Business puts local wood to good use

By Katie Demeria

LINDEN — Stephen Sloan and his wife Miranda Kettlewell said they opened Black Snake Wood because they saw beautiful, local trees becoming firewood.

Located at 13415 John Marshall Highway, Black Snake Wood offers milling and specialty wood service, allowing area residents to see trees that may have died, fallen or threatened structures put to good use.

“We don’t buy any of the wood, we rescue it,” Kettlewell said.

The couple has resided in Linden since 1987, but Sloan has been involved in milling and furniture making for several decades. He offers various services to customers, cutting and shaping the tree as directed, or creating furniture out of the wood upon request.

Sloan and Kettlewell are mostly competing with bigger milling companies that do larger projects, but they said they offer the customer something those types of businesses cannot.

“No project is too small,” Kettlewell said.

Sloan said traditional saw mills, which use large, circular blades, are becoming few and far between.

“It’s the little mills, like mine, that are springing up,” he said.

According to Kettlewell, a customer’s choice is usually between those large companies or the smaller businesses like Black Snake Wood.

“It’s similar to farming in that you have the big agricultural businesses, or you’ve got the little, organic farmers,” she said.

“And we’re the organic farmers,” Sloan added.

Most trees are transported to the mill on the Black Snake Wood property by their neighbor, an arborist with Autumn Tree Services, whose surplus of trees got the couple started in the business originally.

Black Snake Wood began in late 2013, but Sloan said he has only recently been able to start working with the wood he has milled. He uses a slow drying process, which is considered the old-fashioned way of doing so.

They may eventually be able to construct a more expensive, larger drying facility that will speed up the process, Kettlewell said, which will be solar powered in their continuing effort to remain environmentally friendly.

Remaining sustainable, she pointed out, is a big part of the business. The whole point is to put local trees to use. In fact, the couple’s stable, which Sloan constructed, is built out of local wood.

“I’ve always milled wood, but it was primarily for myself,” Sloane said.

He is working with so much local wood already that he will likely have to construct another building in order to store it all.

“I have 5,000 pieces in here, 10,000 out there, and probably round 6,000 waiting to be cut,” he said while in the couple’s storage area.

Many of those pieces are still drying, but some are ready to work with, and Sloan has already constructed a fireplace mantle for a customer and is working on a table.

Trees, especially in this area, Kettlewell pointed out, often fall due to storms, and people do not want the wood to go to waste. Other times, people want to see a piece of the trees that have been on their properties for years stay with them in some way.

Using local wood, she added, not only helps the local economy, but it is environmentally friendly. Wood is more sustainable, and buying what was leftover from a tree in this area helps with transportation costs.

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Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or

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