The Calgary Woodturners Guild wants to repurpose Stampede Elm wood.

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The Calgary Woodturners Guild approached the city with a unique proposal to utilize Stampede Elm timber.

Terry Golbeck, the group’s programs director, said they hope to distribute the wood to non-profit woodworking clubs around the city and have the finished pieces displayed in a booth celebrating elms at the Calgary Stampede.

“We hope that the pieces will be sold in an arts and crafts auction with the proceeds going to the Alberta Junior Foresters Association,” he said.

“Because they are tree planters, they have been learning about trees since they were children and I think it will raise their profile and help kids understand the value of planting trees.”

Golbeck says the tree has sentimental value and could be used to educate Calgarians about urban forests.

“All trees that grow in northern hemisphere climates have unique grain patterns because they grow slowly from fall through early spring and then rapidly in summer,” he said.

“But elm wood has the normal grain above and below the wood, where it absorbs nutrients, but it also has cross grain for strength. This makes elm particularly difficult to work with, and when worked, it gives rise to interesting grain patterns.”

Golbeck said he received an email from the city but did not immediately receive a response to his proposal.

“The person who emailed me said they liked the idea and would send it to a committee that was looking into what to do with the tree,” he says, “but even if the tree is rotten to the core, there’s still a lot that can be done.”

Guild president Norm Olsen has been woodturning since the late 1990s and says he comes to his backyard workshop to relax while he works.

“I’m retired now, but I still enjoy coming here,” he said. “I love making things, and that’s the great thing about the wood lathe. I can come in here for a few hours or a day and get something done.”

He and the other guild members are excited at the prospect of making items from Stampede Elm.

“If it’s sound wood, you have to work around the cracks and chips, but it’s all usable,” he said.

“We have people who make pens, and they don’t need a lot of wood, and we also have people who make giant raw blades, so there’s really no limit; you can make anything limited by your imagination.”

Tim Watts is director of the Alberta Junior Foresters Association, which he said works with students in grades one through 12.

The program teaches kids outdoor skills and respect for the environment and is funded by membership fees and a government grant, and Watts said any funding from the Guild Elm Project would be welcome.

“It’s great for our programs,” he said. “We do hiking, canoeing, horseback riding, shooting, all these great activities, so this program just helps offset the costs of our programs and it definitely makes a big difference.”

The Stampede Elm is located in a parking lot on SE 12th Street just north of the Scotiabank Saddledome and is estimated to be 125 years old. The historic tree is scheduled to be removed sometime in April to make way for construction of a new events centre.

Guild members say they can offer expertise on how to harvest and process trees, and see the project as a way to understand the sentimental value of elms and raise public awareness of the role of urban trees in Calgary.

Click here for details Calgary Woodworkers Guild It is posted on the company’s website.

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