CANBY -- Michael Bruno walks around his father's property giving a quick tour: the spot the logs are staged once they arrive; the mill with its "nice Honda motor"; the planks stacked for curing; the shop where a nearly 15-foot slab of English walnut leans against the wall; and the lathe room where he turns out unique handcrafted bowls, vases and whatever else the wood wants to be.
Bruno, a certified arborist and owner of Bruno Tree Care, has been in the tree business since 1997. He says he's chopped his fair share of trees into firewood, but having also worked as a timber framer, he knew there was value in it as lumber.
"So, I started stockpiling it," he says. And instead of cutting one way into chunks to burn, he started milling it the other way into planks.
"Surprising what you find sometimes," he says poking at an imperfection on a newly milled board. "Including metal."
Bruno, 36, credits his wood shop teacher in grade school for turning him on to the trade. He was 8 and says he found it fun and "just kept doing it."
He's learned a lot since then: how curing wood as slowly and evenly as possible keeps it from cracking; how to fabricate the sort of grinders and other mechanisms necessary to turn the wood just so; and that doing the math on the hours of labor some of his creations takes creates a steep price tag.
Like the untraditional yet spectacular cradle he made from his neighbor's tree for his 8-month-old daughter, Alice (pronounced Ah-lease-ee).
"I have about 80 hours in it. I do the math and it's like $3,000," he says of the price tag he'd have to attach if he were to sell the piece.
Bruno works with all sorts of wood, a lot of it walnut, which is prevalent in the Willamette Valley. He's called to take down many trees that have fallen prey to thousand cankers disease , a fungus identified in 2008 and vectored into the trees by the walnut twig beetle.
Walking into the lathe room, Bruno says that turning wood is his passion. He says he generally has a big picture of what he might make from a piece -- an open bowl or a hollow urn or vase -- but the wood drives a lot of the direction he takes when he starts to turn it.
Bruno's work as an arborist comes under Bruno Tree Care; his work salvaging wood and making something from it falls under his other company, Sub-Urban Forestry, which he began in 2008.
Having your tree taken down and turned into something, however, takes a little patience.
First, Bruno needs to be sure whatever he's taking down is a viable candidate for lumber. If so, he'll take it down, bring it to his mill, mill it and label the pieces in sequence, and give it back to the customer to forget about it -- for a couple of years.
"Then call me," he says. He works alone but has contacts for stump grinders, crane operators, whatever help he needs.
The modest shop on his dad's property isn't conducive to storing large pieces of furniture -- such as the table he's making from the 15-foot slab of walnut. So he's developed a relationship with the owner of White Rabbit Bakery in Aurora, where he and his wife, Wilma, live with baby Alice. The bakery puts his creations on display for "hopeful sale," he says with a shy smile.
Touching the 4-inch live edge on the giant piece of walnut, Bruno says -- as if to no one -- "That would be a shame to chop that up into little pieces, right? That's what happens to most trees, doesn't it?"