Christopher Bandy, ballet dancer turned woodworker, has foodies at the Farmers Market Cooperative of East Liberty hovering over his one-of-a-kind cutting boards, made from salvaged urban wood.
The beautifully finished boards, in odd and fascinating shapes, do great things for hunks of cheese displayed at the market's PA Made Cheese counter. From there market-goers are drawn to the Bandy Woodworks stand at the opposite end of the market to see -- and touch -- a collection priced from $29 to $60, with many in the $35 to $40 range.
In addition to the earthy asymmetrical shapes, Mr. Bandy makes elegant "end-grain" boards in geometric mosaic patterns. These are rectangles and squares, the result of a laboriously repeated series of cutting, drying and gluing steps. They are then sanded until all surfaces are "as smooth as glass." End grain boards can be custom-ordered, to size and with options such as juice trough or rubber feet.
The salvaged honey locust wood, all from Point State Park root-rotted trees, felled by the city of Pittsburgh, has a story of its own. When Mr. Bandy started his woodworking business, the Homewood space he eventually found to share belonged "by pure coincidence" to woodworker Jason Boone.
Mr. Boone had been an apprentice to wood artist John Metzler of Urban Tree Forge, creator of the dramatic free-form slab tables commissioned by Phipps Conservatory for the G-20 dinner with President Obama in 2009. Mr. Metzler died in an accident in 2010. Mr. Boone, who carries on his mentor's tradition, had a large stash of honey locust that had been milled by Mr. Metzler. Mr. Boone, who calls his business Urban Tree, uses the larger pieces for furniture making. Mr. Bandy, who also makes children's toys and smaller furniture items, stepped in to make use of the smaller pieces.
Mr. Bandy retired from dancing in 2010. He danced with the PBT from 2004 to 2008 and finished his career with Dance Alloy Theater and Terpsicorps Theater of Dance, where he still serves as ballet master during the summer. "I received some funding from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Dancers' Trust, which supports retiring dancers' career transitions.
"I began an apprenticeship with Jason -- the smartest thing I've ever done as a woodworker, and I assist him for a few hours a month for a break in the rent. Both our businesses have grown in the past year during which I have spent many sawdust-filled days learning the art of urban salvage and fine-furniture making."
The best way to see what Messrs. Bandy and Boone are up to might be to visit their shop: "We welcome visitors. But the door is a little tricky to find. It's the first doorway past the dumpster on Susquehanna Street, marked 6905. One of us is usually there during the week."
Correction, March 21: This article has been updated to reflect the following correction: Wood artist John Metzler died in May 2010, not last year.food