Mark Lipschitz didn’t start out loving slabs. What he first saw were only discarded, irregular pieces of wood.
These large natural wood slabs are now in demand, after being unwanted not so long ago. They are being used in a variety of applications, including a wood slab kitchen sink.
Lipschitz has worked in the hardwood business since 1995, primarily in exports.
He worked for the largest grade mill in Maryland, and helped them build an international business.
He kept seeing “abandoned” logs at the edge of sawmill logging yards, and could not understand why these large pieces were being discarded.
“Turns out that in the commercial logging business, not every log is suitable for milling. It might have metal, cracks, splits, or simply not be good enough quality,” Lipschitz said. “These get made into firewood!”
Enter Wood ‘N Slabs, which is specializing in changing what used to be ugly ducklings into beautiful pieces.
Lipschitz, the company’s chief inspiration officer, said there is no shortage of potential slabs.
“The American eastern forests are robust, increasing in volume and are in excellent condition,” he said. “As logs come into our supplying sawmill, rejects happen. Again, (this is) for the reasons mentioned earlier, including if they are too big to mill. We use these monster rejects as our base stock to cut slabs.”
There are many wood species both available and in demand.
“Walnut is very popular,” Lipschitz said. “(It is) probably 50 percent of our cut. It makes beautiful products. Character comes in all species. You would have to see it to really understand.”
There is no minimum or maximum size.
“We try to cut logs with a minimum 30-inch diameter,” Lipschitz said. “We also have logs up to 60 inches in diameter. Generally, the logs are 6 feet and longer, with a lot in the 8- to 10-foot range.”
Wood’N Slabs supplies raw slabs directly to woodworkers, but they can also do processing or preparation.
Lipschitz said they can surface any size slab to any thickness (their slabs are all cut 2.5 inches in the rough). Wood’N Slabs also takes commissions to make any finished product.
Woodworkers choose slabs online, or come in to Allensville in central Pennsylvania to see what is on hand.
“Our warehouse is open by appointment only in Allensville,” Lipschitz said. “We have photos of every piece for sale. Normally the customer calls and asks, we suggest and send photos. We are quite open.”
Lipschitz said there is no primary end use.
“Anything you can imagine,” he said. “Kitchen islands, countertops, libraries, dining tables, coffee tables, bistro tables, bars, doors, decorative, mantles, wall cladding.”
Applications for wooden slabs include everything -- even the kitchen sink (see accompanying story).
“It is all personal,” Lipschitz said. “I just love slabs, one-piece furniture, amazing character, unedged, natural. No volatiles, very little glue. Every single piece is unique. You can never have a cookie (cutter) line of production. Every log is different. You never really know what is inside the log until you make slabs.
How did slabs become Lipschitz’s passion?
“I just hated to see these awesome logs sitting in a field rotting,” he said. “So sad. Also, I have been influenced by the late George Nakashima and Sam Maloof, incredible American woodworkers/craftsman. As I am in the export business, I travel extensively. I saw unedged furniture in Japan over 20 years ago. That fired me up!”
In Lipschitz’s view, these slabs are definitely a product whose time has come. More woodworkers and customers agree.
…and the kitchen sink
Large wood slabs can be used for more than decoration.
Mark Lipschitz said that Wood’N Slabs is planning six standard designs for wooden sinks.
Called Wood'N Sinks, there will be six standard bowl designs in seven species: walnut, red oak, white oak, maple, cherry, ash, and sycamore.
The first sink was made from a massive slab of walnut milled out, sanded and oiled with three coats of tung oil. The company will also offer other finishes.
Edges are left rough to suit the customer’s desire, design and imagination. There is no faucet mounting hole, as the customer will decide that too. Wood’N Slabs can do all the work, or as little as needed. Slabs will be four inches thick in the rough, 26 to 30 inches wide, and generally cut 7 to 9 feet long and cut in half.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.