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Carving a niche: Rock Island man turns trees into tools

Tim McGuire, of Rock Island, holds some of his handmade implements from his Wild Cherry Spoon Co.

From spatulas and spoons to coffee and ice cream scoops, Tim McGuire's Wild Cherry Spoon Co. has you covered. 

McGuire, 27, of Rock Island, started selling carved wood kitchen implements about two years ago, and has had a lot of fun since. 

"It started out as just a hobby. I was working with a scroll saw and making toys for my daughter," McGuire says. "My wife makes soaps, and I kind of got the idea of putting together a business from her."

McGuire's wife, Molly, sells handmade soap with her business, Sentio Soaps. They have a daughter, Payton, 8, and a 5-month-old son, Damian. McGuire works in the maintenance department at MetroLink.

There was a bit of a learning curve when he first started with carving. 

"I tried using standard chisels you get at the big-box stores and those didn't work very well," he says. "I got better chisels, and it kind of evolved from there." 

He takes a lot of pride in using responsibly harvested, local woods for his items.

"I get my wood from Native Woods in Rock Island," McGuire says. "He takes trees that are diseased or damaged by storms. ... I buy it in plank form and work on it in my garage."

McGuire says he roughs the shape out of the plank with a saw, and then creates the shape with chisels. "I use a fine grit sandpaper to clean it up, then I use fine olive oil to treat it and then beeswax to seal it against water," McGuire says. "You can treat it with any food-grade oil and it will last a lifetime."

McGuire says he also makes coffee scoops, jam spreaders, salad tongs, baby spoons, spatulas, pizza cutters, ice cream scoops and a shaving razor. The items are waterproof for daily use, but not dishwasher-safe. 

 

He uses walnut, cherry and oak mostly, but he prefers cherry the most. 

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"It looks really nice, and when you work with it, it smells like cherry," he says.  

He's worked with some more exotic species, but he pays special attention to how it was harvested. 

"I've done a few shows outside the area, in Chicago and Des Moines, but I like being at the local markets," he says. "It's neat to hear the feedback from people. I had one lady come back after owning one for a while and tell me how much she liked it. You don't get that when you go out of town."

When he was in Des Moines, a woman who works for Better Homes and Gardens bought a few of his items, and when celebrity chef Alton Brown was in town in March, he stopped by Crafted QC in Davenport and bought a few items. 

"That was so cool," McGuire says. 

Besides Crafted QC, at 217 E. 2nd St., Davenport, McGuire sells his wares at the Skeleton Key Farmers' Market, 520 18th St. Rock Island; and at the Freight House Farmers' Market, 421 W. River Drive, Davenport.

He's got a few ideas for some new products, but is most excited about making wood bowls on a lathe. He also hopes to open his own home and kitchen store in Rock Island within the next year or two.

"My work has been getting noticed a lot more. My pieces were at the Minneapolis Institute of Art last fall, and we've even been contacted by our first high-end retailer and a popular subscription box," where people pay to receive a package every month, usually with some sort of theme.

"I had to supply 3,000 handmade slotted pasta spoons in a rather short period of time, right after we had our baby," he says. "I was afraid I wasn't going to make it. Thankfully, we've got a strong work ethic, and an equally strong community. Friends and family, our Broadway District neighbors, and even fellow crafters and artists who were previously total strangers, all turned out to help when things started to look bleak."

Having survived that, he's developed some new methods and knows what it takes to fill very large orders in the future.

"And I've seen how good and kind people can be."

Todd Welvaert is a regular Radish contributor. Jonathan Turner, an arts and entertainment reporter for The Dispatch/The Rock Island Argus newspapers, contributed to this story. For more information about the Wild Cherry Spoon Co., visit wildcherryspoonco.com.

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