June 29, 2022

Northshore Wood Products: Master Craftsmen Create Custom Masterpieces | BusinessNorth Exclusives


Ron Sween started his custom carpentry business in 1979 with his longtime friend Greg Lillejord. They started making small display plaque holders for the collection plaques. Over the next four decades, the duo dramatically expanded Northshore Wood Products to include an extensive menu of custom woodworking projects.

Today, the founders work with three full-time people in their workshop, just past the Rivière des Français on Highway 61, to create tasteful, handcrafted furniture and wood pieces designed by the client or from the current styles of the business. The company provides sketches and models for customer approval throughout the process.

Building with reclaimed lumber from a variety of old structures is at the heart of what Northshore Wood Products does. Working with rich dry aged 300 year old white pine, with knot holes and nail marks, gives most pieces they build their own unique character and style. They like to describe it as “bringing a piece of American history to life.”

“Northshore products are built to last,” Sween said. “We use water-based stains and finishes and take pride in our quality, handcrafted products. Our range of furniture can bring out the true elegance of a home. All handcrafted products can be purchased as is or customized according to specific customer needs or recommendations.

The company’s extensive product line includes log cabin tables, log benches, lodge mirrors, ottomans, log coat racks, rustic lamps, chairs, beds, vanities, sideboards, consoles, audio cabinets, coffee tables, desks, dining and kitchen tables, dressers, end tables, sofa tables, kitchen cabinets and fireplaces.

Specialty pieces include game and pub tables, floating shelves, railroad coat hooks, lamps, mirrors, plate and flag displays, wooden spoon racks, ball display cases. golf and shot glasses.

Another aspect of the business is making cremation boxes from snow fences salvaged from Wyoming. The silver gray wood has a natural aged look that can be left as is or with a UV finish on it.

As well as incorporating them into some of their projects, they also sell vintage wrought iron and square wrought iron nails and do carpentry, including handrails and doors.

For commercial use in lodges, resorts and recreation areas, they build displays, booths, tables, benches, chairs and other furniture.

Their work is exhibited in places like The Gunflint Lodge, Burntside Lodge, Canal Park Lodge, Caribou Highlands, Larsmont Cottages, The Grandview Lodge in Nisswa, Voyagaire Lodge in Crane Lake and Eden Prairie Liquor Stores.

Northshore Wood Products began salvaging lumber from the Globe grain elevator in 2001. Despite the recent devastating elevator fire, the company is still able to obtain lumber from the structure and will also obtain timber from the structure. two other remaining silos. “We also have a good supply of what we got before,” Sween said.

A unique product is also extracted from the wood recovered from the grain elevator. The Grain Carved Wood Panels were created by 100 years of grain poured into these bins, sculpting one-of-a-kind wall art. The panels are 16 feet high by 7 feet wide and six inches thick.

“This natural distress was from the conveyor belt filling the bins and sanding the wood,” Sween said. “We take it apart and number it. It can be left natural or sealed with a clear finish. We have sold some of the panels to UMD, Amsoil, and Barker’s Island, as well as companies in Minneapolis, among others.

Sween noted that the company also works with many area designers, including Maureen LLC’s kitchen and bathroom design studio. Owner Maureen Plaunt said, “We have several pieces from Northshore Wood Products on display in our showroom. We have used parts like floating shelves, beams, vanities, lockers and many more. Ron does such a good job. The local angle and the company’s use of reclaimed lumber is also something our customers like. Its parts are made with the highest quality.

Sween added, “We are celebrating our 40th anniversary and I still enjoy what I do every day. I love hearing our customers tell us how much they appreciate the parts we have made for them.

One of those customers is Bruce Kerfoot of Gunflint Lodge, who wrote: “The coffee service cabinet you built for us continues to be the focal point of the lodge for our customers. They continually notice how well it is made and how attractive the design is.

The second piece of furniture we bought, based on the beauty and durability of the first, is in our main dining room so that all of our diners can see it. The finish has kept its shine and fits perfectly with the theme of the lodge. And when you can say that with a piece that is in a public place, it means that the quality is very good. We certainly appreciate the painstaking work your workshop used to make these parts for us.

For more information and photos, visit northshorewood.com and northshorewood.shutterfly.com