LOCATED IN: Galena, Ill.
FOUNDED IN: 2016
GALENA, Ill. — For most of his life, Ryan McClain’s skilled craftsmanship was something he only shared with family and friends.
Guests at McClain’s wedding, for instance, were invited to sit on one of the 48 log benches that he built for the occasion and, afterward, had the chance to take them home.
He also would do a special project now and then for someone close to him.
“I would do a piece once a year or once every two years if a friend asked me to make something, and I always enjoyed doing that,” he recalled. “It was my wife who pushed me to start the business. She said, ‘We should do this,’ and I ran with it from there.”
The Woodshed Mill and Metalworks launched in 2016. The skeleton operation consists of Ryan and his wife, Sabrina, who contributes to everything from invoicing to operating the company’s website and social media presence.
Both the woodshop and sawmill are located in the McClains’ backyard in Galena, where Ryan often logs long hours after returning home from his full-time job.
“A lot of days, I come home after a full day and work in the shop for three to four hours,” he said.
Dining tables, dressers, mantles and bar tops are among the products most commonly made by The Woodshed Mill and Metalworks. But there are few challenges that McClain won’t take on. He has created everything from entryway cabinets to special wedding benches that are signed by attendees.
The company is steadily building a solid reputation among area customers and local businesses, many of whom have The Woodshed’s products on display within their facilities.
Galena Roasters, a coffee-roasting operation on Galena’s Main Street, is among the many local businesses that have become customers.
McClain custom built the roastery a “cupping table,” a long, narrow piece of furniture that provides a place for people to taste and evaluate coffee.
“It is a great aesthetic for the room and for the experience here,” said Earl Thompson, owner of Galena Roasters.
Thompson and McClain worked to select a tree on Thompson’s property that would be ideal for the project. They ultimately chose a lightning-struck Sycamore based on its unique coloring. In addition to crafting the wood table, McClain also did the metalwork for its legs.
Thompson said the cupping table has become a “gathering place” within the roasting facility. And he noted that visitors frequently compliment the unique piece.
“Every group that comes in comments on it,” Thompson said.
While every item created by McClain is different, he often follows a similar series of steps before arriving at a finished product.
It all begins with identifying the right piece of lumber.
McClain often meets with the clients at their property and helps them find a tree that could suit their needs. The Woodshed works with a tree service company, which takes down the selected tree.
“We tell people, ‘We will take your tree from your property and give you back a family heirloom,” McClain said.
The felled lumber ultimately makes its way to The Woodshed Mill and Metalworks.
McClain owns and operates his mill, which is capable of cutting lumber with a diameter up to 3 feet and a length up to 22 feet.
Each tree and piece of lumber is different, making design and long-term thinking essential.
“You have to have an idea before you cut,” McClain said. “You have to read the tree.”
After the wood is milled, it is transported to a kiln, where it is dried.
The boards are then planed, sanded and cut to the desired dimensions.
“There is a lot of sawdust along the way,” McClain said.
He then goes about the process of connecting the various pieces of the furniture, paying careful attention to each detail along the way.
McClain also has extensive welding experience, which lends an extra dimension to a business that primarily works with lumber.
This allows McClain to add various metal products to his furniture, such as steel legs for a wooden table.
A half-decade after launching the operation, McClain is pleased with the progress but hopeful that the business will evolve into something more.
He is hopeful his company can forge connections with additional Galena businesses and that, one day, he can construct a larger shop.
While he isn’t yet considering quitting his day job, he is hopeful that The Woodshop could one day become a full-time endeavor.
“One day, it could become large enough where I have to make that tough decision,” he said. “That would be a good problem to have.”