Bruce McEwen of Renaissance Furniture Restoration has a variety of interests, a broad skill set, and an always inquiring mind. In Foresters Falls, Ontario, Bruce runs a hobby farm, works as a professional sheep shearer, restores treasured pieces of furniture, creates unique furniture, and operates a portable band sawmill service in the small towns and rural areas of Ontario’s famed Whitewater region. Bruce says he comes by his versatility naturally. While growing up on a dairy farm, Bruce learned from both his mom and his dad who was a skilled engineer serving in WWII. “He was super handy, just great at solving problems,” Bruce remembers. “I built many things with my dad from wagons to fences to out buildings. I learned from him that the ability to fix things is a gift. It’s a gift I have to use and I am so grateful for the chance I have to do useful and rewarding work.”
Once a cabinet maker, Bruce noticed a great demand for restoration in the rural areas surrounding Foresters Falls. “I live in an area with a lot of great people,” said Bruce. “They have a sense of history and would rather restore a piece that’s been in the family for a long time than get rid of it, which happens too often these days. I also noticed that most cabinet makers don’t like doing repairs. Very few of them are interested in restoration. I’m a little different. I find great joy in restoring old wooden objects. It’s a great fit with my skills so I decided to go into the restoration business and it’s turned out to be a good decision.” The decision has worked out so well that Bruce has a growing clientele in Ottawa, located nearly an hour and a half away from Foresters Falls where he is based.
A tool Bruce says has made all the difference for his business came through the purchase of a Timbery M285 portable band sawmill. “I had a lot of trees and some great logs from a farm I kept to have milled up someday,” he said. “I thought having my own sawmill would be a great way to make use of the lumber so I went to a woods show and did a lot of research on all the different sawmills available out there. I loved the simple design of the Timbery and the ease of use. I ended up buying the mill and now I can see it was one of the best business decisions of my life.”
Bruce says the Timbery sawmill satisfies three separate needs for his business. A small farm is always in need of lumber for fixing fences, constructing a shed, replacing old boards on a barn or for a multitude of other uses. The ability to mill the lumber on site is not only convenient but inexpensive when compared with the need to purchase finished lumber from a lumber yard. For a restoration craftsman, being able to mill specialty sizes and create lumber from tree species not readily available on the marketplace is invaluable. “If I have to buy lumber I can only buy certain sizes,” he says. “With my sawmill I can cut what I need instead of settling for what I can buy. The ability to mill up lumber for the furniture is great.”
“The farm community gives me a lot of work for the sawmill,” he continues. “I’ve cut lumber for everyday farm use, I’ve milled 24’ rafters for a barn, and 24’ logs for a log home. I really like cutting wood for the different uses people have for it.” Whether shearing sheep, milling lumber for a farmer, restoring a valued piece of furniture, or creating a future heirloom for a family, Bruce says the real key to sawmilling as a business is respect for the customer and satisfying their wants and needs. “I always try to listen to what the customer is trying to achieve,” he says. “I present ideas as we talk but it is the customer’s piece and I want to get it right.
On each job I do it as if it is my own job. Restoration, for example, is not quick or easy and sometimes I have to put a lot more time into a job than I included in a quote. I will not cut corners, I will take the extra time and get the job done right. That’s something I demand of myself and it’s a great feeling when you know it’s done right and the customer is happy.”