Our Story

John Meltzer salvages silver maple in Pittsburgh's Allegheny Cemetary

John Meltzer salvages silver maple in Pittsburgh's Allegheny Cemetary

Pittsburgh boasts one of the best urban forests in the nation, but when trees must be removed, they are typically chipped into mulch, burned or landfilled. Urban trees are rarely milled for lumber because of their inconsistent growth, unknown health, and possible inclusion of foreign objects. Although this unpredictability poses significant challenges, the craftspeople at Urban Tree believe the unique character of urban trees makes for the most interesting pieces.

John Metzler envisioned a new future for Pittsburgh’s felled trees and began creating systems to connect local artists and craftsmen with urban growth lumber. He developed relationships with key members of the Pittsburgh tree community and began salvaging city wood for art and furniture projects. When John founded Urban Tree Forge in 2008, his Washington Boulevard wood shop became a co-working space for like-minded artists in residence to amplify its impact.

As John built a community around his urban lumber supply chain, his vision of local sustainability spread to the artists and woodworkers who created beside him, changing mindsets about felled Pittsburgh trees. After John's untimely death in 2010, Jason Boone stepped up to fill existing Urban Tree Forge contracts, then abandoned architecture to found Urban Tree.

Nate Lucas joined Jason in 2013 and the partnership moved down the road to 7800 Susquehanna the next year. As one of the first tenants in the Westinghouse factory redevelopment, they claimed gallery and shop space on the fourth floor and ground floor space for drying lumber.

In the natural light of the new space, the pair collaborated to tackle bigger contracts, solve client challenges and create visually arresting furniture. As demand for their work grew,  Jason and Nate brought on additional craftspeople, starting 2016 with a full time team of five.

Urban Tree continues to evolve and expand the work of its predecessor, crafting furniture that highlights the particular qualities of urban hardwoods. Check out “Our Work” for inspiration, and contact us to discuss how you can bring the beauty home. 

If you'd like to find out more about the Urban Tree Forge, you can check it out at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and John's Urban Tree Forge Blog