Three brothers give local felled trees a new lease of life in furniture and fine objects, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper
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Three brothers give local felled trees a new lease of life in furniture and fine objects

Up to 13,000 trees will be felled over the next 13 years to make way for transport and housing projects, and a sawmill run by three young Singaporeans is trying to give them a new lease of life.

Mr Morgan Yeo, 34, and his brothers Lincoln, 31, and Ryan, 27, head sawmill Roger and Sons, which has worked with major global brands such as Facebook, Google and Airbus.

Their major selling point? What they call ethical furniture, which is made from abandoned local logs instead of imported ones - "an effort to salvage trees that are destined to die", according to their description.

The idea came to them in 2018, when Mandai Wildlife Group, which was in the midst of relocating the Bird Park to Mandai, approached them to ask if they had any way to put the trees it was clearing to better use.

They were then the relatively new bosses of their sawmill, which they had taken over from their father in 2014 - under a company then incorporated as JR & P Industries - after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

"We saw the vast amount of abandoned trees and then we saw that there's a lot of potential. They are really, really wonderful, beautiful grades and they are actually very usable for furniture," said Mr Ryan Yeo.

"Since then, we have tried to push the boundaries of how we approach fabrication and design. A lot of people are quite intrigued by our philosophy."

The three brothers will be giving tours of their sawmill during the Singapore Heritage Fest, held from May 2 to 29. They are also holding workshops, where participants will be introduced to the basics of woodwork and walk away with a small souvenir that they can have a hand in crafting themselves.

Ethical furniture is an unusual path to take for a traditional sawmill as local felled trees are harder to use than imported ones, which are usually grown in a controlled environment and have a more consistent texture.

Local logs, while readily available, are more moist, requiring a thorough drying process before they can be cut. They are also much more complicated to work with, having grown under natural conditions.

Mr Ryan Yeo said the interlocking grains and random areas of rot meant he and his brothers had to go through years of trial and error before they gained the experience to confidently work with local wood.

They also watched a lot of YouTube videos and consulted older carpenters for advice when they were stuck.

The most commonly used local woods are the angsana, the best choice for indoor furniture and fine objects, the hardy African mahogany and the sturdy and versatile raintree.

Today, Roger and Sons has more than 20 woodworkers and interest is fast growing, especially among the young, Mr Ryan Yeo said.

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