Keith Schoonover is the owner/operator of Wood Eye Wood Products, Inc., a Frederick County based full service sawmill providing quality lumber and wood products from local, sustainably harvested or salvaged timber. The Sawmill also facilitates custom processing of logs into usable furniture products.
Keith’s education includes a strong background in cabinet making and a love for the tree covered mountains of Frederick County, Maryland. By 1989, he started operating a portable sawmill with which he demonstrated sawing at various local events. He used the portable mill to build a viable sawmill operation in Jefferson, Maryland, and eventually, a custom timber framed home which he designed, cut the material for, and constructed for his family in Middletown Maryland, just below Gambrill State Park..
While serving on the Frederick County Forest Conservancy Board for many years, currently as chairman, Keith continues to operate his mill as well as craft one-of-a-kind functional art pieces. His work features wood from salvaged trees; trees that had to come down or have died on the stump. Specializing in natural edge pieces, Keith's craftsmanship allows each table, shelf or piece that he creates to tell its own story.
Primarily, the Sawmill acquires trees through various tree services, and calls from owners not wanting their tree "wasted", desiring it be repurposed. Keith sees trees down or dying and makes inquiries if they are of interests. Growing up wandering the woods, Keith saw so much beauty, yet so little of the majesty that is a tree can be brought inside. He has also been influenced by Nakashima's work, he had such a huge body of work it is difficult to do anything with a free edge piece without seeing his influence. So, Keith tips his hat to Nakashima, his legacy, and strives to emulate but not imitate a master.
Each of Keith’s pieces is a one of a kind by its very nature; no two custom wood-workings can be the same. The logs are picked up with the tri-axle, hauled to the Sawmill in Jefferson, sawn, allowed to air dry before being kiln dried. Once dry, each flitch is flattened, as the stress of drying often causes some movement out of plane. Next the face & back will be sanded to 240 grit sand paper; the edges will have all bark removed, starting with a chisel, being careful not to gouge or damage the wood, then a soft wire wheel will remove the final bits of the cambium layer without compromising the natural contours & texture of the edge. Finally the edge will be lightly sanded by hand with a 240 grit paper, as will any check or crack in the surface. I want ANY spot you touch to feel soft, like new born skin, it should make you want to touch it, caress it.
Once this is accomplished, and a base is designed & built for the slab pieces, it is ready to be completed. Normally, Keith will use a 3 part oil & spar urethane finish. This mixture will be heated to 150°F and applied hot so as to deeply penetrate the surface. Each of 5 coats is applied by hand, allowed to stand, then wiped off by hand, a true hand rubbed finish. Typically, each coat dries for a period of 24 hours before being lightly sanded and reapplied, with a final 600 grit sanding applied. After that Keith like’s to use lemon oil, and should scratches occur with use; though that is proof of being used, having a purpose, often a memory, a light sanding or 0000 steel wool and fresh coat of lemon oil brings it back to life.
As an artist mentor & friend told me years ago, when properly finished, a piece of wood should sing. Don't make it hum, make it sing! And when you take one of these home, may it sing for you.
"A tree's magnificence in nature easily surpasses most anything a man can do with its wood"
"I cannot improve on God's work. My goal is to show it off in a way that it can be used & enjoyed daily. He is the artist; I am a tool he uses.”