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Landscaping and Design: Woodstock Beam Works and Stone Back Benches & Sculptures in Saugerties, Ulster County, NY

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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 has long been 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. “I had all these beautiful second- and third-generation trees on my property; some were 100 years old. I hated to make them into firewood,” he says.

Then, one day about eight years ago, “my creative sense just took over,” says Reimer.

What he’d once considered debris cluttering up his yard suddenly looked to Reimer like “jewels,” he says. He decided that instead of hiring somebody to grind the logs (as he had before), he would mill and plane up the stumps into slabs, and turn them into bench seats. “As we’re cutting them open, it’s sort of like cutting a gemstone; you don’t know what you’ll see.” Reimer adds that sometimes the wood has “spalted” (spalt is a fungus), which creates a unique pattern that ends up looking like scrimshaw. “You see all these free-form designs,” he says.

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. 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,” he says. Or sometimes he finishes his pieces in tung oil, “which allows the wood to breathe.

“They are unique,” says Reimer, noting that his benches are versatile as well as one-of-a-kind. “If you want to eat on them, everything just washes off the bluestones.” They even have the benefit of holding in heat. “It’s wonderful when the sun shines on them, the heat just radiates through your back. The downside is that most of them weigh a ton or better. I joke with clients that I’ll sell them the bench for $50 but charge them $1,950 for installation.”

The benches range in price from $400-500 for small ones, up to $2,700 for the larger sizes.

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While the benches are a handsome marriage of substantial natural materials, 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 which are 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.”

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 its head peeping over the top, so when you’re sitting there you can look to your left and have a little company.”

The sculptures range in price from $100-$2,500.

These days Reimer is doing a good trade at local craft fairs, but he welcomes potential shoppers to come and visit him at his studio. “Sometimes I’ll custom-make a piece to somebody’s exact specifications. But I usually have a backlog of six to eight benches at my studio, and a bunch of tables, too. Come and take a look.”

Stone Back Benches & Sculptures
1795 Rt. 212, Saugerties
845-679-7034; www.stonebackbenches.com

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