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August 29, 2013

Area family puts wood to work

By Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
Cooperstown Crier

---- — MARYLAND — Arnold Omland and his step-son, Adam Scudder, both of Maryland, love working with wood.

The pair have been known to debate the wood grain of a random table while waiting for service at a restaurant.

“I like doing custom work,” Scudder said. “We are doing this piece for a lady near Cooperstown. We made it to go with her house. When we design and build something, we make it to work with the rest of the house — to complement the lifestyle of the person. Form follows function.”

Scudder began his career as a carpenter on Long Island doing cabinetry for contractors working high-end jobs.

“I cut my teeth doing that kind of work,” Scudder said. “It really gave me the ability to do a perfect job.”

Omland began his career refinishing and installing bowling alleys with his father. After 25 years of working with wood, Omland tried another career painting and maintaining water towers.

“It was thrilling to climb up those water towers,” Omland said. “I was at it for about four years.”

But his former customers would not let him go, and Omland found he missed working with wood.

“Some of my old clients began calling me, saying ‘just this once,’ or ‘just for me’ — and I did,” Omland said. “Before you knew, I was back in business.”

The pair have been busy restoring, repairing and refurbishing woodwork in several old houses and businesses throughout upstate New York. It is sometime challenging matching old woodwork, and some wood that was once used is now hard to find.

The American chestnut, which was once plentiful in the area, once was a favorite wood used by early builders. The trees were almost wiped out in the early 20th century when a fungus was introduced by importing Asian chestnut trees.

According to the American Chestnut Foundation, “The chestnut lumber industry was a major sector of rural economies. Chestnut wood is straight-grained and easily worked, lightweight and highly rot-resistant, making it ideal for fence posts, railroad ties, barn beams and home construction, as well as for fine furniture and musical instruments.”

It takes an artist to match the grains and finish of old wood so that a repair blends with the original woodwork.

“Adam’s brought so much to the business,” Omland said. “He brings a youthful enthusiasm and energy, but also he is an artist. He likes to do the custom work, to create something that is unique. He is a member of the Oneonta Artisan’s Guild. You can see some of his pieces there.”

Omland and Scudder still do many repair and finishing work jobs on bowling alleys and shuffle boards in the area, but most of their work is custom cabinetry and furniture work.

Scudder gets excited about the creative end of the business, while Omland tends to talk about the practical jobs.

“We refinish floors,” Omland said. “In apartments, we can do a light finish that does not create the dust and it is not as costly as a full refinishing job. But we have a lot of business in full refinishing too. When people go to sell their house, refinishing the floors makes a difference. It is a big selling point — hardwood floors. Or if there is radiator damage, or if the floors haven’t been done in a while. It really makes a house nice when the floors are done.”

In addition to restoration and custom work, the pair also builds decks and renovates kitchens.

“If it’s, wood we do it,” Scudder said.