"Blending Nature with Creative Imagination"

Log Home Design Ideas July 2004 Outdoor Living Guide

"A catless writer is almost inconceivable. It's a perverse taste, really, since it would be easier to write with a herd of buffalo in the room than even one cat; they make nests in the notes and bite the end of the pen and walk on the typewriter keys." -- Barbara Holland

KS forest products - natural form furniture from trees

Jay Uhlenbrauck of Log Home Design Ideas profiles
'Natural TREE Furniture' in ART of the HOME, a section
devoted to furnishings and accessories for your log home.

ART of the HOME - Log Home Design Ideas

Ray Smith knows what it's like to work for finicky customers. He started his woodworking career building amusement devices for cats.
"My wife Annie wanted me to make an environmentally friendly cat tree," he explains. So he rounded up some wood and got to work, but after seeing the first one, Annie sent him back to the drawing board.
"I built it with screws," Ray says. "Annie didn't like it because it had synthetic materials." So he bought a book on rustic furniture design and learned how to do mortise and tenon joinery.
Annie loved the 100 percent biodegradable cat tree so much, she insisted Ray build more and sell them. Over the next several months, Ray built several cat trees, along with some rustic furniture and brought them to local cat shows. He was pleasantly surprised how well the rustic furniture sold especially considering how much he enjoyed building it.
Garden Bench Seating for 'One Earth' by Natural Tree Furniture
(Photo caption) Once Ray Smith perfected the joinery for his rustic furniture, the next step was to build in comfort. "It's hard to make wood comfortable," he says. "I saw other rustic furniture and it looked pretty, but if you can't sit in it, what good is it?" Ray's solution was contoured seats and backs.
"There are no plans, no right angles, no jigs," Ray says. "The branches all come in at odd angles. You move the stick and drill the holes. It's all hand-eye. To me, it's just natural."
The style fits in with Ray's do-it-yourself personality.
Rustic Rocking Chair - Green Friendly Market - 'One Earth'
"I love fixing and troubleshooting," he says. "It lends itself to woodworking. You're always problem solving."
All of the furniture Ray builds for his company Natural Tree Furniture falls under the category "rustic" and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"If I built Victorian furniture, I'd be judged by how it should look," he says. "With rustic furniture, I'm free to build whatever I want. There are no rules."
Ray uses elm for many of his pieces, but he had a breakthrough when he discovered Osage Orange.
"I was looking for an outdoor wood," Ray says. "Miles of Osage Orange trees were planted in Kansas as a windbreak during the dust bowl era of the 1930s. They used it for fence posts [all over Kansas] and the posts have been around for 80 years."
He uses mostly dead standing wood, which he kiln-dries for three days to sterilize it. Next he wire brushes the wood to bring out its natural beauty.
"The texture is beautiful once you get down to the wood," he says. "It polishes like glass. It's beautiful."
To contact Ray and Annie Smith at Natural Tree Furniture, call 785-658-2618 or visit

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KS forest products - natural form furniture from trees
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KS forest products - natural form furniture from trees

E mail: Natural Tree Furniture 436 Avenue H., Wilson KS 67490 Telephone (785) 658-2618