Westgate Urban Woods began with the vision of two men who recognized an opportunity to save underutilized claro walnut and english walnut trees. The rich soil and long summers of the Sacramento Valley in northern California provide ideal growing conditions for both species, but when old trees along primary roads and property lines grew to the point of necessary removal for public safety reasons, Ivan Hoath and Phil Aldred pursued the chance to reclaim that wood and make it available for the woodworking community. Eight years later, their passion and hobby has turned into a full-time operation with a full-time crew.
Today, Westgate saws 4,000 board feet a day with their two Wood-Mizer LT70 portable sawmills and also cut two to four logs a day on a WM1000 industrial headrig. “The advantage of the LT70s and WM1000 is that they balance efficiency with affordability,” said Ivan. “The other sawmills we operated in the past were much slower, and the process of turning logs on the machine was cumbersome.” Other equipment key to the business includes a 36" two-head wide-belt sander, a 52" three-head wide-belt sander, planers, joiners, shapers, CNCs, and several molders.
Most of Westgate Urban Woods’ business comes from producing solid and engineered flooring as well as sawing slabs for creating table tops and other furniture. Both LT70 sawmills run full-time breaking down an average of 100 english walnut logs per day into blocks that are resawn into lumber and processed into flooring. Although their typical clients are contractors and home owners, earlier this year, Westgate Urban Woods landed a contract to supply Peet’s Coffee stores throughout the United States with 40,000 square feet of english walnut flooring. “All of the wood for this project has been cut on the LT70s,” adds Ivan. When Westgate Urban Woods acquires exceptional logs, they use the WM1000 to cut them into slabs. With the capabilities and thin-kerf of the WM1000, customers who bring logs to saw are able to get more wood from each log and receive it in less time compared to the chainsaw mill the business used previously.
In addition to walnut, Westgate Urban Woods also saws a variety of oak, pistache, silver maple, redwood, madrone, olive, bay laurel, black locust, cedar, and sweet gum. Much of the local urban wood is exclusive to the geographic area, making it valuable to those wanting specialized wood species for a unique project. The Chinese pistache, for example, is typically an ornamental tree that never grows large enough to warrant sawing, but in the Sacramento Valley it can reach several feet in diameter.
Westgate Urban Woods primarily handles wood that is harvested from orchards. The logs that are delivered are usually curved, twisted, or even pretzeled, making them difficult to manipulate. “Since purchasing the LT70s, we have been able to quickly, efficiently, and accurately break down the logs into manageable sizes,” said Ivan. Sawing exclusively with Wood-Mizer RazorTip Blades, they are able to resharpen each blade multiple times even while cutting hard, wet wood that occasionally contains hardware.
Although Westgate Urban Woods has expanded into a larger operation, the passion for reclaiming urban and orchard trees affordably and sustainably is still at the heart of the business. Ivan and Phil responsibly manage and cut trees in such condition that it is better to harvest them than it is to leave them standing. Their sawdust and waste even go to a cogeneration plant to produce energy, and all of their wood is air dried. Westgate Urban Woods is a great example of following your passion in order to operate a successful business in line with your personal values.
Connect with Westgate Urban Woods on Facebook or at www.westgateurbanwoods.com.
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