From hobby to households: Live Edged Woodcraft
Since 2011, Bill and Doris Major, the founders and owners of Live Edged Woodcraft, have been handcrafting high-quality live edged cheese, charcuterie and grazing boards treated with food safe hemp seed oil and natural beeswax from local apiaries.
Can you share a little bit about your background? How did you get into woodworking?
When I retired over ten years ago, my wife Doris and I bought a new Mennonite dining room table, chair, and buffet set. At one point Doris asked me if I could make some placemats for dining on our new table. She had seen pictures in a magazine of some she liked. I contacted a local sawmill and they sold me 12 cherry cross cut pieces from a cherry log - a cross cut shows all the rings of the tree. We dried them, sanded them, and began to research how to finish the boards. I phoned a live edge furniture maker in British Columbia and they told me of an eco-friendly finish they use called Osmo, from Germany, which consists of three naturally occurring oils and two naturally occurring waxes. We purchased some Osmo, finished the boards and started to use them.
Soon, friends who visited us ordered some placemats and then other orders started rolling in too. We bought more wood and the process started to pick up. We hesitantly went to our first show in the York Region Forest and made some sales, so we kept it up and have exhibited at many shows over the years, including the Royal Winter Fair, One of a Kind Shows in Toronto, and the Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton.
Last fall we worked with the Digital Main Street Shop Here program to develop an ecommerce website and took part in the virtual, nine-week One of a Kind Canada-wide show. I am completely self-taught and have researched every step of the way on the internet. Our business is a story of a hobby that has become an interesting small business with many learning opportunities.
What kind of products do you offer now?
After placemats, my wife suggested we start making cheese boards and they caught on as well. At one show in Toronto, a man asked for longer boards and we started doing what we call "grazing boards," which go up to 7 ft. long. We focus on charcuterie boards (we just started using the word "charcuterie" last year), because they are a natural outgrowth of our work with placemats. They are very popular now, as many people love the feeling of real wood, shopping local and supporting handmade Canadian products.
Do you craft all of the pieces yourself or do you have a team?
I do all of the buying, drying, sanding and oiling of our boards. Doris works in the administration side of our business, with invaluable help in packing, shipping, labelling, and preparing for shows. I also collaborate with another man to make live edge tables.
In addition to our online store, our products are available in a number of retail outlets in Ontario. We have also recently started selling our pieces in three Olive Us locations in British Columbia.
At Shop Durham Region we believe our business community is stronger together. What’s one of your favourite Durham-based businesses?
One of our favourite stores in Durham is Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge.
Is there a piece of advice you can pass on to fellow entrepreneurs?
I put a major emphasis on customer service. I try to interact directly with customers after they contact me. If one of our products cracks or warps with normal use, we replace it immediately at no cost to the customer. If they are not totally satisfied, we are not satisfied at all.
I would encourage other small business owners to keep trying to improve their products. Continue to look for appropriate marketing opportunities, and use all opportunities developed by various levels of government to help small businesses. In addition to the Shop Durham Region Online Marketplace, there are so many free programs available for small businesses. Digital Main Street has been a terrifically helpful resource over this past year; we would not have had an ecommerce site without them.
Browse Live Edged Woodcraft’s products on the Shop Durham Region Online Marketplace to find a showstopper for your dining room, and learn more about how Bill brings the wood to life in a video tour of his workshop.