Going from craftsman to businessman - The land and shop

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"In the last 24 months we have earned over 15 commercial clients and numerous residential customers for our millwork, drying and milling services," said Mason.

Most clients are from New England, but orders have also originated from Minnesota, Texas and Florida.

"We got a call from Hollywood once but they couldn't afford us," Mason said, referring to a request for a 1,600-square-foot parquet floor that was needed in just three weeks. Mason quoted a price of approximately $40,000.

Mason draws all of the shop's custom work, even if it's just a sketch to convey an idea, and uses AutoCAD LT software. For clients who aren't sure what they want, Mason enjoys coming up with his own designs. For clients with architects, it's usually a three-way conversation via e-mail and involves numerous sketches.

About 20 percent of the shop's commissions are free-standing furniture, made from reclaimed woods. Mason has been collecting reclaimed wood — particularly chestnut, heart pine, spruce and oak — since 1997. The reclaimed wood inspired a line of tables, which have been featured in Architectural Digest and House and Garden magazines.

"To date, our customers seem very pleased with both the quality of our work as well as our commitment to service, as is evident by the amount of referrals we have been receiving," said Mason.

The land and shop
Mason's 1,500-square-foot shop is located in the rural, central part of the state. It used to be the main building of a children's summer camp, which Mason's father founded and ran for nearly 20 years.

It features two Nyle dry kilns, a Bellsaw 16' circular sawmill, edge/straight-line rip saw and 12" planer, Logosol PH260 four-sided planer/molder, Bridgewood 16" wide belt sander, Laguna 24" band saw, Delta 10" Unisaw, Grizzly 24" planer and 9" oscillating spindle sander, 6" x 60" Boice-Crane stroke sander, Woodmaster 24" planer and 12" drum sander, Dustkop 7.5-hp dust system, Clark forklift, and International Harvester 175C crawler/loader.
Masson Woods finishes its cabinetry with tung oil and/or a clear conversion varnish. The rest of the products are shipped unfinished.

Mason says his next step will be to coordinate with a good friend, Dave Lashway, who owns a sawmill, Highland Community Lumber in Goshen, Mass. The two will log, saw and dry timber off Mason's land and produce a line of flooring, decking, paneling and molding. The land features red, black and white oak, maple, ash, sycamore, birch, beech, shagbark hickory, cottonwood, hemlock and Eastern white pine.

"I'd like to focus on the under-utilized woods which are way more interesting anyway," said Mason. "We will be building a barn to house our small sawmill and for some badly needed dry storage. This will also enable us to develop a real inventory of native lumber for our millwork projects." 

Contact: Mason Woods, P.O. Box 115, Whately, MA 01093. Tel: 413-665-4727. www.masonwoods.com