Wood that was cut down over a century ago has laid preserved at the bottom of Eddy Lake, off Big Bull Creek near Bucksport.
Now a pair from the Grand Strand is pulling these logs and making furniture you’d redesign your house for, but the job from start to finish is a long one.
Just like an artist has a unique way of doing things, so do these lumberjacks, only Tom Collins, Joe Chandler, and his wife Crystal are both.
“Probing, we’re going down to the bottom and you get a soft layer of silt I guess it is,” said Collins, “and then you want to get into that and that’s where the logs are going to be.”
To get wood like this you need to go back in time, and back on the river, then in it.
“I’ve done it so many times now that I go in and I put my foot on top of the log,” said Chandler, “if it’s a big one I can tell you.”
The trio get their catch of the day six feet under water, but what they’re working to find is dead alright. What they’re pulling up went down over 100 years ago and were in fact seedlings centuries before that.
“700-800 years ago,” Chandler estimates looking at a recently pulled up log. “Just looking at it, it’s probably 700 years old so around 1200 1300.”
The crew donated a portion of a log they recently got to the South Carolina Maritime Museum. They were able to date it based on the rings. It’s estimated to have been a seedling around 1275 A.D. It was a seedling at least 200 years before Columbus set sail, and it was still growing 100 years after the U.S. declared independence. That’s when the loggers came in.
Off Eddy Lake was the Eddy Lake Cypress Mill. Things were in operation from 1890 up until 1910. And like so many things that stopped operations back then, it was all because of a fire.
“That was pretty much game over,” said Collins. You had to be in pretty heavy pickets to recover from something like that.”
The wood they pull has been at the bottom of Eddy Lake off of Big Bull Creek for around 120 years, away from the elements and away from air.
“They let that wood cure out under water,” said Chandler. “If you set a cypress log on the ground and let the water run out of it it’s going to come a part like anything else. The natural moisture of the wood has to come out slowly or the wood’s going to check. It’s going to come apart.”
The team has a contract with the state of South Carolina, so only they can harvest this water logged lumber on this stretch of Big Bull Creek, a back channel of the Great Pee Dee River.
They pull what the need then haul it slowly up stream and take it to the special sawyer to slice.
“There’s very few sawmills east of the Mississippi that can handle a 50 foot log,” said Chandler.
After it’s cut, it’s time to dry that takes around a year. Then comes another hard part of this soft wood story, making it pretty.
“Dining room tables, side-tables, mantles. We’ve got live edges, and some of it you can incorporate these ax chops in the end as well,” said Collins. “We love selling mantles. We had a mantle one time, a sawyer was cutting it all four sides, and forgot to cut one side. So every mantle we do now has to be a live edge.”
“Nothing but sawdust in this wood goes to waste,” said Chandler.
As talented as these wood-workers are, centuries old and perfectly preserved cypress speaks for itself.
“We didn’t know in the beginning if it was going to work. We just put it together and it worked,” said Collins. “It dried out nicely and we started doing the furniture, and everything kind of came together, but I owe that to the wood.”
“I love touching 1,000 year old wood,” said Chandler. “Very few people can say they’ve ever seen it much less touched it. And to make furniture out of it, this is a passion I didn’t know I had. I’m not in a really big hurry to stop doing this, I love it.”
While Tom and Joe share the logs they have two different specialties. Tom focuses on bigger projects and commercial properties while Joe’s concentration is on furniture.
If you’d like to reach out to Joe and Crystal Chandler you can find their Facebook page for Muddy Waters Sinker Log Recovery or call them at 843.458.1778.
If you’d like to reach Tom, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 843.222.9808.