Ask any interior designer, and they’ll tell you that live-edge wood is hot. It’s on-trend; de rigueur for every elegant home. Pair a live-edge harvest table with cut crystal stemware, or a live-edge charcuterie board with a fine aged stilton and a bottle of Château Margaux, and bam: you’ve got yourself some serious high class! But when you see that statement harvest table or charcuterie board all done up for, say, a glossy magazine or your favourite influencer’s Instagram board… do you ever take a moment to wonder whose are the humble hands that made it?
Retired minister Bill Major can tell you. He is the wood artisan behind Live Edged Woodcraft in Port Bolster, York Region. From his rustic workshop and studio, he brings to life stunning works of art which, happily, double as functional everyday items. After all, why can’t the everyday be elegant as well?
Bill started his venture about ten years ago. His skill, he is proud to say, is all self-taught and internet-researched—he has received no formal training in his craft. Bill also attends trade shows and craft shows where he has been able to glean insight and learn tips form others who work with wood. The end product of his diligence, curiosity and ingenuity is, we must say, simply remarkable. Each piece from Live Edged Woodworking is treated with natural oils and waxes to bring out their beauty and provide a protective finish. He says, “We put two coats of a hemp seed oil and beeswax mix on—we obtain the beeswax from a local apiary—and when people buy a piece, they get two ounces of the hemp seed oil and beeswax paste to maintain it at home.”
The story of how Bill began his woodworking business is an interesting one. It all started when he and his wife ordered a Mennonite harvest table 10 years ago. “My wife said, ‘I saw people had round circles, cross-cut of the wood where you see all the rings of the tree. It would be nice to have something like that,’” he recalls. At the time, Bill wasn’t doing much woodworking, but decided to see if it was possible, and began sourcing materials at local sawmills. He learned that his wife was referring to a table made of “cookies” of cross-cut wood, so he purchased 12 “cookies” of cherry wood for himself, dried and sanded them, and successfully determined how to turn the whole thing into a table top.
When friends and family remarked on his cross-cut creations, Bill began making more and taking them to craft shows. “I think the first one was held in York Region Forest,” he says. “Then we went to some bigger ones and my wife suggested maybe we start looking at doing cheese boards as well. We started doing those and also some place mats, and they caught people’s interest because of the uniqueness of each tree’s rings.” From there, larger and larger shows followed such as the Royal Winter Fair and the One-of-a-Kind Show in Toronto, and Live Edged Woodcraft has expanded to offer longer grazing boards and custom live-edge tables.
Of course, with the advent of COVID-19, Bill hasn’t been able to bring his creations to any craft or tradeshows since they have all been cancelled. To continue to reach interested customers, he has implemented an e-commerce site, which is quite an achievement. “This was a big step because I am an older person,” he explains. “I didn’t grow up with computers, and to learn all about e-commerce was a big learning curve. The Digital Main Street program that was developed by government and other partners was just excellent. We had amazing consultants help us develop our shop on our new website.”
Bill has always appreciated wood and enjoyed the idea of working with it. When he retired from the United Church as a minister in 2006, he knew that he wanted to develop some type of hobby or practical interest. “I looked into wood turning and almost signed up for some courses, but I didn’t pursue that,” he says. He credits his wife for steering him in the direction he is going with his business now.
Though he acknowledges that working with wood is a nice change from working with people, wood can be challenging. “Though not as challenging as people,” he laughs. “I enjoy hands-on, practical work, which I don’t think I did enough of during my ministry. Now, this is an opportunity for me to be creative. I think in each of us there’s a seed of creativity and we desire to create something unique as an expression of who we are. For me, this kind of work with wood is that type of creativity.”
As with any maker, at the same time that Bill is proud to see a piece sold, he admits that it is hard to let each one go. “It’s almost an experience of grief,” he says. “Of letting a part of myself go. But it is fulfilling to work hard and create something that I think is beautiful and functional. It’s fulfilling to see someone that really wants it or who is excited to give it as a unique Father’s Day or Christmas gift. Or perhaps it is being given as a wedding gift to a new couple. That kind of thing gives me a wonderful sense of satisfaction.”
To learn more about Bill Major’s stunning live-edge boards and tables, visit www.liveedgedwoodcraft.ca, or call (289) 221-1174. Live Edged Woodcraft is located at 11 Corners Ave., Port Bolster.
Story by Katherine Ryalen