Jesse Reimer is a tree-care guy who owns Woodstock Beam Works, a sawmill near Saugerties that specializes in milling boards, beams, and wood slabs in extra-wide and long sizes. His log yard is strewn with piles of maple, hickory, black walnut, cherry, poplar and softwood tree trunks, some looking like a giant’s game of Pick-Up Sticks.
A few years ago, when the yard was filling up with giant stumps and leftover logs, Reimer decided that instead of hiring somebody to grind them up (as he had before), he would mill and plane the stumps into slabs, and turn them into bench seats. What he’d once considered debris, cluttering up his yard, suddenly looked to Reimer like “jewels,” he says. “As we’re cutting them open, it’s sort of like cutting a gemstone; you don’t know what you’ll see.”
A fanciful gate built from discarded metals
That was the beginning of his company, Stone Back Benches — aptly named, as Reimer uses stone slabs from the stream or quarry on his property for the benches’ backs. “l look for a beautiful shape,” he says, explaining that sometimes the stone drives the design; other times it’s the log. “But whichever way I do it, it’s a delicate process,” Reimer adds, discussing materials that must weigh a ton. Attaching the stone to the wood with metal rods was “quite a learning curve,” too, he notes. The finished product gets a coat of satin polyurethane, to “freeze it in time, so we can enjoy it for the next 50 to 100 years,” Reimer says.
The benches are a handsome marriage of substantial natural materials, but Reimer’s inventive recycling gene really gets going with the fanciful gates, garden fences and sculptures that he makes out of scrap metal. “Since I started doing it, it’s become such an excitement for me when I go to the landfill,” Reimer says, surveying the shelves in his workshop, laden with old tractor seats, bolts, tools, chains and other rusty man-made doodads. “I’ve become a collector of them for themselves. Some of the pieces are so perfect just as they are, I have a hard time welding them into something.”
A steel dog sculpture, designed by Reimer
Most whimsical of all are the small lizards, snakes and fantastic creatures Reimer creates out of found metal objects. “The creatures mate really nicely with some of the pieces of furniture,” he remarks. “Some of the logs have crevices that are deep enough that one of the creatures will fit right inside. Or we mount one of the lizards on the seat, with their heads peeping over the top, so when you’re sitting there you can look to your left and have a little company.”