As lumber prices soared by 280% last year, Ryan Featherston began brainstorming a thrifty way to complete his Eagle Scout project of building four wooden picnic tables for his church. As prices climbed and materials became scarce locally, his ideas quickly looked too expensive.
His family has a property covered with pines, oak and hickory trees near the Sam Houston National Forest just north of Houston. Ryan’s mother suggested, “Why not use our wood?”
That idea sounded good to the 17-year-old Life Scout of Troop 1177 in Houston.
“The most challenging part to me was also the coolest part of the entire project,” Ryan says. “Cutting down the tree ourselves was very unique, and I didn’t completely know how we would be able to do it.”
Ryan went with his father to select a tree: a 70-foot-tall loblolly pine. The tree would need to be felled, sliced into sections that would be transported to a sawmill, pressure-treated and then picked up so Ryan and his team of Scouts could construct the tables. He then searched for sawmills nearby and found one three miles from his house: Schaffer’s Rustic Mill.
After the tree was on the ground and cut into 10-foot sections, Ryan helped his father take the sections to the mill to dry. After the first drying process, the logs’ bark was removed and cut into a cube. The cube was then sliced into slabs and dried again. The slabs were cut into smaller pieces and dried once more. The wood was transported to Universal Forest Products, a building materials supplier, where it was pressure-treated.
The process saved $650 versus buying all of the lumber.
One problem he encountered was that some of the wood was tapered and thus unusable, meaning he would need to purchase additional lumber to complete the project. But he still saved cash by using wood from his family’s property.
After buying the extra lumber, Ryan was ready to build. He led a team of Scouts to put together four tables over two workdays. The tables, adorned with plexiglass signs identifying they are part of an Eagle Scout project, were delivered to Epiphany Lutheran Church and School.
“Ryan is a true servant leader,” says Kerry Groeschel, chairman of elders at the church. “His work to identify the need and lead the project to make these tables were a great addition to our pavilion area.”
The tables were soon put to good use as people who attended the church’s Oktoberfest Celebration enjoyed sitting on them.
“When Ryan first approached me about his Eagle Scout project, my first thought was that it sounded rather ambitious,” says Keith Groeschel, an elder at the church. “I knew if anyone could do it, it would be Ryan. He always has a never-quit attitude and is eager to take on the challenge.”
Ryan completed his Eagle Scout board of review in February. He created wooden decorations from leftover parts from his project for his court of honor. He also found eight saplings in areas where they wouldn’t survive on the family property and is nursing them back to health and will replant them later.
Remember, if your Scout or unit wants to work with tools for a project, first check the Guide to Safe Scouting. Also review these safety moments and resources, if applicable: