Rural Missouri - January 2011 - (Page 8)

Right: Creating high-quality, handcrafted wood products begins with wood that’s been properly kiln-dried. The kiln at Freedom Products Co. along Highway 50 in Osage County can dry up to 20,000 board feet of lumber at a time. It’s heated by a boiler that’s fueled by waste sawdust. Even with a forklift, unloading the kiln is an all-day job. Doing wood right For 90 years, handcraftsmanship has been the calling card for Freedom Products Z by Jason Jenkins ipping along Highway 50 through Osage County, it’s easy to pass right by Freedom Products Co. without giving it much notice. A generation ago, however, you may have stopped at the service station there to fill your tank or pick up a few items inside the general store. When you did, you’d peek into the adjoining showroom where Richard Gerschefske and his son, Arnold, displayed their custom-made woodworking, including cedar chests, drop-leaf tables and cabinetry. The gas pumps and general store are gone now, but high-quality custom wood products continue to be manufactured at this spot along the highway named for the nearby village. Here, the hands of skilled woodworkers transform raw lumber direct from the sawmill into the hardwood flooring, doors, millwork and custom furniture that adorn homes, public places and businesses in central Missouri and beyond. Examples of the company’s highquality products — designed to last a lifetime and beyond — abound, from doors at the Missouri State Capitol to the pews at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. In a world of automation and mass production, Freedom Products holds fast to its tradition of Old World handcraftsmanship. “My grandfather was a woodworker, a wagon maker, and he passed that down to my father after they immigrated to Osage County from Germany,” says Betty Homfeldt, daughter of the late Richard Gerschefske. “My father started out down at Freedom making caskets, then in the mid ’30s, he moved up here to the highway and built the shop.” In 1979, Betty’s husband, Terry, joined her father and brother in the family business. Twenty years later, their son, Scott, followed in his father’s footsteps, representing the business’ third generation. Much can change in 90 years of business, and Freedom Products has offered different wood products over the decades. In the ’70s, for example, the company built furniture for the shopping malls that sprouted up across the country. In the ’80s, butcher-block tabletops were all the rage and in high demand. Through it all, Scott says they have remained committed to supplying customers with custom-made hardwood doors, trim, moulding, flooring and stair parts. “We can’t compete with the massproduced items made overseas,” he explains. “So, our products are more specialized. Whatever a customer Brian Prater of Chamois separates different lots of lumber that just finished drying in the kiln. Prater has worked at Freedom Products for the past 29 years. wants, we can create it exactly.” The company works exclusively in hardwoods. From native Missouri red oak and white oak, walnut, hickory, cedar and cherry to hard maple, birch, poplar, cypress and mahogany, Freedom Products has a wood color and grain for every taste. “People’s tastes change, and what’s popular today won’t be popular tomorrow,” Scott says. “A lot of people don’t want oak right now. They ask, ‘What else do you have?’ They want to be different. Alder has been popular the last five years, but now it’s tapering off.” No matter what direction the winds of interior design blow, Freedom Products has the ability to meet the demand. The company operates its own kiln to dry lumber, which allows Scott to have more control over the wood and produce a higher quality wood product. “Our kiln will hold 18,000 to 20,000 board feet,” Scott says. “It’s heated with a boiler fueled by our sawdust, so we have little if any sawdust waste.” In addition to drying their own lumber, Scott says they’ll custom-dry lumber for customers, too. “That’s been a large part of our business,” he says. “People will bring in their own lumber — say from a tree from their own property — and we’ll dry it and mill it into whatever they want.” When it comes to custom-made wood products, few are as specialized as church pews. Freedom Products is the company of choice for congregations large and small across the ShowMe State. “Back in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, my 8 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2011

Rural Missouri - January 2011
Doing Wood Right
Mail Bag
Blackwater’s Bucksnort
Out of the Way Eats
Huntin’ With Hawks
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Billards Meets Bowling
Getting $mart in the New Year
Meet Yorik, One Tricky Dog
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - January 2011