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Coles Woodwork

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Student Sawyer Speaks Sustainably on Salvaged Trees

Instagrammer Cole from Coles Woodwork says he's learning more about forestry and wants others to save wood which might otherwise go to waste

Wood waste still has its uses, says an up-and-coming sawyer and forestry student from British Columbia, who wants sawyers to salvage fallen trees and timber which might otherwise go to waste in your community.

“It’s another great thing about having a portable mill and salvaging your own material is you don’t have to spend all that money and CO2 emissions on transportation, because the wood is staying in its final place, you save more money and it’s more environmentally friendly to do it right there on the spot,” said Cole, who goes by Coles Woodwork on Instagram.

Cole is 18-years old and a student at the University of British Columbia Forestry in Wood Products Processing. One of the special things about his Instagram videos is his location: he mills up live-edge slabs on his Woodland Mills HM130MAX Portable Sawmill with a gorgeous mountain view in the background.

"Show the world what you can do with sub-optimal material.”

“I’m usually facing the other way,” said Cole. “So I don’t really see much, but then every once in a while I’m moving a board and I’ll just stop and see the mountain and the snow and the lake and everything. And you just have to take a moment and appreciate it.”

But there’s more to the young entrepreneur than the scenic backdrops of his videos. Those picturesque places tell part of his story, one of environmentalism and a desire for sustainable forestry, and how small-scale mills like his help achieve those goals.

“Both through the city environment and the industrial environment, I’ve seen a lot of waste,” he said. “I think that is one of the major problems we’re having right now, is this under-utilization of these waste pieces that are around us. I like to make a difference by salvaging some of that material and creating a community that will help me with that.”

The teen sawyer’s journey to mill sustainably began when a tree came down near his house. The city cut it up but left the pieces behind, where it inevitably would have been chipped or taken to the dump.

Not wanting it to go to waste, Cole says he saved it and started going around and salvaging more timber taken down by the city. At first he started cutting the wood into boards using an Alaskan mill, turning it into custom woodworking projects or putting it up for sale, turning his passion for saving lumber into a small business.

In the Summer of 2023, Cole says he finally bought himself a Portable Sawmill from Woodland Mills, and everything changed. His productivity shot up, and he started posting videos on Instagram of himself and his friends milling in front of the grand B.C. mountainside.

Now the UBC student is studying more about forestry, and after graduating is looking at getting a job studying the science of wood, while continuing milling on the side.

One of his personal goals is to encourage more people to save wood wherever they can for their projects: trees taken down for safety reasons or by storms, or by using wood that’s a bit lumpy, ugly or initially unappealing, to prevent any timber from going to waste.

Look for opportunities to save wood that might otherwise go to waste, either ending up in a landfill or that might be chipped up or burnt, he asks. Those materials might end up making for delightful live-edge slabs or lumber for any of your personal projects.

“I would like to see other people like me, with a small mill or a desire to salvage some wood, go out and find the logs no one else wants and mill them up and make something beautiful and show the world what you can do with sub-optimal material.”