.

Callison says that his focus for Elmwood is to continue growing the company and to increase awareness of what can be done with reclaimed wood. He says that he likes the fact that they “can take this old product and turn it into something exquisite.”

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