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‘Goodman the wood-man’ plies trade near Piney

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 09/24/2018 10:00 AM

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Stan Goodman checks a log as it passes through his sawmill.

JORDAN ROSS | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Stan Goodman checks a log as it passes through his sawmill.

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If you call Stan Goodman an artist, he will demur, saying he "just takes what’s there."

But there’s nothing quite like the work displayed on the 78-year-old’s rural property south of Piney, an area his family has resided in for three generations.

The pieces there reveal a sense of humour and restless creativity, plus an eye for the limitless potential in a strand of trees.

Goodman, a carpenter, sawmill operator, and retired seed grower, has slowly but steadily amassed a following of happy customers who’ve purchased one of his unique and made-to-order garden swings, benches, coffee tables, or wall plaques.

But it’s clear from talking to him that the word-of-mouth business blurs the line between work and play.

"It’s a hobby," he said. "I probably saw as many days as I don’t saw."

Goodman, who is of Icelandic heritage, retired to his current 240-acre property in 2002. There he built his dream home featuring 14 different types of wood, all but one of which were harvested from the property.

"Here’s some tamarack, here’s some pine," he said as he gave The Carillon a tour.

"Birch on the walls, poplar on the ceiling."

Downstairs in the living room there are coffee tables made from Manitoba maple, bur oak, and birch with river stones epoxied into its tabletop.

An oak staircase leads to a second-storey cupola, a six-sided lookout with windows on all sides. The views outside are rivalled by a large, round glass-top table fashioned from the base of a massive birch tree.

"I’ve got a good backyard," he explained with a smile.

Goodman started out farming grain and raising livestock. By 1978 he had 300 head of cattle, but sold them and rented out his pasture land after rolling a tractor.

Living near the Canada-U.S. border, he caught wind of the demand for grass seed, produced at that time in great quantities in Minnesota.

"After I got rid of the cattle, I could concentrate on the grasses," Goodman said over a cup of coffee at his kitchen table.

He took a special interest in native varieties, and strains that grew well in the area’s peaty soil. Soon he was selling grass seed to large suppliers like Pioneer Hi-Bred and BrettYoung.

Farming proved to be a prelude to his real passion of woodworking.

"I’ve always been interested in sawmills," said Goodman, who by 10 a.m. had a fine dusting of sawdust on his shirt and shoes.

After renting a sawmill, he and a friend, Len Friesen of Piney, purchased one in 1996 for their own use.

Goodman has since lost sight in one eye, but it didn’t stop him. He switched from circular saws to band saws—"way safer"—which he can operate by himself using buttons on a remote.

Today, he still has all 10 fingers.

"I count them before and after every job," he joked.

The sawmill, which can handle logs up to 20 feet long, resides in a shelter behind his house.

"That’s where I can relax," he said.

When the wind howls and the mercury drops, the resourceful Goodman huddles inside an old refrigerator he’s converted into a heated shelter.

He began doing custom sawing of rough planks for neighbours, sourcing all the wood from his well-treed property, and found he enjoyed the work.

He also began producing decorative pieces, including live-edge plaques and signs, then branched out into home and garden furnishings.

"That’s what I saw most of now," he said. "I’d rather saw a little live-edge than a lot of two-by-fours."

Word keeps travelling fast. Goodman estimated he works 30 hours per week to keep up with orders. In a nearby shed, customers can pick what they want from the racks of wood drying there.

Elsewhere on the property, a woodstove has been added to a metal shipping container, turning it into a kiln.

He’s sold to customers in Winnipeg, Stonewall and across the Southeast, and was a vendor at South Junction’s farmer’s market this summer.

Woodworking has been a source of solace for Goodman, who has been widowed three times.

His first two wives, Rose and Bev, both died of cancer. His third wife, Ruby, passed away this spring, but the paintings she produced decorate the house.

"She’s the artist," he said, adding with smile, "My work is kind of rustic. Ruby used to say some of it was too rustic."

Goodman is currently at work on a special project in her memory. A tree harvested from her Sprague property contained an embedded clothesline he suspects she hung many years ago. He is turning the log into a table for her daughter.

Goodman also cherishes a small red pine cabin filled with Rose’s antiques. It contains the first table he ever built, from oak.

In his garage, Goodman has collected log slices or "cookies" that contain woodgrain patterns resembling animals, from penguins to otters.

"They jump out at me when I’m sawing," he explained.

Earlier this month, fourth-year forestry students from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont. toured Goodman’s operation. Among them was Goodman’s grandson, Justin, who helped arrange the outing.

Goodman treated the group to a sawmill demonstration while his son, Grant, felled trees.

Goodman said he hopes to continue working on his property as long as possible, as he never runs short of project ideas.

"There’s some treasures in there," he remarked as he walked past a pile of felled trees awaiting their turn in the sawmill.

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