Kyle King of Boswell Bay Lumber cuts a log into slabs on his mill out Whitshed Road on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times

Boswell Bay Lumber is busy for the holiday season creating artisan goods out of local trees. Kyle King, who owns the small business, mills and shapes spruce, cedar, and fur slabs for local Cordovans to work with.  

King purchased a sawmill in 2020 and has since been providing Cordova with primarily live edge slabs. A slab is a large piece of wood that is not cut to an industry standard, but rather reflects the natural width of the tree. King says that, in addition to accounting for extra labor, the decision to cut only slabs rather than typical dimensional lumber serves as a palette for creativity.  

“The slab sizing provides flexibility to woodworkers … so that they don’t have to work with just two-by-fours or pallets,” he said.  

After the milled slabs rest for a period of time to settle and dry, King crafts a variety of items in his workshop space out Whiteshed Road. King has created large pieces like benches, breakfast bars, and tables. He has also made a collection of charcuterie boards in different shapes and sizes as well as delicate earrings made from wood scrap pieces. His workshop has been busy this season with several orders for the holidays including a custom breakfast bar, several signs, and a coffee table.  

In addition, King recently created live edge plaques for the Chamber of Commerce as awards during their inaugural business awards gala. While he does sell custom pieces and provide milling services for a fee, King says he still operates Boswell Bay Lumber mostly as a hobby.  

“I’m not going to quit my day job,” he said, “but it is important that it can at least pay for itself.”  

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According to King he hasn’t needed to cut a single tree down to date. Rather, he communicates with people who are felling and moving trees out of their own property.  

“It’s cool because for the most part, I know where every tree that I’ve milled came from,” he said.  

King says this part of the process is also valuable, not only as a way to connect with his neighbors but as a means to provide a service. In addition to wood sourced from around Cordova, King also finds special pieces near the beach at his family’s cabin at Boswell Bay.   

All the woods that King works with, whether found in town or out at Boswell Bay, have features that are distinct to local tree species in coastal Alaska. For example, Sitka Spruce has a fine, even texture, and a straight grain that can sometimes take on a subtle pinkish hue. 

The red and yellow cedar species both have warm tones and are fragrant when cut. King says he specifically seeks out character wood — that is, wood that has a special non-conforming feature. Character wood pieces can be found in cuts of large stumps where the grain swirls into intricate waves or in old logs and driftwood that can often feature light green stripes due to mineral deposits. King says off of these features are something that makes his slabs and cuts distinct.  

“It’s stuff you can’t buy in a store,” he said. 

King says that he’s interested in encouraging others to explore the possibilities of crafting with character wood as well. Even though he himself did not grow up woodworking, he found passion for the art as an adult and now hopes to share it with others.  

“The main reason I’m doing this is to get people excited about woodworking themselves, and to help them get something that they can’t necessarily get elsewhere,” he said.  

Even for more run-of-the-mill pieces such as spruce slabs, King likes to leave the live edge on the wood with either a smooth finish or raw bark attached. King says he feels a special affinity for the live edge pieces because according to him it connects a person to the idea that what they are working with was once a tree, not just a piece of wood.  

“When you look at a board — that’s just a board, but when you can see the grains, bark, and knots it’s warmer and beautiful … you see how every tree is different.”  

King’s live edge and character wood pieces can be seen in several spots around town such as inside the Edward Jones office and at Copper River Brewing where he collaborated with Aaron Muma to create not only the bar, but the individual flight boards as well. His cedar earrings are currently being displayed at the Net Loft. King says he plans to continue to make goods for sale and hopes to share them at more upcoming events like the monthly Saturday Market.  

“When I get more time, I’d love to make more and do more markets,” King said. “For the time being it’s just small projects that I feel I can do.” 

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