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
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
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
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
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.