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where there's smoke: A building under construction next to the Logan Police Station caught fire from a welder's spark. Damage was estimated at $50,000. / Photo by Gideon Oakes

Today's word on journalism

August 27, 2008

On protests at political conventions:

"The citizens of Denver and St. Paul, and Americans everywhere, should hope officials in those cities already have considered both the constitutional and monetary costs of silencing voices that have a right to be heard. . . . Well-expressed or wacky. Irritating or illuminating. Respectful or raucous. There's nothing in the 45 words of the First Amendment that sets out any such qualifications or limits on protests. Time and again in our history, from women's suffrage to civil rights to tax protests, to name just some, voices first raised in the streets -- to the disgust or disappointment of some -- have led to significant, positive changes in law and American life."

--Gene Policinski, executive director, First Amendment Center, 2008

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Craftsman-carver reclaims old wood for his art

By Lukas Brinkerhoff

May 8, 2008 | His hands are 10 inches from pinky to thumb and each finger looks like the butt end of a large carrot. His legs, which are always bare regardless of temperature, look like the trunks of quaking aspens.

Yes, they really do.

"His hands are just thick," Tom Write, Logan resident said.

It is rare that one adjective can perfectly describe a man, but in this case it does with startling accuracy. Paul Ashcroft is thick, both physically and socially.

Owner of Nature's Wood Floors and Fine Details, Ashcroft is a master craftsman. He grew up in Boston, where he learned the craft from those who had for years built boats for the whaling industry. The community that invented the Widow's Walk also produced Paul Ashcroft.

Ashcroft's companies only deal with sustainable suppliers, companies that use sustainable forestry practices and don't use toxic resins in manufacturing. In addition to following strict guidelines for his suppliers, he also reclaims as much wood as possible. Of his many projects, he can cite the Sears Warehouse in Chicago and, more locally, railroad trussles.

"The trestles from the Great Salt Lake are hanging in the Ibis," Ashcroft said.

The idea of reclaiming or reusing old wood material from dilapidated buildings is not a new idea but one that is considered progressive in all regions of the world. While other areas of the world may enjoy more access to these facilities, Ashcroft is the only one in Logan performing this service, and in the state as far as he knows.

He works with wood but he is definitely not a typical carpenter. Ashcroft proudly displayed a headboard he had hand-carved from maple -- "There's about 60 or 70 hours of work here," he said in his thick Bostonian accent.

The headboard features a potted plant with vines growing out and toward the edges. Flowers are blooming from the vines. Ashcroft even took the time to carve two 1-inch-long bees within the midst of the flowers. The wood is meticulously carved. He pointed out the obvious marks of a handcrafted piece of wood. There are inconstancies in the carving because each detail was carved individually and separately.

Despite the inconsistencies, the headboard is beautiful by all standards. It is demonstrative of the work that Ashcroft has been performing for the past few decades of his life.

The Bostonian first made it to Utah in 1979 when he came to restore the Boston Building in Salt Lake City. Ashcroft said, "It took two years to restore the building. At that time there was no historic preservation going on in Utah. Old buildings were just being destroyed."

Ashcroft bounced around a bit until 1989 when he once again found himself in Utah, this time in Logan. He was contracted to help restore the Carnegie Library on 100 North and Center Street. He's resided in Logan ever since.

Preserving history is one of Ashcroft's passions, outside of his woodworking he also loves all things bicycle. "I want to preserve the way they were. The way they were made. Bicycles used to be an integral part of city life. There were carts, penny-farthings [a style that paired a huge front wheel with a tiny rear wheel], messengers and a lot of custom functional style bikes," Ashcroft said.

His list of bicycles reads like a history book of racing and long forgotten brands. He keeps his bicycles displayed throughout the country in museums and on display in bike shops. He has an 1882 Pope penny-farthing made in Chicago showing at Sunrise Cyclery.

Ashcroft says he loves the idea of community and can be found in local coffee shops and other business at just about any time during the day. If you have the opportunity to chat with him take it, just be ready to be interrupted by the endless streams of phone calls he receives asking for help and job offers.

Write, who is an employee of Ashcroft's, sarcastically says, "He's a hardass, just look at him." Both can be found at Citrus and Sage in downtown Logan, getting a cup of coffee and enjoying the company of other locals before heading off to a job.

It would seem that Ashcroft knows everyone within Cache Valley and is constantly traveling through the country to visit friends from all over. His network is thick with names, dates and accomplishments.

Ashcroft, or Paully as he is also known, is a man that is thick as a tree and has roots that spread much farther than this small valley.



Copyright 1997-2008 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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